Gareth Cliff Twitter

Gareth Cliff [Nathi cartoon]Black Twitter was outraged when radio personality Gareth Cliff inquired about who was footing the bill for South African football captain Senzo Meyiwa’s state funeral. Cliff responded to the furore in a blog post on his website, but the incident shows South Africa’s struggle for reconciliation is nowhere near finished.

The nation had barely laid Meyiwa to rest on Saturday when Cliff took to Twitter in apparent concern for taxpayers.

— Gareth Cliff (@GarethCliff)

As a South African citizen, Cliff had a right to question the cost of the funeral and who might be paying it. If reports are true, the ANC might be strapped, which means state expenditure could be even more of a concern than it usually is. Not to mention, as Cliff says, funerals are often a time for politicians to cash in on some sympathy.

“[The tweet is] a good question, and one which we should all ask, ” Cliff wrote, “especially because politicians love using the grandstand a funeral provides as a soap-box from which to manipulate emotional people.”

But the tweets are still infuriating.

In his blog Cliff claims to know the history of our country, but his reference to Messi shows little understanding of the legacy this history has left. South Africa’s black middle class is still emerging, and success stories like Meyiwa’s are rare to find. Outside of soccer, not many black heroes exist in democratic South Africa, and those who have made it are inspirational to young black people who are grappling to overcome poverty and the privilege history has gifted to a select few.

Cliff’s remarks were born from his own privilege, which he then used to set standards which suggest that Meyiwa wasn’t good enough for his own funeral.

But who is Gareth Cliff to say that a man doesn’t possess the right skills to be mourned with a state funeral? And when did skills dictate how people should be buried?

While Cliff wrote that he would “rather see heroic members of society buried in this fashion than politicians”, his tweets highlight a failure to understand what Meyiwa represented for many South Africans and how this footballer became a symbol of black achievement.

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