Mind your language, Luwellyn Landers

2014-07-06 15:00

It is trite to say that our leaders should think before they open their mouths.

This responsibility is more onerous for those who lead departments as ministers and deputy ministers. So it is embarrassing if a faux pas comes from those who are in charge of South Africa’s diplomacy.

Take Deputy International Relations Minister Luwellyn Landers’ statement to reporters in Parliament this week, where he said the country should not be surprised if splinters of Nigeria’s militant group, Boko Haram, were present in this country.

Landers said this without providing proof of any activities of the group, which kidnapped more than 200 girls in Nigeria in April.

While the country should be vigilant about threats to its security from militant groups and foreign intelligence agents roaming our streets and other potential threats, Landers’ statement is alarmist in the extreme.

“Someone who does a lot of work in Africa said to me it’s very difficult to pinpoint those who belong to Boko Haram because they have succeeded in integrating in every community they seek to be part of,” Landers is reported as saying.

According to his statement, South Africans should suspect anyone from west Africa who has integrated into our communities as being part of the group.

We are still dealing with the after-effects of the 2008 xenophobic violence when African foreign nationals were accused of stealing jobs “meant” for South Africans.

The uprising lead to a loss of lives and a displacement of foreigners, and tarnished the image of a country that prides itself on ubuntu.

Landers is still new in the job and needs to learn the art of diplomacy fast, otherwise he could land South Africa in unnecessary conflicts.

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