A lesson from Jakes Gerwel: What it means to live in peace with each other

Something that Hein Gerwel, son of the late Professor Jakes Gerwel, said at the renaming of Vanguard Drive in his father's honour has convinced me of the difference between leaders of Gerwel's generation and the ones we have today.

Hein said his father's last words to him and his mother, Phoebe, was that they must learn to live in peace with each other.

This notion, of all of us living in peace with each other seems to escape our leaders and political commentators today. It is no longer about what we can all do to create a better life for all our people. It is more about how we can ridicule others and minimise their contribution so that I and others who agree with me can benefit.

We are still a year and a bit away from next year's local government elections, but I am worried that, as we come closer to this event, politicians and their followers will become more virulent in their outburst, without due concern for the consequences of their actions.

When Gerwel spoke about his family members living in peace, he could have also spoken about society in general. Trying to live in peace with each other does not mean that we have to necessarily agree with everything that everybody else says, but it does mean that we have to respect their right to say it and not try to break it down just because you disagree with their politics.

If our politicians learn to treat each other with respect, it might permeate down to their members and our society could eventually learn to respect each other more. We need to accept that sometimes, even if only sometimes, somebody with who you normally disagree might have something sensible to contribute to a particular debate.