Business Day (Johannesburg)

7 October 2005

South Africa: Good Things Are Happening Amid All the Negativity

column

Johannesburg — THE media, in all its shapes and forms, is often accused of concentrating on the negative issues in the daily pursuits of people instead of the positives.

Sometimes I have to admit the cap fits, and we have to wear it.

The issue was brought home to me on Tuesday night when I attended the Jack Cheetham awards ceremony.

There, two organisations working quietly on quality-of-life projects in Eastern Cape and Western Province were recognised for their work.

The Giants gymnastics development operation uses the sport to raise the quality of life of disadvantaged kids. It also uses the sport to teach them confidence, composure and to open up opportunities for them.

In Fish Hoek, the Swim For Life programme helps people cope better with the dangers that can be associated with a simple activity many of us take for granted -- swimming. They hope to cut the number of drownings in an area where this unfortunately is an all-too-regular occurrence.

Here are two examples of South Africans helping other South Africans improve their lives -- wonderfully altruistic projects that, but for awards such as the Jack Cheetham awards, might go unrecognised.

This, while we who supposedly act as the mirror of the nation, focus on rugby squabbles, and on crimes such as murder and rape.

In our defence, I would argue that while many dislike the way we focus on these unwanted phenomena, we do have an obligation to highlight the things that are wrong in the hope -- often a vain hope -- that authorities at municipal, sporting and government level will act to put them right.

But the fact is, there are many wonderful, positive activities happening in a million small ways every day and there are many beautiful things about our country that get overlooked.

The sponsors of the Jack Cheetham award commissioned a group of young South African artists to entertain guests with a stage show after the awards had been made. Some of the talent on view in that stage show was quite breathtaking. I wondered why these people were not better known while fraudsters, politicians and sports administrators -- no matter how inept -- are household names.

I suppose it's an unfortunate quirk of human nature that results in our accentuating the negative instead of the positive.

But while there are caring, pioneering people running schemes such as the Giants gymnastics project and the Swim For Life project, we can hope some good gets a mention sometimes.

It's not only those two projects. There are scores of development schemes all over the country. More and more children who have lived in squalid poverty are beginning to find self-respect in the joys of sport.

There are young artists in the world of entertainment who are showing us that South African opera singers, or actors and dancers, can compete with the best in the world.

I would like to think we could spare more time and space to highlight all these positives in South African life. But I suspect the murders, the rapes, hurricanes, wars and business crimes will probably still win the competition for publicity.

The one positive thing that does attract adequate interest is one or other heroic sporting achievement. Here the mould of accentuating the negative is broken. I suppose that is why someone once said: "I turn to the front page to read of man's failings. I turn to the back page to read about his triumphs."

Unfortunately our sporting triumphs are rare and as Tim Modise lamented so amusingly at the Jack Cheetham awards, we should perhaps exclude Bafana Bafana from that sentiment about triumphs.

Smit is sports editor.

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