Home Opinion and Features The fragrance of rebuke

The fragrance of rebuke

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OPINION: Have you noticed how social media is abuzz with how bad, useless and incompetent “Sol Plaatje” is? asks writer Lance Fredericks.

File picture: ANA Photographers, African News Agency (ANA)

TEMPORARY booths in a mall’s walkway torment me as much as having a wasp nest inside my favourite fruit tree.

Just like the wasps make darting forays around the tree so that you are afraid to go near it, young people at these kiosks swoop, and dive, and sting anyone who walks past their booth – making mall visits rather unpleasant for me.

“Could I clean your shoes?” … “No!”

“Could I massage your shoulders?” … “No! Go away!”

“Would you like to buy a pot?” … “No! Go away and leave me alone!”

“Would you like to listen to a presentation about this worthy cause?” … “No! Go away and leave me alone! I just came to the mall for bread and milk!”

“Want to hear about this brand new …” … “Aaaaargh!” – and you run away screaming.

However, far from being simple pesky insects, I learned the other day that these young people can be pretty sharp!

An elderly lady described a certain fragrance she was looking for, and the young lady behind the counter thought for a few seconds before suggesting a bottle.

A young man standing nearby chirped in with an unmistakable broad smile under his facemask: “Yes, we need to use perfume these days! Sol is depriving us of water to wash!”

The older woman agreed, saying: “Isn’t it terrible what this useless Sol Plaatje is doing to this City?”

I was standing nearby, not really eavesdropping, but too close not to hear the exchange. And what happened next really surprised me.

The young lady behind the fragrance counter, with a smile in her eyes and gentle confidence in her voice, said something that left me rather impressed.

“No. You are wrong,” she said. “Sol Plaatje is not causing the problems in Kimberley. Sol Plaatje was a wonderful man. He did so many great things. He should be admired. We must not allow his name to be dragged through the mud by saying such ugly things about his name.”

She kept quiet for just a moment before adding, “The problems in Kimberley are being caused by incompetent, lazy people … not Mister Sol Plaatje.”

Were my hands not full of cans of upholstery and shoe cleaner, shoulder massagers, pots and pamphlets about a worthy cause, I would have applauded.

Have you noticed how social media is abuzz with how bad, useless and incompetent “Sol Plaatje” is? In fact, I recently saw a poll on Facebook asking the question: “Do You Believe The R500 million Allocated To Sol Plaatje Municipality will be used Properly?”

The results at the time of writing is: NO – 1,659 votes, MAYBE – 81 votes, OTHER – 27 votes and YES – 15 votes. That shows a shockingly low level of confidence in the people running our city.

But just like Mr Sol Plaatje is not the one whose name should be dragged through the mud for the actions and inaction of other people, another thing we should realise is that Kimberley’s problem is not overgrown sidewalks, badly maintained parks and gardens, potholes, leaking pipes and rivers of sewage.

Those are merely symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is that far too many of the people in this city have stopped caring.

How often do you see people discarding their litter in the streets? Have you noticed how garden waste and other rubble gets dumped any or everywhere? Is it OK to have informal miners digging gaping holes and sifting sand on public open spaces in the city?

Look, sure, R500 million, if used correctly, can eventually pull this city straight. Potholes can be filled, sidewalks can be cleaned and damaged sewerage systems and leaking pipes can be repaired.

But what always seems to happen is that following the occasional quick campaigns to clean up and beautify in the city, there are longer periods in-between where things are allowed to fall apart again. Those people messing up this city never take a break. Their work is diligent and constant.

In my opinion – whatever is accomplished with half-a-billion rand is going to be like putting an adhesive plaster on a broken bone. If no plans are put in place to have an ongoing maintenance and educational campaign running in Kimberley, we might as well make a paper boat with that big cheque and let it sail down the river of sewage.

But imagine if we could change the attitudes of the people.

Imagine – just for a moment – an energetic, informed and motivated army of especially young people buzzing around our city lobbying for more bins, tidying up after their social gatherings and even reminding the adults not to drop garbage everywhere.

After all, the youth will be inheriting this city one day … It may be high time to give them the education, tools and the attitude to appreciate the gift of what could be an amazing city.

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