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Are we obliged to mourn someone who has done South Africa and its citizens nothing but harm and showed no remorse for it, asks Howard Feldman.
The death of Gavin Watson, much like the death of Penny
Sparrow doesn't move me. My reaction is neither charitable or kind and could
well reflect a deficiency and a callousness that I should be ashamed of. I
recognise that there are loved ones who will feel their loss and I hope that
their pain is limited. But that doesn't mean that I need to feel it or pretend
that I do.
Because I do not.
Penny Sparrow was a racist who compared black beachgoers to
monkeys. She was unapologetic and displayed no remorse. She made little, if
any, attempt to understand why the country reacted as they did and displayed little
understanding of the damage that she wrought through her callous and ugly
words. She had multiple opportunities before her death to undo the damage of
her making and yet she chose not to. She might well have been a wonderful
mother or wife or grandmother (I have no idea). But to me she died as a one
dimensional racist. Sadly, she didn't have to.
On Monday morning just after 05:00, Gavin Watson was killed
in a fiery car crash. The circumstances of the event are unclear and even
border on the bizarre, but the result is that he, like Sparrow has died. Watson
was the chief executive of the infamous Bosasa, a facilities management company
that has been in the spotlight for ANC-linked corruption on a grand scale.
Earlier this year, Angelo Agrizzi, a senior employee of
Bosasa chose to testify at the state capture inquiry. There he delivered
testimony that managed to stun an already corruption-numbed, Gupta-desensitised
country. His account of industrial-scale bribery and shameless immoral
behaviour of on the part of Bosasa and the ANC elucidated a previously
unimagined but sophisticated system that robbed South Africa and its citizens
without them having any sense that they were victims.
It is not a stretch to suggest that much of the country's
financial woes can be laid at the door of Bosasa and the ANC.
Little wonder then that the ANC issued a statement that
chose to ignore the Bosasa period of Waton's life by saying the following:
Watson made the admirable choice of disassociating himself from the privilege
which came with being a white male in apartheid South Africa. His role in the
fight for non-racial sports – especially rugby – resulted in one of the most
symbolic acts of opposition and discontent against discrimination.
"Gavin also played a role in supporting many
activists and operatives of the MK [the ANC's armed wing]. He continued his
activism and was unwavering in his support of the ANC. His death has robbed
communities of a philanthropist who gave hope and inspired many young people."
What the ANC fails to grasp is that dying in a Toyota
Corolla does not reflect "the admirable choice of disassociating from
privilege". On the contrary, his connection to the ANC and his willingness
to engage in corruption in order to secure massive contracts reflect anything
but an "admirable" choice. Unless you happen to be one of the people
who is alleged to have received bundles of cash in a Louis Vuitton handbag.
Penny Sparrow's words and actions opened the ugly,
still unhealed wound of a country damaged by its racist past. Gavin Watson
chose to enrich himself and his political co-conspirators at the expense of the
same country. Which one behaved more poorly is something that is open for
anyone to debate along with how they should be treated in death.
Another aspect around the death of Watson is that it
denies the country the ability to fully interrogate his actions and the actions
of those around him, much like the suicide of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein
in the United States has prevented his victims from any real closure.
For me, given that both Sparrow and Watson had time and
opportunity before their passing in which to confront their choices, and given
that both made the decision to not do so, I do not believe that we need to mourn
their passing. I wish their families well on a journey that is not an easy
one, but I do not intend to pretend that
I share their pain.
- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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