Letters to the editor: June 19 to 25 2015

Let’s negotiate about education

Dan Roodt’s response to Mary Metcalfe’s article about language in schools versus rights of access will be offensive to many; he certainly lashes out in every direction (“Anglicising Afrikaans schools will speed up country’s decline”, June 12).

But the distress he articulates could have been sent to the Mail & Guardian in almost every official language, except maybe English.

The sense of dread, of anger, of being marginalised and diluted, of loss – in his and his colleagues’ case, may be real loss, but in the case of others, [it is] the loss of a promised right of access to worthy, competent education, which manages the language and cultural issues inclusively and leads to nation-building, economic development and the dignity of the citizen. We are all still waiting for that to happen.

Metcalfe is surely correct to say we are faced with two constitutional principles in tension: a tension that the courts, departmental bulldozing and sectarian obstructionism cannot resolve.

At another level, it is not two principles in tension but one need expressed in two ways – the need to ensure that all our young people have access to high-quality education.

After all these years, we haven’t worked out what we are trying to do, let alone how to do it – or why the Sesotho-speaking teenager with whom I had lunch in Sebokeng on Sunday is required to attend school in Rus-ter-Vaal where the only languages on offer are Afrikaans and English? How is she to feel at home in her education, or build on her linguistic and cultural rootedness?

We are at a stage in our nation-building (for those still working on that project) that needs to go to another level. We must identify gridlocks and set up ways to address them with all concerned parties around the table. A process akin to mediation will bear more fruit than litigation but, to be really effective, it should be nationwide and include all parties, something along the lines of the bosberaads that served us well in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa era, or in the Dinokeng Scenarios discussions on the future of South Africa. The aim cannot be to win or beat down the other, but to include, listen and build.

This would need Roodt and Metcalfe – with the department, competing school governing board federations and the educational nongovernmental organisations, at least – to sit down with a broad and competent mediation team. What about it, educators? – Bishop Peter Lee, chairperson of the Anglican Board of Education


Diaspora Legacy Programme is news to reporters

To justify its secrecy about money transferred to Jack Warner for his exclusive use in March 2008, the ANC has blamed South African journalists’ indifference for the lack of publicity at the time (No evidence of SA’s cash in Trinidad).

This is an unwarranted slur. I was working in the media department of the Cape Town municipality at the time, and football journalists from all over the world were visiting the city. The theme of the 2010 World Cup was ‘Ke Nako – It’s Time to Celebrate Africa’s Humanity’, which would have been the ideal time to brief journalists about post-tournament benefits such as the African Diaspora Legacy Programme. But nobody knew it existed. ANC parliamentarians knew nothing about it. Search for “African Diaspora Legacy Programme” on the departments of sport and communications websites – no result.


The African Union held a Global African Diaspora Summit in Johannesburg in May 2012 and announced several legacy projects, but none of them was the African Diaspora Legacy Programme.

And why it was necessary to route the money through Fifa in such a complex process? If the project was legitimate and approved by the Cabinet, why was treasury approval not obtained for the South African Football Association to pay the money directly to Trinidad?

The ANC has, after all, treasury approval to pay hundreds of millions of rands to another Caribbean diaspora country, Cuba, and in 2010 wrote off Cuban debts of R1.1-billion. – Ed Herbst, Cape Town


The M&G still vital for my weekly news fix

In my working-class home, the daily newspapers were my chief source of entertainment and enlightenment.

As a child I read about Mao Zedong’s swim in the Yangtze River, Albert Schweitzer’s work as a doctor in the central African forests, Princess Margaret’s wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the flight of the Dalai Lama across the Himalayas, the 90-day detention laws in South Africa, and was enchanted by the name of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria. Through the newspapers, I was part of a big, wide world.

As the new generations in our country become more news literate, the Mail & Guardian will be needed more than ever for its ethical investigative reporting (M&G needed now just as much as it was 30 years ago).

We desperately need places of clear ethical thinking to turn to in an otherwise polluted public space. My weekend doesn’t fly until I have had my Friday fix of the M&G.

A huge thank you to the founders and all those who have kept up your original goals. – Irma Liberty, Cape Town


UN contradicts its own moral norms

Two important issues in international law confront South Africa.

First, there is the International Criminal Court’s warrant of arrest for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes. But what about warrants for George Bush and Tony Blair, for their Iraq war in which 500 000 died, and for Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu for massacring Gazan civilians and destroying their civil infrastructure? This double standard stinks. International law is discriminatory.

Second, the “Ezulwini consensus” proposes South Africa and Nigeria get permanent seats with veto rights on the United Nations Security Council. This won’t solve international conflict. A permanent seat with a veto prolongs conflicts. The Arab-Israeli conflict has been prolonged for decades with the aid of the United States’s permanent seat and veto. The Syrian conflict, in which more than 200 000 died, is prolonged by Russia exercising its veto.

The UN should be democratised, instead of being a tool of imperialist powers and African and Arab dictators. – Naushad Omar, East London

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