The Conundrum of Inclusion

Last night I was at a Blue, the Network event in Woodstock. A little background to the network; Blue, the Network is an initiative of the Democratic Alliance to bring together young professionals across various sectors to talk about innovations and ideas, which will lead into action in bringing about a new type of politics. For more information, you can visit the page here.

Among the guest speakers was the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, who very succinctly outlined the vision to position Cape Town as a leading African City, creating opportunities for economic development, uplifting the conditions of the poor through various projects and delivering world class services to all its citizens.

In the Q&A session afterwards, a young lady put a question to her (in the form of a statement) addressing the difficulty black people face in Cape Town regarding being included in business circles, especially around the issue of language use in business. One of the speakers of the night, Mphumeleli Ndlangisa, founder of Magna Carta Wines, expressed the same frustration, noting that most business meetings in the Stellenbosch area are held in Afrikaans, a language which he struggles to communicate in. Especially in the business context. This, of course, is very much a valid and pressing issue if we are to effectively transform the economy so that everyone benefits from economic growth and job creation.

The answer, in my humble opinion is a very simple one; we should all respect each other’s language constraints, and go into any conversation with the goal of seeking first to understand (to borrow one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

In my professional career, I’ve worked for 3 different multi-national organisations, where English was not always the language of communication. In 2 of these organisations, Afrikaans was the language most often used. Now, I can understand Afrikaans very well, but I can’t always speak it well. So, when I can, I try to speak the language as best I can, and the moment I feel uncomfortable in doing so, I switch over to English. And here’s the thing; not once did anyone ask me to stay speaking in Afrikaans. And furthermore, when I didn’t understand a word or sentence, I asked that they either repeat it, or that it be translated into English, and again, not once was this request ignored.

One more example. Our office is in Cape Town, and one of my colleagues, Nokuthula, relocated from Gauteng. She has a very basic understanding of Afrikaans. So when there is a meeting with her present, the meeting is strictly held in English. In this way, everyone is included in the conversation.

In closing, one of the best ways that we can build our economy is inclusion of everyone through effective communication. Having 11 official languages makes it difficult for everyone, but if we seek first to understand each other, I believe we will be well on our way to foster an inclusive society, develop our economy, and build our beloved nation together.

What is learned from Jackie Selebi’s Medical Parole

Former South African Police Services chief, Jackie Selebi, was granted medical parole today . He was convicted of corruption in July 2010, and was given a 15 year prison sentence.

However, most of his prison term was spent in hosiptal, and he is now diagnosed to have end-state renal disease as a result of Diabetes mellitus.

While it is (rather sadly) very clear that Jackie Selebi satisfies the conditions of medical parole, it once again calls into question the ANC’s usage of state organs to help its comrades. The reason for this is that another comrade, Schabir Shaik, was also convicted of corruption and sentenced to 15 years. However, he too was granted medical parole as a result of terminal illness. However, since his release in 2008, he has shown no signs of his disease, and he has even enjoyed relaxed parole conditions, and a reduction in sentence under the President’s latest remission of sentence announcement.

With Jackie Selebi’s medical parole, it brings the ANC’s goal of circumventing the judiciary into the spotlight. We must remember that when Schabir Shaik was granted medical parole in 2008, it was said that he had 4-6 months to live. Now, he enjoys playing golf, visiting shopping malls and other freedoms that law-abiding citizens have. 

This shows that while the ANC preaches a clampdown on corruption, it practises underhanded tactics at getting high-profile members reduced sentences, should it fail to control the judicial process. This tendency undermines the very fabric of our hard-fought democracy, it shows that the ANC has no respect for the courts, or the rule of law. While they will not admit so in public, it is clear that the ANC is hell-bent on undermining the constitution they themselves helped to build.

It is my hope that with this latest case of high-profile medical parole, we do not see yet another case of a comrade playing golf at the taxpayer’s expense.