100 list misses struggle mark

2013-05-05 10:00

How quickly we forget those who gave their lives for democracy

Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha

via email

Efforts by City Press to publish a list of 100 world-class South Africans must be appreciated in the context of recognising our true democratic advances.

Having thumbed through the magazine, I agree with some listed individuals ­because of what they have done, but disagree with a long list of others.

In celebrating the stars among us, we ought to lift aloft those who selflessly give their lives for the good of humanity, not commercial gain only.

Many such people were the oppressed, who suffered from the pernicious actions of the erstwhile, discredited government and there are today a few born-frees defying the odds.

The evil that visited our land was started, fought and defeated in the political realm, albeit with religion, art and sport as ­contributors to our struggle.

It should then follow that the majority of our world-class South Africans should come from this realm and its contributors.

There are two groups of people who should not have made it on to the list.

These are white South Africans and ­businesspeople, sport stars and musicians who never lifted a finger to fight apartheid, and current celebrities who are content to make money only, instead of contributing to nation-building.

I was shocked to see Gary Player, Ernie Els, Charlize Theron, Mark Shuttleworth and others featuring prominently.

Besides the fact that Player, Theron, Shuttleworth and others enjoyed a good life while many black South Africans suffered during apartheid, world-class South Africans should not be chosen based on how much they make or earn, but on how much they contribute to building the nation.

We can’t deny the fact that while Els, Player and others were teeing off on the golf courses of the world, scores of black people were being killed, denied healthcare, tortured and jailed without trial by the apartheid government.

While Theron and her contemporaries were getting private education, millions of black African children were forced to learn Afrikaans, were given poor education and were treated as second-class citizens.

It is strange that Miriam Makeba was left out, while the wet-behind-the-ears Lira was put on the list.

When we celebrate our bright stars, we should not forget those like Makeba, who took our plight to the world stage.

We should not forget great leaders like Oliver Tambo, who preached nonracialism when others preached apartheid.

Sadly, the list propels the narrow and false selectivism of celebrating Mandela only, as if he fought for our freedom alone.

Tambo, Luthuli, Dube, Makgato, Biko, Sobukwe, Mbeki, Mahlangu, Zuma, Ngoyi and scores of other great South Africans fought for our freedom and we must celebrate them too.

It can’t be that when we reflect on our freedom, we put beneficiaries of apartheid on the same list as Thabo Mbeki, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Lucas Radebe, Hugh Masekela, Mandela and Tutu.

I don’t understand why Biko’s ex-girl friend, Mamphela Ramphele, was chosen ahead of him. Bishop Tutu is not the only world-class clergy; there are others, like ­Elliot Mgojo and Nicholas Bhengu.

»?Editor’s note: Our 100 World-Class South Africans edition only included living South Africans

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