Our former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang passed away two days ago. And just hours [in fact, was it even one hour?] Gareth Cliff tweeted the following:
Manto is dead. Good. A selfish and wicked bungler of the lowest order. Rotten attitude and rancid livers - all 3 of them...
And I am quite horrified. I will try express my views in brief, because everyone is up in arms about this and we have all had our say [including me, on Twitter]. I have always thought Gareth annoying. Sometimes I laugh at what he says, an example being his rants about fat people which even I could not express better [although, let's be honest- GC is no supermodel]. But he is offensive not only because he is outspoken about serious matters, taking a stance different from most. He thrives on getting a reaction from people. Reaction [read: pissing people off] should never be the primary reason for expressing anything. It should be because you feel stongly about something, and voicing opinions should stem from a desire to be heard and to make heard that which you believe. It should not be to get your many listeners texting/emailing/tweeting you, enraged at what you express. And Gareth's opinions seem less passion-driven, and more aimed at getting people to respond. It's one thing when your desired reaction is getting a president to change a country's children's rights policy [for example]; it is quite another when you do- and say things for the sake of getting attention from your thousands of [sometimes equally uninformed] listeners and followers.
Furthermore I feel that what Gareth 'said' [tweeted] was the height of insensitivity. I acknowledge that Manto made bad decisions regarding our country's HIV/AIDS policies, and that she was responsible for many deaths in South Africa which, yes, has the highest number of infections worldwide, with 5.7 million. There are things she did and/or said with which I disagreed. But what we must remember is that Manto was a human being. And while her death might cause you no pain, there are loved ones mourning her death. The least one can do is shut up and pay respect not to her, but to her friends and family who are experiencing much pain. The easiest way to explain it is to put yourself in this position. Imagine your parent or sibling or significant other passed away, and moments later a public figure of sorts who has thousands upon thousands of followers states that it is a good thing. It would hurt, and it is disrespectful. I am not saying support her, or her policies. But the least we can do is show respect, and shut the fuck up while her family deals with this. So, please note, I am not saying I am a supporter of hers. And just because she is dead does not suddenly make hre a saint or erase what she did. I am simply saying that basic respect need be shown for now, while the pain is still fresh for those who loved her.
You can feel however you want, but Gareth has, in my opinion, sunk below the very lowest order of humanity with this one. And now he is taken aback by the ANC Youth League's demanding an apology. He also refuses to apologise, and I for one am very interested to see how this all pans out.
Oh, and for those of you whose defense of Gareth was that 'the dead have no rights'- give necrophilia a shot. Turns out the dead do have rights.