Nearing the tipping point?

2008-07-22 00:00

IN 2002 when Mbongeni Ngema’s revolting hate-filled song, intended to give life to a waning career, caused an uproar and both the song and its author were relegated to the dust heap where they belong, it was obvious that our fractured society had underlying issues that would need to be addressed. The situation emphasised that all hate speech and divisive pronouncements and actions would have to be met head on and no one would be exempt from scrutiny. Since then we have gradually seen a reversion to old ways, people who should know better making the odd nasty, racist and demeaning remarks that violate the Constitution. We tend to excuse some of this as rhetoric and part of the unprincipled behaviour of those who do so. Time has shown the error of overlooking these transgressions. Vigilance regarding racial stereotyping, demeaning comments and disguised and undisguised racism has to be an ongoing exercise.

With this background one would have thought that in the prevailing climate they would have gone easy on the nasty racial rhetoric. The Minister of Labour’s ugly comments about the South African Chinese community, who dared to go to court to gain acceptance as previously disadvantaged in terms of Black Economic Empowerment, are a case in point. The labour minister did not oppose this in court but once the judgment was given he went into full overdrive.

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