It’s become a bit of cliché that at around this same time every year, we have two stories that repeat themselves almost exactly.
One is about a person of colour being humiliated because of their appearance (usually hair), and the other is about an uproar caused by some iconic thing somewhere being renamed or removed.
I don’t know why I am still disappointed and surprised about this sort of thing happening year in and year out.
Last week the principal of Vredenburg Primary angrily told a second-year Stellenbosch University student-teacher to leave the school grounds, because he didn’t approve of his hairstyle.
He did this in front of his young learners and some parents, claiming that the teacher wasn’t setting a good example.
William Sezoe, 19, who sports a neat hairstyle with blond tips, says he was humiliated into silence by Principal Andre Muller, who later allegedly told a reporter that his school is “not the Boswell Wilkie Circus”.
Yes, a grown man, responsible for shaping the young minds that we hope will one day help shape an even more tolerant society, said that out loud.
There’s a lot to be said for the fact that Mr. Muller’s first choice was to cruelly belittle someone, instead of all the smarter options available to him.
I reckon that he was the one setting the poor example by berating a young adult publicly over something benign, which should instead be celebrated.
While claiming to encourage creative individuality, our schooling system is clearly still obsessed with a narrow uniformity that no longer reflects our diverse society.
Then, of course, there was the social media uproar caused by last week’s renaming of places in the Eastern Cape, most notably Port Elizabeth, which is now officially Gqeberha.
Now let’s firstly understand that very few people will start calling it that immediately; not out of defiance, but rather because of familiarity.
Just like I still sometimes call it Vanguard Drive, instead of Jakes Gerwel. And that’s OK.
What’s not OK is to disparage one of our official languages and one of Africa’s oldest cultures, by pretending the name is unpronounceable.
I actually saw a comment from someone saying that nobody in the country will be able to pronounce the new name. Seriously!?
In a country with a majority Nguni speakers, who for years have been forced to pronounce words that sound nothing like they look.
It’s everyone else’s turn to learn, because repairing our legacy is much more important than social sensitivities, linguistic discomforts and lazy tongues that have no problem pronouncing difficult words from elsewhere in the world.
The only objectionable thing about the renaming is the timing.
This is not the best time in our history to be spending money on anything other than pandemic relief and vaccines.
But we should always want to honour our indigenous heritage and immortalise our local heroes for future generations to appreciate.
Just think about it, here we are, remembering Elizabeth Frances - the wife of a random 19th century colonialist who means absolutely nothing to us, but got one of our major cities named after her.
In 200 years from now, I would rather have your children’s grandkids ask about who Jakes Gerwel was; or Imam Haron, Dulcie September or Philip Kgosana.