Opinionista Anita Powell 6 August 2012

Pistorius for president: Leadership, Olympics style

South Africa has delivered a stunning performance so far in this year’s Games, winning in spectacular fashion. Writing from London, I think this high-achieving lot could do more – maybe they should even run the country.

Watching Oscar Pistorius cross the finish line at the 400 meters at the Olympics is a moment for the ages. Seeing Caster Semenya carry the flag at the opening ceremony was a tear-jerking moment.

Much of the attention has come with a side of patronising “look how far this country has come” pap from international media. But maybe they have a point.

What does this group have in common? They have overcome adversity that many South Africans can’t comprehend. And they have not just overcome, they have excelled.

So it’s not entirely in jest that I suggest that they could do a good deal better than the current lot in setting an example and running this country.

I even suggest a name for their party: The Supermen.

Here are lessons that they can teach us.

Remember: a hug is just a hug

The embrace between Sizwe Ndlovu and John Smith was beautiful. But it was just a hug.

A few months back, the Democratic Alliance ruffled feathers with this ad featuring an interracial couple. While Sizwe and Smith’s embrace was platonic, it was cast in the international news for being some sort of historic moment. 

It shouldn’t. It was two teammates hugging after winning a gold medal. They happened to be of different races. So what? Get over it.

But it does make the leadership’s race-baiting antics look awfully silly, doesn’t it?  

It’s not about what you are, but what you can do

Semenya has had a hard year. It was sweet justice to see her carrying South Africa’s flag at the opening ceremony.

All the tests in the world didn’t do anything to change what Caster Semenya is: a South African.

But, to go into the particulars: intersex births are very common in South Africa. A leader who has been through the humiliation, the scrutiny and the trauma is one who can relate better to others who are dealing with the same.  

And she certainly hasn’t let it get in the way of kicking ass.

Meanwhile, critics have made a hullaballoo over Lindiwe Mazibuko not being “black enough,” with the minister of education even using a slur to describe her as being “black on the outside, white on the inside.” Are we going to test for this too now? How about letting her do her job for a change?  

Recognise people’s abilities

The 2001 Census says there are at least 2.2 million disabled South Africans. Out of 50 million people, that’s a group too large to be ignored. Yet we do – many public facilities in Johannesburg have limited or no access for people who are not fully mobile.

That’s 2.2 million South Africans who can’t get into the same malls, the same restaurants, and the same buildings as the rest of us.

Sound familiar?

There is simply no excuse for this. None.

That’s the same thing that Pistorius’ family told him growing up: even though society views you as disabled, there is no excuse for not doing your best.

Which brings us to …

Enough with the excuses

Do you see Pistorius blaming his grandmother for not giving him any legs?

He could have, ostensibly: it was genetic. But he doesn’t.

But Jacob Zuma blamed the Limpopo textbook scandal on a leader who has been dead for decades. No, Hendrik Verwoerd doesn’t deserve a lot of sympathy. And yes, he set up a bad system that still has an enduring legacy. But it’s a safe bet to say that he did not dump those textbooks into the river this year (as much as he may have wanted to).

Don’t underestimate us

Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer of all time, was edged out by a young man from Durban. Chad le Clos revered Phelps growing up. Then he beat him.

South Africa needs leaders who can not only hold their own on the world stage, but who can occasionally surprise the big boys with skill and talent. Instead we have Julius Malema. Enough said.

You can do good with privilege

The Financial Times has thrown a bit of cold water on the success of black South Africans at the Games. They point out that Pistorius was born rich and that Ndlovu is no township tramp, but rather a product of the exclusive Mondeor High School.

Well, so what? Our other rich, prominent figures are using their money to eat sushi off women’s bodies. Meanwhile, Ndlovu is inspiring a generation.  

If that’s what an elite education buys, that’s money well spent.

And that argument doesn’t hold at all for Semenya – who truly was born poor and underprivileged.

So, officials, instead of rewarding the Supermen with the cash when they get home, step aside and let them do your jobs (okay, fine, let them run for it: this is still a democracy). They’re inspiring, hardworking and diverse – everything South Africa deserves its leadership to be. DM


Want to watch Richard Poplak’s audition for SA’s Got Talent?

Who doesn’t? Alas, it was removed by the host site for prolific swearing*... Now that we’ve got your attention, we thought we’d take the opportunity to talk to you about the small matter of book burning and freedom of speech.

Since its release, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State, has sparked numerous fascist-like behavior from certain members of the public (and the State). There have been planned book burnings, disrupted launches and Ace Magashule has openly called him a liar. And just to say thanks, a R10m defamation suit has been lodged against the author.

Pieter-Louis Myburgh is our latest Scorpio Investigative journalist recruit and we’re not going to let him and his crucial book be silenced. When the Cape Town launch was postponed, Maverick Insider stepped in and relocated it to a secure location so that Pieter-Louis’ revelations could be heard by the public. If we’ve learnt one thing over the past ten years it is this: when anyone tries to infringe on our constitutional rights, we have to fight back. Every day, our journalists are uncovering more details and evidence of State Capture and its various reincarnations. The rot is deep and the threats, like this recent one to freedom of speech, are real. You can support the cause by becoming an Insider and help free the speech that can make a difference.

*No video of Richard Poplak auditioning for SA’s Got Talent actually exists. Unless it does and we don’t know about it please send it through.


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