Not long before one of those, “let us know if we aren’t living up to our mandate not to promote gratuitous sex and violence on radio” announcements, East Coast Radio’s morning DJ Damon Beard described in some detail a video that has now gone viral.
In it a man on a street in Gauteng is seen trying to steal a bag – presumably a laptop – from the passenger seat of a car. The driver and him get into a tug-of-war over the bag. Then, as if from out of nowhere, a motorcycle appears and hits the thief causing him to run away in shock. In a post on Facebook the driver later thanks the man for helping him and says that he chased after the thief, ran him over and thankfully, recovered his laptop with only minimal damage to his car. He then thanks Jesus Christ for protecting him.
Beard celebrated the motorcyclist as a genuine hero. In fact, he even called him a Good Samaritan. I read literally hundreds of posts on line all saying basically the same thing – what a hero this guy is.
What has happened to us as a nation when we celebrate with such glee a man being hit by a motorcycle and then run over by a car for trying to grab a laptop off the passenger seat of a vehicle? Have we totally lost the plot? I am not saying what he was doing was right – very far from it. I am saying, that we cannot condone such a response as heroic. It is as criminal – more so in fact – than what this petty thief was doing. I have no idea whether the thief is alive or not, but if he isn’t then these guys are going to be up on charges of murder. That’s how serious this is.
By celebrating this kind of thing, we are condoning vigilante justice, and this is not the answer to our crime epidemic. We need to slow down and get some perspective and understand that we still live in a nation wracked by poverty and employment. Until this is brought under control, desperate people will steal and riding over them with our motor vehicles is a barbaric and inhumane response that will do absolutely no good in the long run.
Back to that announcement about broadcasting standards, was this story not a case of Beard celebrating and advocating for vigilante justice? Is this in line with good radio practice?
I don’t think it is.
Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency. His writing is dedicated to the memory of Anene Booysens, Emmanuel Josias Sithole and Suna Venter
There has been a great deal written about Angus Buchan’s recent mega prayer faith gathering near Bloemfontein entitled “It’s Time” and I don’t intend to add to the commentary on the event itself. However, it came about in a week in which an extraordinary video from a US church exploded on social media.
The video sees a middle-aged, white evangelical church pastor asking a young black man onto stage during a sermon. He gently invites the young man to take a seat and asks him to remove his shoes and socks. The pastor then recalls Donald Trump’s election campaign strapline “Make America Great Again” and asks the congregation to consider who America has ever been great for? Certainly not, he says, native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans like this young man, Asians or any other minority group for that matter. America, he says in a brutally factual and disarmingly humble manner, has been truly great for only one group of people; one race; his race. The white race.
In that same week, another church man – this time a local lay preacher and writer by the name of Lorenzo A Davids – penned a less widely circulated but no less powerful article in which he asked some equally probing questions as the US pastor had in his video: If “It’s Time” as Brother Angus tells us it is, then what is it time for? And why is now the time? In the context of his vast audience being mostly white, why was it not time when Madiba died or when Anene Booysens was brutally murdered or, I would add, when Chris Hani was assassinated? What makes now so unique as to see hundreds of thousands of people gather to pray in faith? Is it simply another way of articulating and embodying the Trump rallying cry; “Make South Africa great again.”? And if this is the case, then who are we really praying for it to be great again for? Because it was never great for too many people other than one race; my race; the white race.
Now, you may say that there were also non-white people at the Angus Buchan prayer gathering and that the spirit between races was loving, brotherly, embracing – even healing in its nature. I have heard superb stories of what happened at that event. This is all good and I do not wish for one moment to belittle anything of what took place there. However, it is not enough by a long way. We must add to our faith – whatever faith that may be – works that will actively arrest the decline of our nation but also radically transform it and bring restitution. What does this look like? What must we do? What is it time for?
I believe that what the American evangelical pastor does next provides us with the answer, but before going there, let me borrow again from Lorenzo A Davids who speaks profoundly about what he terms the Zacchaeus Moment. When he meets Jesus and has a revelation about the many he has wronged, the legendary criminal tax collector Zacchaeus – the small guy who had to climb up a fig tree to see Jesus – repents. This is not just a simple matter of saying sorry, although I am certain he did this. As part of his repentance he gives half of his possessions to the poor and to those he cheated out of money, he returns 4 times the amount he had taken. Put another way, his repentance included significant restitution. He added to his faith, action. It was only then that Jesus declared salvation over Zacchaeus’ house. It is this salvation that Brother Angus is praying for.
As he continues to speak, the white pastor gets down on all fours in front of the young black man. He looks him in the eyes and he speaks with such tenderness as he takes his feet gently in his hands and begins to wash them. A young black man. An older white man. He tells the youngster that he cares about him; that he is valuable to him; that he is not inferior to him despite what history would tell him. They are brothers even though their contexts are so different.
He holds his feet with such care. He gets down as low as he can; as close to the young man’s feet as he is able. He massages his feet, each one in turn – slowly. Tears fall down the young man’s face as the pastor slowly dries the young man’s feet, embraces him and tells him he loves him.
This is not American theatrics. This is what leaders like Christ and more recently Pope Francis model in terms of a start point for healing and restitution. For Francis, he washes feet whenever he can; Christians, non-Christians, men, women, refugees, prison inmates you name it. He actively eschews his position as the leader of millions; he makes himself accountable for the wrongs of others; he humbles himself by getting down as low as he can to take broken and dirty feet into his hands and wash and sometimes even kiss them.
Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency.
His writing is dedicated to the memory of Anene Booysens and Emmanuel Josias Sithole.
We have a national treasure in the National Treasury. There is little doubt that Pravin Gordhan now embodies this highest of unofficial titles; a title that we have applied to only a handful of men and women in the past few decades.
I realised just how fast this man was approaching national treasure status when I recently found myself with him on an SA Airlink flight to Nelspruit. Wearing a tweed cap to shield his shiny pate from the brutal Lowveld sun, he humbly agreed to having his photo taken with scores of fans whilst we waited on the runway to board our flight. Person after person – South Africans of all descriptions – took selfies with the Minister of Finance. Bear in mind that this man has held the most loathed title in any society; that of “tax man”. Bear in mind that this man revolutionised tax collection in our country during his time at SARS. Bear in mind that for years he has lightened our pockets by increasing taxes; bear in mind that he has done this whilst the public purse has been simultaneously lightened by all those entrusted to hold its strings. Yet in-spite of all this financial lightening and burdening, there we were queuing to have our picture taken with him as if he were a rock star. Those who know him well will tell you that he is a man of towering integrity. They will tell you that he is a South African of unbridled passion and commitment to the complete freedom of our people and the realisation of the full potential of our country. They will also tell you that he is fiendishly bright.But these values – great as they are – do not make a national treasure. Ironically that title is bestowed only on the humble great. Pravin Gordhan is fast becoming one of our humble great and his last (we all hope it is not his last, but alas) budget presentation proved this. It was not the maths of the speech that solidified his place in our history. In fact, many people will be gnashing their teeth at the fact that we are paying vastly more for vastly less. It was these words:
“Fellow South Africans, if we make the right choices and do the right things we will achieve a just and fair society, founded on human dignity and equality. We will indeed transform our economy and country so that we all live in dignity, peace and well-being,”
If you did not know that I was quoting our newest national treasure (and you had never heard/heard of Jacob Zuma), you might say that I was quoting a/our President; these words have a presidential feel.
But he didn’t stop at general appeals for participation. He went on to issue a clarion call for us to participate with him in the task at hand: “This is the time for activists, workers, businesspersons, the clergy, professionals and citizens at large to actively engage in shaping the transformation agenda and ensuring that we do have a just and equitable society. Obstacles there will be many. Overcome them. Detractors abound. Disprove them. Negativity inspired by greed and selfishness will obstruct us. Defeat the bearers of this toxic ethic. South Africans, wherever you are own this process; defend your gains; demand accountability. Be an active agent for change. Umanyano Ngamandla (Unity is power.)”
These words coming from our very own “broken man presiding over a broken society” would be laughable. But coming from a national treasure they have the effect of creating hope; presenting a vision and outlining a strategy to get there.
If we allow them to, these words could galvanise us into action; to pay our taxes yes, but then to pay attention to what we as individual South Africans could do to take back our power. He is inviting us to join him in fighting for a future – one that he seems to be positive about; he is inviting us to stop pointing out what is wrong – we all know what is wrong; stop whining whilst Rome is burning. He has modelled the way for us (another enduring feature of people who wear the title of National Treasure). All we need do is act.
In the immediate term, this must include an uncompromising commitment to our non-negotiable values. Punch drunk from the ongoing battering of the forces of corruption and greed, we must stand firm and not give into the temptation of; “they are doing it so why can’t I?”. This statement – this attitude – is, I believe, the single biggest danger currently facing us as a society. It will take discipline to resist this temptation but if we don’t, our demise will be fast and frightening.
In the meantime, Pravin Gordhan will need all the support he can get as the vultures’ circle. So, if you bump into him on a flight or anywhere else, have a selfie with a national treasure and thank him.
Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency. All my writing – regardless of topic – is dedicated to the memory of Anene Booysens and Emmanuel Josias Sithole. I do this to help keep their stories alive.