Channel the anger in a plan to tackle ills of country

Someone called me an angry man last week. Before I got angry at him, I thought about it and realised that sometimes it is good to be angry. Sometimes anger is the only appropriate response to many situations in which we find ourselves.

In South Africa, it is quite easy to become immune to bad news and to temper our anger. What else can you expect in a country where everything appears to be extreme, from corruption on a large scale to major crimes to which we pay very little attention?

But I refuse not to get angry.

I get angry when I read revelation after revelation about monies being siphoned out of the public purse into the pockets of certain families and their friends. I get angry when I think about how many poor people put their hopes and confidence in politicians who abuse it and use their newfound positions of influence to benefit themselves and their families financially.

I get angry when I see former comrades, whose behaviour was exemplary during the freedom Struggle, becoming caught up in scandals involving money being stolen from government and state-owned entities.

I get angry when I hear how our SOEs have been used as personal piggy banks by the people who we entrusted to run them on our behalf.

But I also get angry when I see old South Africans flags at a protest about something legitimate.

Farm murders - in fact all murders - are unacceptable and we need to protest to stop them. But not with the old South African flag. That just brings back too many evil memories of apartheid and makes me wonder about the motives for the protest in the first place.

I get angry when I see the response from some politicians to the charges of corruption and state capture, and when they accuse their accusers of racism - “It is only because we are black that we are accused” and “we did not struggle to be poor” are two of the famous rebuttals from those who are trying to protect the corrupt ones.

I get angry when I hear of another young child being shot and killed in crossfire between gangs on the Cape Flats, especially Hanover Park, where I grew up. If I had remained in Hanover Park, it could easily have been me or my children who were the unintentional victims of gang violence.

But in a week in which there was again much noise about the shenanigans of the president, his family and friends, and their friends, the story that touched my heart the most was about a 7-year-old boy - two days shy of his eighth birthday - who died after an ambulance transporting him to hospital after an accident, was attacked. Yes, you have read that right: the ambulance was attacked. Why anyone would want to ambush an ambulance baffles the mind.

If this is not enough to make anyone angry, then I don’t know what is. It’s good to get angry, just like it is good to shout or cry sometimes. I have never subscribed to the theory that real men don’t cry. I cry when I feel like it and I will shout my lungs out if necessary. It is incredibly therapeutic.

However, for anger to be effective, it must be channelled properly. It is not good enough to say you are angry about something. You must think about ways in which you can help to fix what is making you angry.

It is not good enough to shrug and say that there is nothing we can do about the government corruption that fills reams of newsprint and gigs of internet space daily.

Like journalist Rehana Rossouw said at the launch of her book, New Times, this week, as taxpayers, we pay the salaries of public servants and we should learn to manage them.

This is, of course, easier said than done, but it is important not to become complacent. We should never think that it is just another case of corruption, and it is not even billions, only a few million.

We should be outraged by every act of corruption, even if it involves only thousands or even hundreds of rand.

We should share the information with our friends and networks, we should write to our members of parliament to express our disquiet and we should engage people of influence in civil society and encourage them to speak up. We should show our disgust at every opportunity.

If all else fails, we should make our cross on election day next to the person or party who we think will be least likely to continue corruption. But I don’t know whether we can wait until then.

(First published as a Thinking Allowed column in the Weekend Argus on Saturday 11 November 2017)