The good man is not entirely new

2009-09-30 00:00

THERE is a good campaign in the South African electronic media these days, “Brothers for Life”. This is a noble campaign aimed at curbing HIV/Aids and promoting a responsible lifestyle among South African men especially.

It says there is a new man in South Africa. A man who protects his woman, who is not promiscuous, a one-woman man, a man who takes responsibility for his actions. This is a positive message that is aimed at promoting good values in our men. It doesn’t need any emphasis that we need more good and virtuous men in South Africa.

This campaign, however, is a reflection of our collective psyche as South Africans. We have a weird inclination to ­always focus on that which is negative. Inadvertently, this “new man” campaign suggests that all along South Africa has had irresponsible men, hence the new man is now emerging. It is undisputable that we have had our fair share of irresponsible men in this country. As a result of them we have had to get used to stories of women and child abuse, men who don’t support their children, teachers who sleep with girl pupils and many other ills bedevilling our society.

I want to argue, however, that such men are a fraction of the males in this country. If the opposite were true, this country would be uninhabitable. If the majority of South African men were rapists, criminals, womanisers, beer guzzlers, murderers, etc, we really wouldn’t have a country to speak of. There exists a majority of good men, who despite being unemployed for many years, have not had even a single thought of doing crime cross their minds; men who despite being deserted by their wives because of their economic situation, have continued to respect women and have never lost hope that one day they will find a true companion.

I am talking about men who with the meagre wage that they get, from being bricklayers, motor mechanics or even rubbish collectors, take good care of their families, support their wives and even send their children to tertiary institutions. When are we going to begin to talk about good South African men? Truck drivers who spend days away from home going to countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland, but have never imagined themselves sleeping with prostitutes. Taxi drivers like Thabani Ngubane, whose story was recently covered in this very publication, for apprehending a drunken driver who wanted to bring to an end the life of young Siphesihle Mlotshwa. Taxi drivers like ­Ngubane have refused to be a caricature of that which is associated with taxi drivers in South Africa. Thabani Ngubane, like many other taxi drivers, is one of many unsung heroes — good men that we refuse to see.

These men are not a new phenomenon. They have always been there, yet we have not acknowledged them. They have always been among us, yet we have refused to see them. They have always spoken to us and we have had difficulty hearing them.

The men who murder and rape form a minority of our men, otherwise we wouldn’t have streets to walk on. The teachers who see girlfriends in their girl pupils are but a fraction of male teachers, otherwise we would not have schools to talk about.

Perhaps we can heal our society if we focus on extolling the virtues of good men and women among us. If you go to the township during the day, you will come across a number of unemployed beautiful young women, but very few of them have sold their souls to prostitution. Very little is said of these virtuous women, who despite serious odds stacked against them have never entertained the thought of being shoplifters or drug peddlers.

Perhaps we can take South Africa to unimaginable heights if we got into the habit of focusing on the positive without turning a blind eye to that which needs to be fixed.

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