Firstly let me place on record that Chris Hart's comments were problematic, for reasons I will unpack further down, and certainly his views (or observations as he put it) are worrying, in the backdrop of the role he holds in South African society.
Chris Hart is a reknowned economic analyst of great repute, so respected in fact that the Business Day newspaper ranks him 14th in the most cited economists in South African media. I personally have great respect for Chris, not necessarily of his economic analysis, but on his views on the importance of household savings.
South Africa, and specifically South Africans have reacheed an uncomfortable place where 140-characters on social media can easily be misunderstood because a single tweet lacks context, in a conversation.
This is unfortunately what has happened to poor Chris Hart. Listen, don't get me wrong here, I believe that the man is deserving of a suspension or a punitive fine as punishment for his ignorant views.
Furthermore, I'm no "white apologist", but he doesn't deserve further sanction beyond this because the country needs multiple economics voices to be and Chris is one of them (he is in the top 15 for crying out loud).
Do I believe that Chris Hart is a racist at "heart", no I don't. Chris and I have engaged on social media many times over the years and I have never gotten the impression that he is anything of the sort - Sunday's exchange was no different.
On the first Sunday of 2016 at around 11am I tweeted "An economic question: Why are S.Africans not talking about our country's economic realities versus its intended NDP future? cc @chrishartZA"
Later in the afternoon around 2pm, Chris Hart started sending out a series of tweets, some of which I was "tagged", but the one tweet that got everyone riled and rallying was when he tweeted
Chris Hart ?@chrishartZA Jan 3
"More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities…."
This has many black social commentators up in arms.
My own immediate response to this was
"@chrishartZA your entitlement narrative is misguided, it's white South Africans that have an entitlement problem. Inclusion is inevitable"
Sadly, I believe that Chris Hart is the victim of a single minded narrative that equates transformation to mediocrity and inclusion to a degrading of "excellence", this narrative is both prevalent and repeated on South Africa media, where is goes relatively unchallenged.
To add, I tried warning Chris Hart about his views or "observations" as he later retorted. I think my exact words were "The problem starts with respected public figures like you misleading people, biased by your own insecurities & prejudice"
I feel for Chris Hart, really I do, but in the age of social media, one has to be held accountable for his or her published view. He definitely doesn't deserve to be fired from his job at Standard Bank.
He certainly doesn't deserve national scorn, unfortunately his comments were made on a day when a racism storm was brewing with #PennySparrow (a special kind of racist and white supremist). On any other day, Chris Hart would have been fully engaged in "heated" social media debate, typically referred to as a twar.
As someone who engaged Chris vigorously for hours, I was happy to accept his apology, in fact my final remark to him was noting how his tone of narrative has "shifted" after a few hours of intensive debate.
If Chris Hart or the "powers that be" at Standard Bank would like inputs into his disciplinary procedures, then I am available to support Chris.
The man doesn't deserve to be fired. The suspension is a heavy enough burden, perhaps throw in 120 hours working pro bono on supporting a charity organisation that is driving transformation in South Africa (I have a list that I would be happy to share).
A closing remarking for all South Africans... we've now reached a stage where words have a different meaning depending on the colour of your skins.
Remember to continue to love and cherish our collective future.