Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser- Moleketi can thank her gods she was not at a chisa nyama outlet across the street from Sun City Prison in Joburg this week.
The petite minister does not have too many friends in the public service, methinks, if the prison warder I met represents the general view.
For the record, Fraser- Moleketi is the unfortunate minister charged with saying "uh . never" to the 12percent wage increase demanded by public servants who are now threatening an unprecedented nationwide strike. She is offering just 6percent.
Back to my prison warder: he described her in hair-raising adjectives that are unprintable in a family newspaper. Even Hustlerwould think twice about printing such expletives.
All the time he ranted on, his colleagues - all in uniform - nodded and grunted their support and approval.
That got me thinking of an incident years back in Botswana. I was at a football match minding my own business when my attention was drawn to an argument a few paces from me.
A livid Motswana fellow was tearing a policeman apart. The policeman's sin was to light up a cigarette while he was in uniform.
"O Morena Jesu, lepodisi, a wa tsenwa! Sakarete ke unifomo?" - King Jesus, are you crazy, cop? A cigarette in uniform?
The cop simply blushed and looked away, while stumping out his ciggie.
If nothing else, I marvelled at the respect bestowed upon a uniform by certain societies.
So when my chisa nyama warder hurled abuse at the minister while in full uniform, I got wondering if apartheid and democracy have not unwittingly colluded to destroy our moral fibre beyond repair.
Apartheid was enough justification to disrespect authority. Democracy came and said we can say anything and do anything, any time, anywhere. So my warder and his mates were breaking no law, though I doubt if Fraser-Moleketi's husband or parents would love to hear what he said he wanted to do to her.
That he was in full uniform counted for nothing.
Allow me to brag. Recently I came across a Model C boy at a shopping mall long after school was out. He was in his school uniform, which he was wearing as if to ridicule it. I could tell from the colour of his blazer that he went to a school with a proud tradition.
The knot on his tie was almost at his belly-button, his shirt was untucked, his shoe laces were untied and his shoes, which I guessed were once black, were now grey from lack of polish. He wore a skwataitjie on his unkempt head and intermittently broke out into a short s'pantsula jive.
He was hanging out with a crowd that had "bad news" written all over their faces.
I called the boy aside and he meekly came up, clasping his hands as a sign of respect.
Me: "My boy, do you respect your school uniform."
He: "Yebo Timer."
Me: "You are disgracing yourself and your uniform my boy. Never do this in your uniform."
I went blah-blah about how white people respect their uniforms and colours.
When I was done, he looked down, wiped his brow, and thanked me: "Dankie Timer. Eish, dankie, dankie . "
He walked away from me clapping his hands in a signal of respect. He did not rejoin his "bad" mates that afternoon - at least while I was there.
I don't know him, but I love that boy!
One thing I know for sure, if he decides to become a prison warder one day, he will never stand up in public, in full uniform, and spew what my late friend Joshua Raboroko called verbal diarrhoea.
lCharles Mogale is the editor of Sunday World