business academic and consultant Dr Bheki Shongwe.
Cape Town – Respected business academic and consultant Dr Bheki Shongwe has come out in support of suspended Standard Bank economist Chris Hart after claims his tweet about slow economic growth last week was racist.
“While it is understandable that the tweets … may be perceived to have racial undertones, I would like to state on record that this does not represent the Chris Hart I know,” Shongwe said in a statement in his personal capacity.
He also called for South Africans to start a social dialogue platform that will help remove misconceptions about each other, and that will bring people together as a country.
“As a people or nation, we need to guard against tearing ourselves apart, by playing the blame game that does not provide solutions or by labeling each other in racist terms without clear evidence,” he said.
Shongwe is an academic, consultant and a community worker. He is also the chairperson of Citizens in Partnership with Government and he is heavily involved in projects to uplift South African communities, including Soweto.
READ: Twittercide: Chris Hart - is this the track record of a racist?
‘Hart’ in the right place
Shongwe, who has lectured at business schools and is a former business consultant, said Hart wanted to make a real difference in South Africa.
“I have the rare honour and privilege of working with a number of well-meaning South Africans who want to make a difference in our country, and that includes Chris Hart.”
Shongwe said Hart speaks passionately about what it would take to make the South African economy strong, the creation of opportunities for more people to become players in the South African economy, and creating employment opportunities in the country.
“He describes apartheid as a national scar for the country and that we can overcome by prioritising economic policies that will create jobs in the country and he is of the view that a strong economy will diminish most of the country’s problems,” he said.
Shongwe warned that social media offers little context, with users interpreting views differently.
“It is very easy for many of us to be overly sensitive on any topic that involves race,” he said. “This is what I suspect has caused the misinterpretation of Chris Hart’s tweets as racist, when this was not the intention.”
Give Hart a chance
“Surely, this cannot be a recipe for building a non-racial and prosperous South Africa,” he said. “We need to give Chris Hart the chance to explain his intentions before judging him on the basis of a few misunderstood words.”
While a group of politicians and business people laid a charge against Hart and other alleged racists, others have come out in support of Hart.
Entrepreneur Vuyisa Qabaka said in a post on MyNews24 that Hart did not deserve to be fired from Standard Bank.
While he lambasted the economist for his “ignorant views", Qabaka said he is willing to defend Hart if Standard Bank institutes any disciplinary procedures against him.
Hart was suspended on January 4 after he tweeted the day before: “More than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities.”
READ: Black entrepreneur, editors defend Chris Hart
Time for social dialogue platform on racism
Turning to a call for a social dialogue platform, Shongwe said: “The issue of race is not something that can be legislated or simply mentioned in written documents; it should be a priority issue in our national dialogue platforms.”
“No one should doubt that we are struggling with the next phase of our economic and social liberation where many more real opportunities need to be created for South Africans so that the scars of our past can be merely a part of our history, not a part of our present,” he said.
“Let us be constructive when dealing with each other and the challenges that we face as a country.”