Growing pains

2013-03-03 10:00

Years ago, I walked into my boarding school dormitory a naive, fat-cheeked boy with a ton of goodies. One was a trendy electronic diary my uncle had given me.It could store 250 addresses, 100 events and impressed the nerds more than it did the girls.

I was devastated the day it disappeared from my locker. I looked everywhere for it, turning rocks over in the school fields in the faint hope of finding it.

As my hope waned, a senior stepped into the breech. He was a private investigator, he told me surreptitiously, and offered to help me find it. I accepted.

One day he bounded towards me with a huge smile. He had found it. He just needed a fee. In my delight, I went to see my dorm master to call in my term’s tuck-shop money.

The dorm master was an investigator too, it seemed. He smelt a rat, hauled my hero in and extracted a confession from him. It turns out my hero was the villain that had stolen my device in the first place!

Here’s where things got interesting. The boy (my hero) was suspended. I got my toy back and the cold shoulder of nearly the entire school. I became bitter.

Why couldn’t the dorm master have left it all alone?

Looking back on the past month, much of the nation seems like a little insecure Shaka, too afraid to hold our villains to account.

Remember how the brutal rape and mutilation of Anene Booysen brought about one of the loudest outcries we have heard decrying women abuse? Remember how we all thought that we were on the same page about the principles of abuse, even though we were still fumbling our way around what sort of campaigns would actually #StopRape?

Ironically, if it wasn’t for his poor timing, Oscar Pistorius would have made a perfect role model for the #StopRape campaign. He was famous and people liked him.

His timing undermined the united front of the previous week. Now, many of us found ourselves making excuses for “poor Oscar” and some even rejoiced at the symbolic victory his defence team scored in his bail hearing.

I was amazed at how many lady friends sighed in relief, as there was a chance their hero wasn’t quite the villain after all. But they missed the point: a young woman had died in her lover’s home. And yet many of us secretly preferred that the dorm master leave things be because, after all, Oscar’s our hero.

Such an attitude, of course, isn’t unique to this case; it happens in every sphere of our lives. Because in South Africa, we protect our own before we hold them to account.

Maybe we don’t want to be ostracised. Maybe we don’t want to slay our golden geese. Whatever it is, maybe we just have a lot of growing up to do.

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