South Africa

Right of Response: No time to celebrate South Africa for the whingeing elite

By Nazeem Howa 21 October 2015

South Africans live in a society wherein the whingeing elite continue to be given outlets to spew out their bile and negativity. Take, for example, Richard Poplak's article on the South African of the Year 2015 awards, which was dripping with sarcasm, untruths and jest-filled perceptions that attempted to demean and diminish an event that actually celebrates good deeds. By NAZEEM HOWA.

The second annual South African of the Year 2015 (SATY) Awards were held on Saturday amid much fanfare. An initiative by television news channel ANN7, the awards serve to honour and recognise the contributions of those in leadership, civil society, entertainment, sport, business and conservation.

This is no different to the myriad of award shows in South Africa that honour our musicians, sports personalities, advertising industry and film and television sectors, among others.

And SATY 2015 featured the very best our country has to offer in terms of presenters, performers and nominees alike, coupled with world-class staging. The awards show provided a heady mix of glitz, glamour and colour in celebration of all that is truly good in South Africa.

But, try as we did to put on a world-class show, it did not adequately satisfy the palate of some. To be fair, the negative reaction does not surprise. For we live in a society wherein the whingeing elite continue to be given outlets to spew out their bile and negativity.

Take, for example, Richard Poplak’s views, published in the Daily Maverick on Sunday. The article was dripping with sarcasm, untruths and jest-filled perceptions that attempted to demean and diminish an event that actually celebrates good deeds. Poplak’s underlying views – bordering on a combination of racism and ignorance – come to the fore in an article in which he seemingly, among other things, has no clue as to the definition of a “glittering function”.

We take Poplak’s diatribe for what it is – derogatory, ignorant, insulting and dripping with jealousy. Why else would he refer in such derogatory terms to the Gupta family, who are the majority shareholder in ANN7? And, in explaining the very existence of the show, state as fact that it is a vehicle for the family to dispense patronage?

His ignorance comes to the fore in questioning the bona fides of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her being honoured with the South African of the Year Award. He clearly does not understand the role and responsibilities that comes with being the chairperson of the African Union. He seems to think it is to play peacemaker and nothing else.

He goes even further by demeaning the achievements of last year’s winner in this category, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. He surmises that she presumably won so that any one of the Gupta family’s “sub-legal shysterthons” could be saved from her prying eyes.

It must be pointed out that, to date, no member of the Gupta family has been charged, criminally or otherwise, for any crime. They are law-abiding, tax-paying South Africans who employ thousands and daily strive to make a valuable socio-economic contribution to our country. This, in fact, is one of the reasons why the SATY Awards came into being.

Poplak further casts doubts as to the veracity of the selection process for this year’s SATY Awards. To the uninformed (yes that includes you, Richard Poplak) 12 well-known South Africans were selected to sit on the judging panel. They shortlisted the nominees after which a public voting process was initiated. More than 606,000 votes were cast for this year’s awards. The entire process was administered and audited by auditing company KPMG.

In his diatribe, Poplak has managed to besmirch the name of worthy nominees like Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers, Eskom’s Brian Molefe, who is doing a sterling job in bringing stability to our electricity grid, and judges’ panel member Yvonne Chaka Chaka. To infer that Dlamini-Zuma was merely selected because of her supposed trajectory to occupying the top office in the land smacks of desperation and a failure to understand the SATY process. It is also an insult to the hundreds of thousands who voted.

Despite our best efforts, Poplak and his merry band of cynics seem to know better. Far be it for anyone to make a valuable contribution to South African life and celebrate its citizenry. There must be something afoot, these commentators like to remind us. It’s ‘Swart Gevaar’ 2015. This probably explains why he has written so extensively on the myriad of award shows in South Africa.

It is time Poplak and his ilk realise that we do not live in a pre-1994 utopia. There is a lot wrong in our country. But there is a lot that is right. And it is time that we celebrate this without the sarcasm and snide remarks. Put your pen to better use, Richard Poplak. Who knows, maybe you could then be up for an award at SATY 2016! DM

Nazeem Howa is the director of ANN7.

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In other news...

July 18 marks Nelson Mandela day. All over the country, South African citizens devote 67 minutes to charitable causes in memory of Madiba. It's a great initiative and one of those few occasions in South Africa where we come together as a nation in pursuit of a common cause. An annual 67 minutes isn't going to cut it though.

In the words of Madiba: "A critical, independent and investigative free press is the lifeblood of any democracy."

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