Over the past few weeks we, at The Sunday Standard, have received a lot of feed back about the Loose Canon column that dealt with the issue of Jacob Zuma and the white people in South Africa. The column appeared in our October 15-21, 2006 edition. We have since done a thorough analysis of the responses.
A number of patterns have emerged: All black readers who responded and joined the debate supported Loose Canon while our white readership was divided.
The second trend in the debate was that most whites who are regular readers of Loose Canon, defended the column while those who were reading the column for the first time were outraged, and thought it racist and grossly sexist, irresponsible and inflammatory.
The third trend was that those who defended Loose Canon, both white and black, are agreed that Loose Canon is not racist.
As The Sunday Standard, while we discern from the outrage about Loose Canon an understanding deficit and wish to ask all those who are outraged to read at least three or four of Loose Canon’s previous columns so that they can form an informed opinion about him, it is also the more apparent that racism is still upon us.
This is how one white man, a regular reader of The Sunday Standard, had to say: “I read Loose Canon virtually every week in your newspaper. Sometimes I find his wit razor sharp. He is rarely dull.
What should be obvious to any reader is that Loose Canon is an agent provocateur whose weapon is satire. As a melanin challenged citizen of Botswana, my advice to other settlers is to simply chill out.
The Loose Canon I know is no racist (sexist maybe).” From the article in question, Zuma came out worse off.
In his typical devil’s advocate satire, Loose Canon portrays Zuma as an Idi Aminisque character, who, as president, would think nothing of redistributing white women among his black sympathizers. This is a witty dig at Zuma, who is a confirmed polygamist. The column also takes a veiled dig at black men.
There is a widely held belief that black men have an obsession for white women. Let’s face it; no man who writes as well as Loose Canon would in his right senses believe that an Idi Aminisque society would be an ideal society.
Loose Canon has, on a number of times, made fun of Zuma, especially his fondness for smiling, singing and dancing.Loose Canon has, on a number of occasions (in his typical satire), caricatured Zuma’s perceptions towards HIV/AIDS, especially “the shower thing.”
In short, Loose Canon has in a light hearted way put to the fore the likelihood of SA regressing by a good number of years were Zuma to take over the presidency in that country.
In the past, Loose Canon has taken issue with Black People especially Batswana. He has taken issue with the Asians and went on so many occasions praising white people for their foresight.
But, of course, not a single person from our South African neighbours raised a finger at Loose Canon.
The Sunday Standard has arguably the highest white readership in Botswana. It would not make sense for the newspaper to run an article that is either racist or constitutes hate speech against a significant section of their readership and or clientele.
We also have an editorial policy that expressly prohibits any form of discrimination.
But, then again, one has to have read Loose Canon before to grasp what he was up to, which is perhaps why in Botswana the article has not stirred any form of bad blood anywhere near the experience of our neighbours to the South.
Turning now to the substantive issue of racism, we want to point out that it is very clear that racism in Botswana could actually be on the rise.
It is clear that Botswana is not only a net importer of skills, goods, and services but racism as well.
There are people in Botswana, mainly from South Africa and the old Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, who have no problem demonstrating their little regard for black people.
To them a good black person is that one who does not demand to be treated equally as white people.
We think that is terribly condescending, arrogant and patronizing.
Such people are now busy trying to cut themselves exclusive and racist enclaves in Botswana.
The tourism sector is the worst culprit. And in saying this, Batswana should not make apologies.
Just because Batswana want more expatriate tourists to visit Botswana does not in anyway mean that we will all be too happy to sell our souls by allowing ourselves to be denigrated by the racists.
Once again, while attempting to clarify the issues surrounding Loose Canon, as raised by a good number of white South Africans, who, in their anger, have been calling Botswana, Batswana and the publishers of The Sunday Standard all sorts of names, we want to point out that in Botswana there are laws that have to be observed by all who come or want to stay here. In here, colour is not the issue.
Again, we will not kowtow to the notion that a good black person is one who does not demand to be treated equal as his white neighbour as implied by the responses we have been receiving.
We want to point out that, as a country and as a people, Batswana have played their role to humanity in being an example of coexistence, tolerance and democracy.
The responses we have been getting have taught us a lesson that a large section of humanity still has a long way to go before they catch up with the “little Botswana” as some have been describing us.