Letters to the Editor: August 31 to September 6

The law applies to all citizens, including students

The #FeesMustFall movement has brought a renewed hope to millions of South African black youths who seemed to believe that access to higher education was for the rich only. Indeed, the movement is reminiscent of the class of ’76. The protest was noble. It was for generations to come.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, there are casualties in every war, and some of the student leaders face criminal charges and there are court cases pending against them. Some have been charged for the violence and destruction of property during the #FeesMustFall protests and students around the country are appealing to the president to grant them a presidential pardon.

This might be a fair and genuine plea from students who are facing possible unemployment because of a criminal record hanging over their heads but the government must approach this issue with the utmost caution.

South Africa is home to violent service delivery protests, which include the destruction of property and public infrastructure that serves the people of South Africa. Recent protests have seen the burning of key state infrastructure and government facilities, which include clinics, hospitals, schools and police stations.

Some of the grievances are genuine.They include the lack of services, which violates citizens’ constitutional rights. So pardoning the students could create a precedent for all residents who protest against the inadequate provision of water and sanitation, poor service in state departments and other issues that directly affect citizens.

The fact of the matter is that when the law is broken, the criminal justice system must take effect.

The burning of property and public violence cannot be an excuse to express one’s dissatisfaction with the government over the exorbitant fees for higher education, just as burning a clinic cannot be an excuse to express dissatisfaction with the lack of service delivery.

Everybody is subject to the rule of law. The state must draw the line, which nobody should cross.— Itumeleng Ntsoelengoe Aphane, Johannesburg

Target the deadbeat dads

I was gratified by Milisuthando Bongela’s article, “Punishing rapists isn’t good enough”. What struck me in particular was her awareness that dealing with the problem of violence against women will require much more than “more experts in penology”.

“We need social healing,”she writes, so that people may no longer feel “directionless, hopeless, perpetually sad and anxious, overwhelmingly depressed, etcetera”. It confirms my own conviction that we all need to dig deeper and get to the social roots of our society’s problems if progress is going to be made in reducing them.

What kind of families do violent men come from? What are the key factors to consider when this issue comes up?

I suspect that the devastating effects on boys of absent, irresponsible and immature fathers are responsible to a significant extent.

Certainly Bongela’s proposal to teach children a sense of belonging and responsibility is valuable. But my own conviction is that we will have to go further and confront the issue of boys without fathers or adequate male role models of any kind.

Studies have shown that boys in general cannot grow to maturity without attention from a loving and caring father figure. What effect would it have if there was a blitz of publicity about this problem on social and regular media — encouraging society to turn a disapproving spotlight on so-called ‘”deadbeat dads” and beginning a nationwide call for fathers who generate children not to shrink from taking responsibility for them?

This national attention could also highlight the pervasive influence of alcohol on this issue — shebeens present in townships almost everywhere without any effective restriction, alcohol available to people at any time of the day or night, and young men running wild after dark, terrorising the local inhabitants. It is very likely that male violence finds its origin in the experiences of childhood.

The same edition of your paper quotes from a statement of the vice-chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, with reference to the recent suicide of a young woman shortly after being raped: “The manner in which we have brought up our boys and young men has led to the tragedy that has befallen Khensani [Maseko].”

It is my hope that South Africa will wake up to this tragic problem and that some people with leadership ability will take it in hand and respond to it before it overwhelms all of us.— Reverend Joseph A Slattery, PhD, Port Elizabeth

Coca-Cola must honour its word

The FairPlay movement urges Coca-Cola to stop purchasing dumped sugar, which is threatening jobs in South Africa and contributing to the decline of the local sugar industry.

The industry is an efficient sugar producer but it cannot compete with dumped imports, which have sent the industry into decline. Imports have accelerated rapidly in recent years, supplanting local production and contributing to the loss of thousands of jobs. The effect has been particularly severe on small-scale farmers, many of whom have been driven out of business.

Coca-Cola South Africa has recently confirmed, in comments to the Mail & Guardian and to Landbouweekblad, that it is indeed purchasing imported sugar, despite its public interest commitments to the Competition Commission in 2016, in which it undertook to maintain, and where possible improve, the company’s procurement of South African inputs, including sugar.

The company has reaffirmed those commitments and described its imports as “nominal” and “relatively small”.

Yet it has declined to quantify those imports, or to specify their origin, which FairPlay believes to be a refinery in the United Arab Emirates.

The South African sugar industry should be expanding and creating jobs. Instead, it is shrinking under the weight of imports, and the industry itself says it has reached a “tipping point”. Thousands of jobs have been lost in recent years, and thousands more are at risk if companies such as Coca-Cola turn their backs on the local industry and its commitment to support local industries.

FairPlay opposes predatory imports and supports jobs. It believes Coca-Cola should halt its job-killing sugar imports and instead work with the local industry for the good of all.

It is time for Coca-Cola to step up to the plate by clearly demonstrating its support for the local sugar industry and farmers by fixing the damage that it has caused.— Francois Baird, founder of FairPlay, a nonprofit initiative with the goal of ending predatory trade practices that threaten the livelihoods of workers

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