Reporter's black/white notebook: A national catastrophe averted
Millions of South Africans rejoiced on Thursday after model Jessica Leandra dos Santos, 20, and Generations star Tshidi Thamana, 22, confirmed they would return the country to the glory it enjoyed a week ago. They brought the nation to its knees and they’ll put it back on its feet, they said. By GREG NICOLSON.
South Africa came to a halt last week after Dos Santos, winner of men’s magazine FHM’s Modelbook competition in 2011, fired a racist missile through the Twittersphere. “Just, well took on an arrogant and disrespectful k***** inside Spar. Should have punched him, should have,” she informed her 2,591 followers.
Thamana responded with a salvo of her own. “Dear Mr Peter Mokaba?... I wish all whites had been killed when you sang ‘Kill the Boer’, then we wouldn’t have to experience @JessicaLeandra’s racism.”
It only lasted a week but few will forget the impact of the Twitter Race War. As the casualties started to mount, Dos Santos sought refuge in her diary. “At this moment I accept and acknowledge that I have brought this nation of ours to its knees,” she typed.
A week later, the Rainbow Nation is left counting the cost. “We saw an unprecedented rise in racist prank calls. I was certain that racism was dead and buried, but I guess I was wrong,” said former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, thankful he could put his extensive network of wiretapping to use one last time.
Lives across the country have changed irrevocably. “I don’t know what happened,” said Misfortune Moyo, a Zimbabwean living in Diepsloot. “Everything was fine, then the Twitter Race War begins and I’m living in a shack. Shame man,” he sighed.
Civil society has yet to put a figure on the toll but says after only seven days much of SA is in a state of disrepair. After the spat between Dos Santos and Thamana the country faces issues of employment, poverty, HIV/Aids, inequality, gender-based violence and a lack of access to quality education and healthcare. But the important one was sorted, at least.
The spat between the two models ended after UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called on them to follow the Democratic Alliance’s peace process. “The secretary-general strongly condemns this attack and calls on all parties to adhere to the cessation of tweeting and to co-operate with and support the intervention by DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane.”
They were invited to Maimane’s Roodepoort home to come to a settlement. Dos Santos expressed surprise when she arrived for tea, asking photographers if she should take off her jeans and blazer before they started.
But all parties were quick to reconcile. “We don’t have any problems with each other. We don’t have problems with any race… We just happen to be individuals that got very upset and very carried away in a tweet on social media and I think we are owning up to it today,” said Thamana. Dos Santos said she didn’t realise the impact her tweet would have on the country.
She dismissed allegations that another of her tweets suggests she’s a racist. “Highlight of my weekend? Almost punching an #Engen petrol assistant. No tolerance for rude African monkeys whatsoever,” went the tweet. “What’s wrong with that? I’m a monkey, you’re a monkey, we’re all monkeys when you think about it,” she retorted on Thursday.
Asked if Thamana’s Peter Mokaba comment concerned her, Dos Santos replied, “Like, why would that bother me? I hate Polokwane and even if I went, how would a stadium hurt me? And who is Peter Mokaba?”
Both young women committed themselves to repairing the nation they’ve compromised. “To South Africa as a whole, my apologies. I really didn’t mean any harm and if we have to do something to put the country where it was, we will do it,” said Thamana. “We do aim to reconcile and get the nation back to where it was,” agreed Dos Santos.
The pair outlined a roadmap to recovery, starting with jobs and education, “because each South African deserves the dignity of work and the skills to get there”. Over the coming year they’ll tour the country until each and every person has exactly the same services they had before the war started. After that, they will seriously think about restoring World Peace.
The DA’s Maimane hailed the meeting as a success. “It’s been quite a journey for both Jess and Tshidi,” he said. “It takes all of us to uproot evil in our society.” Anyone who hears a racist comment is encouraged to take the perpetrator to Maimane’s house. “I’m becoming sort of a Tutu, you know,” he said.
South Africans will be hoping he can. The country’s been brought to its knees and has a long walk to the freedom and the life of plenty it enjoyed just a week ago. Cheers to it. For iMaverick/Daily Maverick, this is deeply relieved reporter, signing off. DM