Howard Feldman

We could've given Zindzi Mandela a break

2019-06-19 19:00
Zindzi Mandela. Photo: Loanna Hoffmann

Zindzi Mandela. Photo: Loanna Hoffmann

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Whereas I believe that the uncomfortable subject of land reform needs to be had, Zindzi Mandela's approach moved the country further and not closer to being able to address it, writes Howard Feldman.

As unimpressive as South African Ambassador to Denmark, Zindzi Mandela's tweets might have been, they are not without value.

The background is that beginning Thursday, June 14, a series of perplexing tweets were unleashed from the Twitter account of the ambassador. The tweets seemed to be designed to provoke and used phrases like "As I wine and dine" as well as, what I later learned, were words that one should hardly say in polite company.

The target of the tweets seemed to be the likes of me, i.e. white South Africans who have allegedly stolen the ambassador's land and who now quiver in anticipation of it being returned to her.

It does need to be said that I did in fact pay a fair market price for my 1 400 square metre of real estate in Fairmount Ridge, Johannesburg. But that is neither here nor there. 1 400 square metre is not that much, but it is #OurLand.

The ambassador also made reference to Chris Barnard, the world famous South African cardiologist who performed the world's first successful human transplant. In that tweet she referred to a "gardener" who she claimed taught him what he knew. As I had no idea what she was referring to, I took to Google where I was awakened to a South African story that until the tweets, I had not known anything about.

I was aware of the incredible tale of Hamilton Naki who worked with Barnard to develop techniques that contributed significantly to Barnard's success. Naki, who was born in the Eastern Cape had come to Cape Town where he had found work as a gardener at UCT. His specific function was to take care of the tennis lawn.

After the UCT professor, Robert Goetz, asked for his assistance in a laboratory it became clear that Naki had a surgical gift and he became an assistant in the department. He would ultimately perform a liver transplant on a pig unaided. It is said that he was able to do pretty much what any "qualified" surgeon was able to, even without formal training. According to the Brand South Africa website, Naki ultimately worked with Barnard as he was developing open heart surgical techniques experimentally. Barnard later told the Associated Press in 1993 that "if Hamilton had the opportunity to perform, he would have probably become a brilliant surgeon".

Such is the tragic story of a racially obsessed South Africa.

I was pleased to learn that Naki was ultimately recognised for his contribution. In 2002 then president Thabo Mbeki awarded him the National Order of Mapungubwe for his years of service and in 2003 he received an honorary degree in medicine in recognition for his work in the field of surgery.

Unfortunately, this is not all that I learned from the ambassador's tweets. I also learned that there are many South Africans who seem to enjoy and even relish her racist and provocative comments. Whereas I believe that the uncomfortable subject of land reform needs to be had, I believe that her approach moved the country further and not closer to being able to address it.

I learned that there is a certain amount of glee associated with the peddling of hate, even though deep down it must be blatantly clear how wrong and how offensive her tweets were. I learned that the EFF will always support the dividing of South Africans and I learned that the ANC has still not amassed the moral courage to censure one of their own.

Worst of all, I realised that taking responsibility is never easy. Even for South African ambassadors. I can't shake the feeling that Mandela was not in full control of her senses when she tweeted as she did. For whatever reason. The fact that she "took a trip" and was not heard of for three days following the Twitter explosion is proof enough that something went terribly wrong.

Ironically, even though she exhibits little forgiveness towards fellow South Africans, I still believe that if she just came clean, told us what really happened and said sorry, that most of us would give her a break and wish her well.

In the meantime, I am grateful that she introduced me to the wonderful story of Hamilton Naki.

- 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.

Read more on:    zindzi mandela  |  racism
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