I don’t often post about current affairs. I’m usually a “God doesn’t hate fags” or “all things fabulous and frivolous” kinda guy, but Manto’s death really got me thinking.
I was at Moyo yesterday, sipping on a daiquiri (as one does at Moyo) looking at all the people eating meat and thinking they really shouldn’t because of all the methane.
While sipping on the daiquiri I popped onto Twitter and saw the first tweet announcing the then-unconfirmed death of our former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. She has a rather “mixed legacy” (the term the media have cottoned onto) and is probably one of the most unpopular ministers we’ve ever had (no, people, Malema is not a minister). Her view and lack of real response to AIDS and HIV in a country needing real action were archaic, uneducated at best and, some might say, can be equated to a form of genocide.
So it seems natural that her death receive an emotional response – especially one expressing the anger at her inefficiency and, shall we say, stupidity. Gareth Cliff, a popular 5FM dj, is one of the most followed South Africans on Twitter and his response was met with agreement and horror. He said, “Manto is dead. Good. A selfish and wicked bungler of the lowest order. Rotten attitude and rancid livers – all three of them.”
He sent a later tweet acknowledging the flack he got for the response, some of which I saw in my feed. At the same time I saw many agreeing with him. And, of course, the jokes started.
On the other hand, there are many who have a different response to her. Some claim her utterings on AIDS were misunderstood and some just say that she said what she did to support the President at the time (HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, remember). They remember her as a stalwart of the struggle – a woman who fought hard for equal rights, especially for women.
A mixed legacy.
I’ll be forthright and say that I had little respect for her as health minister, but I choose not to hurl insults at her in her death. I chose the same when Jackson died (and found the jokes about his potential paedophilia in heaven disgusting). While I have no respect for what I knew of her public profile, I will not insult her out of respect for those who loved her. I might not respect a person who dies but I respect loss. And I respect a family’s need to grieve, whether I liked the person or not. So I choose to pay respect to those I don’t know, who are sad to lose their mom, their granny and their friend.
I think that’s how we should treat death. With respect. Insults are cheap when the person can’t respond. Let’s rather reflect on how to make sure our leaders don’t repeat what she did and was allowed to do. But in death, no matter who’s it is, show some class.