Letters to the editor: August 3 to 9

Fight taxi violence head on

The recent taxi massacre of almost a dozen people by machine guns has left most people in shock, but I am not shocked in the least. This sort of violent crime is now endemic in South Africa and we must take a hard look at what has led to this state of affairs, particularly in the taxi industry.

Head-on collisions between two packed, unroadworthy taxis is a normal event in this country. Running red lights, speeding and driving in the emergency lanes is normal. Nothing is shocking any more, and this is a bad space to be in.

Some years ago, the then mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, made a concerted effort to cut down on petty crime in what was dubbed the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement. Giuliani proposed that “harmless” infractions lead to more serious crimes. He put forward that “obviously murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes. But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other.”

In a similar vein, an industry, the minibus taxi industry, which tolerates and condones overloaded, unroadworthy taxis that openly flout every conceivable road regulation is the same industry that has led to internecine warfare. They are part of the same continuum.

An industry that is renegade and disobeys the most basic of civil norms pertaining to the highways and byways is one that at the end of the road begets the unbelievable violence we are witnessing.

It is a back-to-basics approach that is called for. Our police are doing the industry, and the county, a grave disservice by not clamping down in a drastic fashion on the wanton disrespect for the laws of the road perpetrated by the minibus taxi industry. — Dr Peter Baker, Parktown North

Keep populist tide in check

The reactions from certain quarters to former United States president Barack Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela confirms his warning that the journey Mandela began has not been completed.

Mandela and Obama caused seismic shifts in the sociopolitical sphere when they became the first black presidents of their countries.

Subtle opposition came out in the open in the US and led to a “whitelash” that contributed to the election of a president with racist leanings and intolerance towards those who look and believe differently.

Obama referred to the pushback against the new sociopolitical dispensation set in motion by Madiba, of which his own presidency was an example. Mandela was well aware of this danger and warned against taking freedom and equal opportunities for granted.

The struggle for real democracy, equality and tolerance is a process and it has its cycles. History has proven that long-held ideologies and prejudices often reappear in conducive circumstances. The flood of refugees into Europe, caused by wars, climate change and scarce resources, seems to have created such a conducive environment.

Vigilance is needed to timeously identify and counter a resurgence of ideologies that have caused deep divisions and immense pain.

Increasing global social awareness, largely brought about by social media, will be a crucial factor in countering the effect of populism. But populists themselves are now using social media and fake news in their efforts to reverse the new tolerant world order.

The current wave of populism across the globe can be stopped if good forces take a stand, but Obama also warned that victory is not a given. — Dawie Jacobs, Sterrewag

Slanted story a poor reflection

The article Rich land, poor villagers refers. The Mail & Guardian’s deserved reputation, built over many years, is based on fair and accurate journalism. The article fails dismally in this regard and is not worthy of your publication.

It is clear that the journalist knew in advance the slant he wanted the article to portray and made sure that the facts didn’t get in the way. The message oozing through the article is one of “poor (black) villagers exploited by the rich (white) tourism industry”.

What is contained in the article in reality is: (i) the views, allegations and insinuations of one individual and his interpreter; (ii) incomplete responses from the Coffee Shack owners, presented blandly, never expanded upon and ignored for the rest of the article; and (iii) a series of discussions with tourists intended to show how exploitative the overall tourism industry in Coffee Bay is.

Although I am not an expert able to pronounce on the overall tourism scenario in the area, had your journalist done sufficient research, he would have known that Coffee Shack, one of a number of tourism enterprises around Coffee Bay, is a long-standing and well-respected member of Fair Trade in Tourism (FTT).

To be certified by FTT is a lengthy and difficult process as the requirements are onerous and comprehensive. FTT-certified businesses are audited on site and for two full days at a time every three years to ensure they remain on track. Two of the most important criteria measured are human resources (how staff are treated, paid and respected within a business) and community/social investment.

To therefore insinuate, as the article does, that Coffee Shack exploits its employees and does not care about its community is negligence on the part of the journalist. The article has incorrectly and maliciously impugned a progressive tourism business that has provided long-term, sustainable and “decent” jobs in an area where few exist. It has impugned a business that makes important and continuing contributions to its local community.

A simple visit to its website would have given the journalist ample examples to visit during his time in the area. If I were the owners of Coffee Shack (and the local community is a 30% owner in the business), I would be livid with the M&G for the misleading impression given of one of the jewels in South Africa’s tourism crown — a business that truly cares for its employees and its community. An apology is owed to it. — Russell Suchet, Sani Pass

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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