The tweet

iverwoe001p1Senzo Meyiwa was laid to rest a week ago, but the hubbub around my question about his funeral refuses to die down. “Who paid for this massive funeral for #SenzoMeyiwa?”

The past few days have elicited an extraordinary response from many South Africans – some outraged, some hateful, some thoughtful and some supportive. The readings have vacillated between positive and negative but have opened up an opportunity for dialogue and understanding – which is how we take this discussion up a level.

Whether or not you like insensitive whites asking poorly-timed questions or if you compare me to Verwoerd or Hofmeyr you have to admit there are things we need to talk about – and if my being white or your being black is a factor that counts either of us out of the discussion, then we’re in a lot of trouble.

I’m disturbed but not surprised by outright racism and bigotry – there’s a lot of anger in this country, and we pretend to get along some of the time until something awful happens or someone decides to take offence to something in the news. We need to go deeper though – to start understanding each other, and the bad news is that it won’t be comfortable. Some black people think all whites are right-wing devils that put on a show and occasionally reveal their real, racist feelings – by being patronising or using language which seems imperious. This may be true for some white people, but there are a great many of us who actually really aren’t racists – who don’t use the K-word, who don’t criticise the government because they think black people can’t do the job, and who aren’t proud of their colonial past. White people need to appreciate that what may seem like a question of fact can make a black person read all sorts of indirect racism and cultural prejudice that cannot be dismissed. We need to talk about our feelings, but we can’t be emotional in our reactions. Once we start to understand the other person’s point of view, there’s a way to turn every cause for conflict into a chance for conciliation.

My mistake was to ask “Who’s paying for this massive funeral for #SenzoMeyiwa?” without considering the timing or how many millions of people might have misinterpreted it as something mean-spirited, but the question stands, and has still not been satisfactorily answered. I didn’t ask it to be provocative or because I was seeking attention; I tweet all the time – and I’m sure I’ve said many more offensive things than that. Many other people asked the same question, but maybe nobody saw their tweets. Whatever the responses, I’m pretty sure I didn’t deserve “One settler one bullet”, “Fuck you Gerath you racist pink pig”, “You and Steve Hofmeyr are the same black-hating peas in a pod” (sic). If you think those reactions are appropriate then I doubt we’d have a lot in common, but I will defend your right to say even horrible things.

Tasteless remarks about Kelly Khumalo and unkind memes about Senzo’s dad with arms outstretched have polluted the social media timelines of many of us over the past few days – but instead of asking tough questions, we look for scapegoats and distractions. Instead of being sad about Senzo, many people preferred to get angry and nasty – and to what avail?

Who paid for Senzo’s funeral? You did – and I did. R.I.P. Senzo.

4 Comments

  1. 12 bells says:

    People lost the meaning of the concept of authority (office). Verwoerd and Botha had state funerals because they were in office. We falsely justify our disrespect if we convince ourselves that leaders are not living up to our standards. Respect for all (not just our leaders) is of great importance to cultivate peace and unity. At the same time we should champion all efforts to keep our leaders accountable. Asking for accountability per se is not being disrespectful, but is vital to our democracy and our freedom. George Orwell is quoted:”Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Mandela was in this regard a prime example of a liberator in the true sense of the word. Mr.Cliff, there is no right or wrong time for us to exercise our freedom. We are either free or we are not.

  2. Pmen says:

    To Gareth

    My Broe, i would have asked the same question as well and i don’t see anything wrong with your question, it’s a same question i had in my mind, Senzo has played for Bafana Bafana two or 3 games and all of a sudden he’s a hero.I mean it takes hard work to deserve such funeral, everything has been exaggerated,Mbulaeni Tongai Mulaudzi was a South African middle distance runner, and the 2009 world champion in the men’s 800 metres, what they have done for him, nothing at all.I think people should start changing their lens so that they’ll see things differently.

  3. Lisolethu D says:

    We have this sense of entitlement that we need to let go of. We feel entitled to take offence to even the things that slightly have got to do with race, close to nothing just because we’re black and vice versa. We feel entitled to utter hate speech just because we can. There’s so much more to say but I can only stoop so low. We need a wake up call! Gareth, that’s a good question. Its just that people missed the plot.

  4. Dr Gire Marufu Gorerazo says:

    Gareth
    The death of a soccer player under such horrendous circumstances can never be easy or welcome on the majority of sane humans. Zenzo’s death was received by differing emotions from differing people with wide and different views about him yet alone the cause of the death. Your question was rightly timed, as it reflected on the current event, but was probably misunderstood by some sections of the society especially the black community, Sports minister’s comments hereby refer. I am black and I did not view your comment in the same same the minister viewed it and if I were to comment probably I was going to say the same or worse but maybe people were not going to play the race card in it coz I am black. There is a tendency that black people are not racists, only whites! This is outrightly wrong and to say the least, blacks I judge them as more racist than modern day whites in that they dont even view their racists views as racism.

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