“Well, she’s one person in our government that has some bloody morals!” Jessica was emphatic about her opinion of our Health Minister Barbara Hogan. Jessica and I met for a long-overdue lunch at one of Dubai’s many Italian restaurants. Inevitably, as you can expect from all South Africans, the topic of conversation turned to our country and to the current drama surrounding the non-issuance of a visa to the Dalai Lama.
The whole issue made me sick with embarrassment! Was it true? Did the South African Government have no regard for human rights and the history of our struggle? Yet, Barbara Hogan’s comments, although thoroughly welcomed got me thinking. Was it correct to go against the grain of the very government that she represents? Well, in my view – of course!
This is the beauty of our democracy. Where everyone, including Ministers, may speak out against the policies, issues and actions of the government we elected into office. If Barbara Hogan was in China, and spoke out against Hu Jintao’s regime, she would have probably been executed. But in South Africa, debate is encouraged – not stifled. Citizens are allowed to express their discontent at Government’s failings – it is how our democracy is nurtured and how it strengthens.
Nevertheless, there are some people who have resorted to personal attacks and blatant rudeness when expressing their opinions (think Julius Malema) but in general, many South Africans will agree with me when I say that we are tolerant of the views of others. We should treasure this right at all costs. Believe me – I live in Dubai – I know what I’m talking about!