Letter from the DM168 Editor

The criminal and political scumbags do not define who we are as South Africans

The criminal and political scumbags  do not define who we are as South Africans
View of Durban from Point Beach. Photo: Heather Robertson

Now is the time to draw on every iota of inner strength, kindness, compassion and resourcefulness we have as a good bunch of people to make it through this season of darkness, strife and suffering.

Dear DM168 readers,

Before we dived into the hurly-burly of work schedules at our regular Monday DM168 production meeting (yes some of us worked on May Day), we chewed the fat about what we did over the weekend.

Designer Marushka Stipinovitch went snorkeling at a spot past Boulders Beach in Cape Town. Designer Bogosi Motau, who is based in Jozi, had a great time with his amazing daughters, wife and family making fires and telling stories (one of the benefits of load shedding is we all get to braai and be outside bonding with each other more often).

I managed to cleanse myself of last week’s blood-curdling Durban tow truck and drug wars front-page story with a fantastic swim in the Indian Ocean and a walk along the Point Beach pier with my friends, Warren and Yas.

Kassie Naidoo, our art director, hung out at a Koos Kombuis concert in Barrydale in the Karoo, where she met a Ukrainian tour operator called Olga. Because she speaks Russian, Olga makes a living showing Russian tourists the sites and scenes of South Africa.

What struck Kassie most about Olga, who has made our country her home for 19 years, was that despite all our problems, she loves it here.

Admittedly, no one would want to move back to Ukraine right now while Vlad Putin is revising history, bombing buildings and shooting citizens to justify his land grab, but many would argue that living in crime-ridden South Africa is not very different from a war zone. But Olga loves living here. What does she love most? South Africans. Us. The people. Now isn’t that something?

Yes, we have more than our fair share of racists, rapists, drug dealers, con artists, gangsters, murderers, crooked, arrogant, greedy businessmen and women, corrupt, populist, entitled, inept and clueless politicians and uncivil servants. But do these scum of the southern-most tip of the African continent make up the majority of who we are? Nope. Definitely not.

This led me to ponder what it is about a nation of people so historically torn, battered and broken by an authoritarian apartheid past and an unequal, collapsing, corrupt present that makes most of us not so bad. Actually quite decent. Kind. Funny. Caring. Feisty. Warm. Generous. Humane. Industrious. Creative.

There is no scientific answer to this except a clue from psychiatrist Victor Frankl, who was sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis in 1944. Surviving that horrific ordeal, in which he lost his wife and family, brought Frankl to the realisation that the fundamental basis for psychological and spiritual health is a sense of purpose and meaning. This he suggested can be found in three ways: 1) through work or deeds; 2) the experience of values through love, beauty, nature, family; and 3) the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering.

I think good South Africans have an abundance of one or more of these three factors that make for meaningful lives.

Dear readers, now is the time to draw on every iota of inner strength, kindness, compassion and resourcefulness we have as a good bunch of people to make it through this season of darkness, strife and suffering.

Our front page story in DM168 this week is based on a long interview that journalists Ray Mahlaka and Julia Evans had with Electricity Minister Kgosientsho ‘Sputla’ Ramokgopa. Ramokgopa warns we should brace ourselves for higher levels of load shedding during winter if his plan for billions of rand of diesel to power gas turbines fails.

Read the story and tell us how you plan to deal with this prospect and what you think by writing to me at [email protected]

Yours in defence of truth and light at the end of the tunnel,


This story first appeared in our weekly DM168 newspaper which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Matsobane Monama says:

    Am surprised by Heather’s writing that Kassie Naidoo was struck by Olga being here for 19 yrs. Ukraine, even before the war is one of the most Corrupt and Poorest countries in Europe. There’s no comparison between Ukraine and SA, it’s not even close. Olga is here for 19 yrs to get a BETTER life which she couldn’t get in Ukraine. Those who want to describe SA as a Hell hole, the worst country to live in, are simply economical with the truth. Many left with fanfare and came back quietly. An African idiom says houses are beautiful from far but closer its disaster. Our constitution is challenged like many countries in the world e.g Israel protests now. Can it hold? Apartheid is gone, so a big yes. Stay positive MoAfrica, this is our only Home.

    • Richard Bryant says:

      The corruption in Ukraine is a result of decades of russian domination. Putin’s stooge was eventually kicked out and in his place Zelensky was elected by a 70% majority. putin hated the idea and realised the only way he could keep his gravy train running was to overthrow the democratically elected govt. It had nothing to do with NATO. Just read Bill Browders account of russian corruption and ask how it would be possible for a few oligarchs to own $1bn superyachts because in terms of the communist system in 1990 nobody in russia owned anything. As SA will find out, it will take decades to fix the corruption brought to us by the ANC. So please don’t look down on Ukrainians for the corruption and poverty, look east to the ANC’s new finder.

    • Mark Schaufelbuehl says:

      Your optimism is laudable, but I’d be interested in your opinion of André Pelser’s comment below (7 May 8.52 )

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    Beautifully written Heather. Thank you.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    We will survive,South Africa is not its politicians

  • David Walker says:

    Sadly, the majority of South Africa’s population voted for these political scumbags and thieves, including voting for the uber thief Zuma, not once but twice, so maybe this is who we are? And the press have failed to unequivocally support opposition to this regime of scumbags. Will next year be different?

    • William Kelly says:

      I agree with you. This is exactly who we are. We all have choices to make and until we start making the right ones the evidence as to what we stand for will remain as incontrovertible as it currently is.

  • Stephanie Brown says:

    Loved these reflections, Heather. I am Canadian and have been in SA for nearly 25 years. They are both my countries, but SA, with all its problems and all its potential, is my home. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of purpose and also surrounding oneself with people who work for positive change. We can’t be blind about our present, or the past which is still with us, but we can do our part to change the trajectory of the past several years. And I am still enjoying my DM since I picked up my first glossy black copy in Woolworths many, many years ago. Lots of changes since then. I also enjoy watching how you and the team have adapted and made DM such a success. Inspiration to all of us.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Thanks for the positive article. I sailed with Ukrainian crews for 14 years, great guys, the best. I hope they make it through the trashing of Ukraine.

    Can you name some good, honest, constructive politicians? I can, generally all DA one are.

  • David Crossley says:

    We were discussing this very topic at a family gathering yesterday and resolved to ignore as far as possible the negative aspects of living here and concentrate on the positives of which there are many. There is a new group of individuals in this country who are determined to stay.

  • Robert Mckay says:

    Thank you for reminding me of Victor Frankl’s authentic spirituality.

  • Schalk Burger says:

    We have many blessings and many challenges, but our challenges are manageable with some good attitude. We also have achieved a lot as a nation since 1994 – let’s not forget where we were. Current events are largely a bump in our road as a nation. Being South African is a privilege and we can be proud!

  • André Pelser says:

    Unfortunately, in terms of optics, SA is currently being dominated by scumbags and criminals. Civil society activists have kept Mzansi afloat, some have lost their lives in the process. Investigative journalists have played a key role. Hope for the future lies in the spirit of Ubuntu. Clearly a thoroughly corrupt government cannot, and will, not deliver Ubuntu. Our collective challenge is contribute to the establishment of a new government, to ensure that those involved are committed to serving the great good, and to convert words into action – strengthen the structures and systems that enjoy the support and trust of our citizens. Trust is born from relationship, which requires contact and communication, getting to know each other at the personal level, crossing the cultural divide. National gatherings are great, but should be underpinned by local community gatherings. The wave of unstoppable change has to be generated at the ground level and be broad based – time to marginalise the scumbags and criminals and find power, and protection, in collective action.

  • Tods The Toed says:

    Unfortunately the bulk of voters are defined by who they voted into power. There is no tortoise that will disown its shell simply because it got dirty whilst foraging for food. We need to learn to vote SMART and not allow sentimentality and loyalty to dictate who gets our vote.

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