GOING through the news headlines in South Africa, it is easy to be tempted to think that things are very bad; that the country is going down; that the media is as negative as it often gets accused of being; that the people who seem to be complaining all the time about levels of corruption and incompetence are just racists and ‘too clever blacks’ who are negative in any case and do not have the interest of South Africa at heart.
In his interesting piece 5 Top reasons to stop worrying and start loving South Africa, Marius Strydom goes all out to find and detail the reasons why we should be happy that we do not live in places like Zimbabwe, Burundi, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and many others on the continent and elsewhere, where people do not enjoy the kind of liberties we still have in South Africa.
All the points he makes are good, such as that we have very active opposition parties who have the space to make the kind of noises that opposition parties should make. Apart from horrible violent crime, we live in a relatively peaceful country with almost zero prospect of going to war with any of our neighbours. Here, at home, there are many influential South Africans who are still courageous enough to speak out against the challenges we face, irrespective of where they come from.
On the international scene, an increasing number of influential South Africans are doing great things in many countries and receiving recognition for what they do best. The most celebrated newsmaker in this category is, arguably, Trevor Noah, who is set to take over the popular Daily Show in the USA.
Also notable is Levy Sekgapane, who recently scooped first place in the Belvedere Opera Competition in Amsterdam. A good number of other South Africans continue to make their mark in the film industry, music, academia, and several global multilateral platforms in their respective disciplines.
We know about some of them only because they have been profiled prominently in local media. There are many others who quietly reach for the stars, contributing significantly to positive change in their respective fields.
For each one of them, one hand holds their industry achievements while the other firmly holds the South African flag, the only symbol that binds them to their country of birth. They are positive ambassadors for Brand South Africa.
Not a single one of them - irrespective of race, sexual orientation, religious or ethnic background – has ever denied coming from South Africa, irrespective of their personal views about events in South Africa and the state of our nation.
Despite the often deservedly negative press we get in our national media, some of it spilling over into the global arena thanks to online platforms, these brand ambassadors hold the flag high and openly proclaim to the whole world that they come from South Africa, the land of Nelson Mandela.
But those of us who live here also have a role to play, starting with the president, government ministers, company CEOs and executives, boards of directors, and the rest of us.
The manner in which we run our institutions and funds - private and public - and our attitude to the rule of law will go a long way towards providing our brand ambassadors with more reasons to speak with pride, their heads held high, when they tell the world about South Africa, and when they explain and answer questions about the country.
We should make it easy for them to say that in South Africa:
- The constitution reigns supreme and there is equality before the law
- We have institutions that work: the courts, the banks, Chapter Nine institutions
- Foreign investment is safe from arbitrary decisions by government and other bodies
- The media is free to report
- Citizens are free to assemble and express their views, even when critical of government and conduct by politicians and captains of industry, etc.
Going by what seems to be a general sentiment of ‘gatvolness’ in the country, we have a long way to go before achieving once again the spirit of national euphoria that we experienced at the dawn of our democracy.
It is all within reach if we agree to work towards a more positive nation brand vision.
*Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley.