Making a mockery of inclusivity
Share this article:
CAPE TOWN - Mocking someone’s surname because it has “too many awkwardly placed vowels” in a racially divided country like ours is no laughing matter, and public officials must know this.
That is why City of Cape Town Safety and Security Mayco member JP Smith has been criticised for mocking radio host Abongile Nzelenzele’s surname.
However, this comes as no surprise considering Smith’s history. What was rather astonishing is the City’s defence of his actions: “The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith, has called and spoken with Mr Nzelenzele. He confirms that he took no offence at the remark, nor did Mr Nzelenzele think there was any ill intent.”
This falls far short, considering what the outrage was about. Nzelenzele may have not been offended, but many, especially black Africans, were, and rightly so.
This is a reality they have to contend with daily; being made to feel there is something wrong with their own names and surnames.
This is something our colonisers wanted us to believe; that the only way of life is the European and Western one; and this must be rejected.
Not making an effort to pronounce indigenous names and surnames in Africa cannot be acceptable in this day and age. For goodness sake, fail trying!
But Smith’s public record, especially against the poor, does not assist him, nor the City in trying to defend him. He is the head of a department that seeks to criminalise being homeless.
It was Smith’s officers who once ejected and dragged naked eThembeni informal settlement resident Bulelani Qolani out of his shack when they wanted to demolish it in Khayelitsha in the middle of winter.
They did not give a damn about humiliating a man who needed a roof over his head.
For a City that claims to be “making progress possible together”, it’s rather disheartening that councillors are not made to attend workshops to learn the basics of the languages spoken in the city.
The world-class city that Cape Town is, as the DA would like us to believe, should get this title from how it embraces the different cultures of its citizens equally.
It starts by trying to make everyone feel welcome, and, at the least, by respecting their names.