A Conversation For All South Africans: “Can’t You and I Make A Difference?”

Every day on SAPeople’s Facebook page there are hundreds of conversations between people who would not normally have a chance to communicate with each other… between those who live in SA and expats; between people of different ages, and different cultural backgrounds. The hope of course is that we can listen to different opinions and maybe broaden our minds a little, deepen our understanding and compassion… and realise that we all share the same dreams. But of course this isn’t Hollywood, and so – often – people read to respond rather than to listen, and conversations degenerate into online brawls. So it’s really cool when people actually do listen to and respect each other’s differing opinions. That’s what happened yesterday when we ran a story on Helen Zille’s appointment to the Institute of Race Relations.

Source: Shutterstock

Here’s the conversation that took place between SAPeople contributor Bongi and mom of four Nolene Bouwer (and a couple of other people):

Bongi: The same Zille that defended colonialism? Who makes these decisions?

Nils: Please re-read her post. She wasn’t defending colonialism, she stated that certain infrastructural development was beneficial in its aftermath. I agree that it was unfortunate and easily misconstrued as it is an extremely sensitive issue, rightfully so.

Bongi: Hi Nils, I did read her tweets and subsequent explanations. I also watched the press conference she did with (DA leader Mmusi Maimane) where she was supposed to apologise. Considering that all this infrastructure was built on the backs of black slave labour, funded by African resources, there is nothing to praise in that. I respect your view but I still disagree. No school or road is worth the blood and slavery that produced it.

At this point several people verbally attacked Bongi with the usual (pretty offensive) statements like “here we go with your victim mentality again”, and Bongi hit back with the force of a Kevin Anderson serve.

Bongi: That line is so overused 🙄, I’ll entertain you if you can point out which part is victim 😢 and which is facts💡. Until then, sit down with your recycled gibberish 🙄.

We’ve been failed from the beginning of time by every government to ever form in the Republic. I’d give Nelson Mandela and (Thabo) Mbeki a bit of a break but everyone else 👎🏾… Owh, I’d give CR a chance too, he’s not been president that long, he has time. The rest 🙄 worse your forefathers 🤯.

And then one South African, in the middle of packing to move to Cape Town today, stepped in:

Nolene Bouwer: I totally comprehend your view. And I have empathy.
But don’t you agree we should all stand together and stop looking back?
I am sure (you sound like a very insightful person) that you realise that whatever happened in the past cannot be punishable forever and ever and ever?
Also do keep in mind that most fights start with miscommunication and people misunderstanding each other and taking things out of context.
I myself never agreed or will ever agree with slavery or racism.
Nor crime or justifying murdering each other to level and balance the scale of double standards.
Is there really NO way we can just get over this???
And I am sure you will agree that we all want to start afresh and leave a country to our children that is not corruption driven, hate driven and motivated by revenge?
What good will come of this???
Yes there are still people around that are racists but can’t you and I make difference through forgiveness, love and acceptance and by our example?
What good thing will come of it if we just keep on resenting the past and each other?
I promise you when we start investigating we will realise we have a lot more in common than what divides us.
I sigh in disbelief when I realise the people are still living in the past.
I believe that if we could count those that are looking forward and that are not racist they will be more than those who are not.
We must lead by example.
We must teach our children that un-forgiveness breeds bitterness.
And that only love and empathy will heal us.
The change starts with you and I.
Everybody deserves a second chance.
High 5 to all of you in this post.
Let’s not step into the trap of name calling and personally abusing each other’s viewpoints.
If we don’t stop, the hatred will never end.
And remember MUCH MORE people read these comments than those who actually react.
My wish for this country is that we just stop with the negativity

Bongi: I love your comment. It’s nearly impossible to forgive someone who never asked for forgiveness. I’m sure looking at the comments just on this thread, you see there are people who have absolutely no desire for any progress in society.
You asked an important question, can we not stand together and stop looking back? It’s very possible to move on but not forget our history and where we come from, Germany is a great example of that.
I am very much optimistic about our future, we have to remove ourselves from the rotten potatoes in both communities and stand out.
Your comment is very refreshing and I appreciate it, if only everyone from our communities had this outlook, we’d be a much better society. Much love my sister.

Nolene: I cannot and will never tell someone what to do.
But I disagree with you about anything being impossible- What I have learned from my own experience is that those people in my life, who wronged me the MOST was the easiest to forgive. You know why?
Because after I made the choice to forgive them without them deserving it one bit, or asking for forgiveness, I gifted MYSELF in a way I cannot describe.
It prevented me from becoming bitter for one.
And my choice to forgive opened my eyes to these people so much that I actually had compassion for them. I also realised that they too were only human and made decisions with what limited information they had in front of them.
And I promise, you if they knew better and if they knew this would be the consequences they would have chosen differently.
Try to choose to forgive.
The more you forgive the better you become at forgiving and you will leave your children and descendants with an everlasting gift that no one can ever take away from them.
And you will be “free” forever.
Mandela is such an example.
His words when he was released from prison was:
“If I don’t forgive those who wronged me I will forever be in a prison even if I was released.”
And he forgave without waiting to be asked for forgiveness.
Let’s all be like Mandela

Bongi: I like using Germany as an example of how to forgive, atone and progress better.
It’s compulsory in Germany that all school kids learn about the Holocaust and visit the gas chambers and sites where German’s original sin was done.
These actions internalise a sense of atonement in the kids so they grow up realising what their forefathers did.
South Africa never did that. There was never atonement and acceptance of responsibility. People would go crazy if their kids were taught about the crimes of their forefathers because South Africans have that “not my fault mentality”.
The original sin of South Africa is incomparable to your personal hurts, I have forgiven a lot of people but that doesn’t compare to SA.
We can’t move on without atonement, we have tried. There has to be an intentional move towards atonement, there must be accountability. I agree, corrupt officials today must be arrested, but If I said “all living apartheid police who admitted to killing black people must be arrested” apartheid apologists would go mad.
We can’t move on without atonement. We need people with your attitude so we can take steps.

Nolene: Bongi I hear you!
Then let’s you and I start the atonement revolution in the RSA.
Why wait for someone else?
Everything started with one idea, one person…

Bongi: I regularly send emails to organisations from both communities in the hopes that one day I’ll write something that will resurrect hope in their hearts and they will use their platform to foster this atonement revolution. I’ve even written to Helen Zille herself.

Nolene: Bongi, never stop believing, doing and most importantly choose to forgive.

This conversation has been republished with both Bongi and Nolene’s permission. It would be fantastic if more people joined the “atonement revolution in the RSA”!!!