South African Culture

A South African culture to be proud of

Among the many issues I battle with is what aspects of life should be considered South African culture.

Go on, offer some thoughts; I am waiting.

Please do not say braais. Please. Frankly, I cannot stand a braai. I do not eat boerewors of my own free will and meat burnt on a fire has little attraction. Also, for every South African enjoying a braai tonight, there are nine times that many trying to fall asleep with no food because they are too poor to afford food. Let alone meat.

And please do not say rooibos tea. People I know go without water for days because the African National Congress cannot even keep the taps on, so drinking tea is the preserve of the elite.

And please do not say rugby. The national rugby team is popular and trending only because it is successful. If the team was not winning, it would be hardly noticed. Hold on; maybe that is indication of the South African way of life. We like to win, especially if other people are doing the hard, brutal work for us.

Cultural Identity Amidst Socio-Political Challenges

Culture for me is what we do that other people know us by and of which we can be proud. So much of what we might have been proud about as South Africans was stolen from us by a former president who boasted of showering; if you recall. In fact, my biggest grievance/complaint against the man who let his mates capture the state was that he did nothing of which to make us or South Africa proud.

I do not know anyone who can take pride in stealing tax money from the poor, appointing useless fools/friends to public office and exchanging the country with the Guptas for who knows what. Please don’t tell me that the South African culture is now one of corruption, theft and incompetence.

The actions of the former president made far too many South Africans reign in their competence, humanity, tolerance, openness and their heads. He rendered South Africa a nation of brow-beaten introverts, determined to be unimpressive, useless, devious, unhelpful and utterly officious. To repeat, his actions left South Africans bereft of anything of which to be proud.

The Legacy of Leadership: Impact on National Culture

I have met five groups of people of late who gleefully took in the spirit of the wasted nine Zuma years, starting with a bank that extends home loans and an insurance company. Instead of helping through their utterly helpless call centres, the staff found reasons to be as useless as rain at a braai, and so did great harm to their employers and customers. I met such staff members who upheld the spirit of Zuma in a hotel on the N7 road up north who wanted me to show my identification document to get into the empty dinning room for a massively overpriced, tasteless supper. I told the resort they were fueling the paranoia in the country. The manager was so proud of himself on hearing that.

I met such a person at the departure hall in Cape Town airport from a Middle Eastern airline who simply gave South Africa a bad name. She loved the chance to be utterly unhelpful and push around anxious passengers, just as you could push around people on your illegal payroll. Sadly she was so happy when I told her she was acting like Zuma. She was determined to give passengers nothing to be comfortable about.  

Shaping a Future Culture: Aspirations and Transformative Practices

However, out of all this I did see some behaviour, some indication, of a way of life in South Africa with which I want to associate. I raised my misgivings about my home loan with the banking ombudsman. I raised my misgivings about my life insurance with the insurance ombudsman. In both cases the outcome was the same. My misgiving was directed by the ombudsmen back to the bank and insurance company, and this time to staff who actually could and would do something for humble customers. I was at last engaging with a person and not a call centre operative/programmed computer. Thus, my issues were resolved so easily, so quickly and to amicable.

Pioneering Cultural Change: Examples of Positive Impact

The same with a publishing house. The family paid for the pdf of a book for Unisa but the pdf never arrived. Emails went unanswered. A relative made one telephone call in Johannesburg, found a helpful living person and the issue was resolved. The pdf arrived. Now to just get the student to use the pdf.

So, to the ombudsmen and three people that had the interest and ability to help my family and I, I wish to say thank you. You have set an example for South Africans. By having the pride to do your job properly, you have rid me of a lot of frustration and wasted hours. You have given me and my fellow South Africans something of which to be proud. I hope that what you did becomes the South African culture of the future, our way of life – namely great performance at the work place; quickly and correctly, just for the sheer pride of doing your job properly. We all could be proud of that. You were a credit to yourselves, your family and the future. Thank you for that.

This is an aspect of culture to look forward to and would be South African culture to be proud of.

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