STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS – DO NOT RAISE YOUR HOPES UP
On Thursday this week President Cyril Ramaphosa will open Parliament and deliver what has become parochially known as the State of the Nation Address (SONA). As expected, he will gloss over the problems faced by the people of South Africa and do his best to paint a positive picture of the country. He may even be tempted to make more promises about addressing the grinding unemployment and poverty. He may even delve into new plans to address the high crime rate. That will be all.
The truth is that the reality of South Africa is impossible to camouflage into positive news. Unemployment is fast approaching 50 percent. Among young people, the situation is desperate as unemployment stands at 70 percent. Only three in ten young people are working. The majority of those who are lucky enough to have jobs spend more than 50 percent of their earnings on transport. These people are essentially working to go to work. The rest of their wages is spent on food and electricity.
The other painful reality faced by South Africans is that they no longer have reliable supply of electricity. The rich are getting off the ESKOM power grid and are deploying alternative technology for supply of electricity. But as for the majority of people who have no means to pursue other alternatives, they are stuck with ESKOM, for bad service or for worse.
Many small businesses, who were trumpeted as the source of the much-needed employment, are closing because they are unable to operate without power. Most of these businesses are so small that they cannot afford the huge capital required for investment in alternative sources of power.
Power has become the focal point of a failing State, partly because the problem affects all people, including the middle class. However, a bigger problem that has not dominated front pages and made headline news on television and national radio stations is the shortage of water. Residents of various communities throughout the country have been without water for weeks. Others for months while others for years. The unfortunate reality is that water has no alternative. That is why some people have coined the phrase: water is life!
The government of the ruling party is failing to deliver this basic need that sustains life to various communities throughout the country. Those charged with the responsibility of providing water have found a new excuse to explain their failures to provide water. They blame it on lack of reliable electricity. Wow!
Another burning issue facing many people in the country is crime. According to official statistics, up to 72 people are murdered in South Africa each day. This means that in a year, an estimated 26 000 people are murdered. South Africa’s murder rate can only be matched by a country at war.
Healthcare services in many public health facilities have collapsed. The politicians are on medical aids schemes and are not affected because they use well-resourced private healthcare system. They could not care less about the failing public health system.
The same situation prevails in education. Public education is in a poor state and the situation is becoming dire. However, the political aristocracy have taken their children to former whites-only schools and private institutions. They pay very little attention towards the resolution of the crisis in education.
Public infrastructure is in a state of decay. The roads are not properly maintained, and they are littered with potholes. The rail infrastructure has been destroyed and trains no longer operate in many parts of the country.
The sum total is that our country is not in a good state. So, on Thursday we should not expect that all these problems would be solved. What we can expect is that Ramaphosa will do his best to give a message of hope. We cannot fault him for that. He is a politician and politicians thrive on making promises.
If we accept that he will not offer tangible solutions to the country’s problems, what should we do as a people? The first thing is to accept that ultimately, we – the people – are the sources of power to the politicians and the government. In other words, we need to appreciate the collective power that we wield as voters. We need to use our vote to force those in power to account.
Last week, residents of Diepsloot blocked the N14 national road as they staged a protest, demanding services. This has been the modus operandi for many communities throughout the country. When residents are unhappy with the government, they block a road by burning tyres, or even stone and burn passing cars, or destroy a State building to attract the attention of those in power. In the process, they inconvenience other road users who have nothing to do with the delivery of service to the affected communities.
During the election period, these aggrieved communities will either vote for the same political parties that have failed to deliver the promised jobs and services or even shun the electoral process. This is akin to someone going hunting but decides that he will not waste his bullets by firing at the hunted animals. Why not use the gun? Because he fired a shot in the past and missed.
But elections come after a five-year period. In the meantime, what should people do to better their situation? AZAPO has program called #IAMTHESOLUTION. The program appeals to all patriots to do what is right in their space, without any monitor. For instance, if you see someone stealing electric cables, report him. Do not say you are not a police officer. Just be part of the solution.
The #IAMTHESOLUTION calls on teachers to perform their teaching responsibility with pride and dedication. It calls on police officers to shun corruption and act decisively against crime. If those police officers, who stood by and watched as cable thieves were stealing the cables, were infused with the spirit of #IAMTHESOLUTION, they would have simply arrested the thieves.
The country’s problems are so severe and deep that if we wait for the change of only the political leadership, we may not be able to resolve them. We should accept that we, the people of this country, are on our own. Those at the top clearly do not care. The sooner we accept that reality the better. Otherwise, we will continue to be disappointed by the delivery of empty promises during occasions such as SONA.
JUSTIFIED OUTRAGE OVER THE R1 BILLION SPONSORSHIP OF TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS
Save for a few fully colonised amongst us, there has been widespread condemnation of the plans by Tourism South Africa to spend R1 billion on a sponsorship deal to English soccer team, Tottenham Hotspurs.
Ordinary people are asking themselves if the country has such huge amounts to spend on attracting tourists, why do they not spend the money on helping to reduce the load-shedding because lack of power is the single biggest contributor to job-shedding in the country. After all, we are told that the ultimate reason they want to boost tourism is to create the much-needed jobs.
Other people argue that if the country has money to spare, the money should be directed at fighting crime as crime is also a leading factor that drives tourists from this country.
Others say South Africa has many pressing problems such as water and shortage of healthcare workers. The country cannot spend such a huge amount on sponsoring soccer in England. The outrage has been widespread.
But as angry as South Africans are about the plans of sponsoring the English team, the debacle has helped in exposing the legacy of colonialism. In the past, colonialism had a white face. The colonialists would conquer a country through the barrel of a gun, subjugate the local people and establish a colonial regime and sustain it through violence. But this was no sustainable. The quest of freedom could not be permanently suppressed through violence. The colonised waged a struggle for liberation. The coloniser realised that the anti-colonial struggle would eventually succeed. The colonial system, armed it with its indoctrination tools, corrupted the anti-colonial struggle and framed it as a struggle for democracy and equal rights. In the context of South Africa, the colonialists introduced an ambiguous term – colonialism of a special type. No. Colonialism in colonialism. When the concept of colonialism of a special type was introduced, the idea was to blunt our anti-colonial struggle and reduce it into a struggle for democracy and equal rights. That narrative has won the day. That is why almost three decades after the attainment of democracy in South Africa we are still talking about returning the land to those who were dispossessed of the land during colonialism.
But that is not all. The colonial system corrupted the revolutionary intelligentsia. Instead of proceeding to liquidate the colonial architecture of the economy, the politics and the social fabric of the country, the mentally corrupted freedom fighter embraced key aspects of colonialism. These include colonial education, colonial religion and colonial culture.
At the dawn of democracy in 1994, colonialism was not defeated. It just mutated into neo-colonialism with new champions of a different colour. Unlike the crude form of colonialism, in neo-colonialism, its leaders are Black. That is why South Africa imports so much, including beef, from Britain. Despite the 1994 political transition, South Africa remains a British colony in many respects. Our country trains medical professionals at huge expense but on completion, many of them migrate to England to work there and only to return when they retire.
South Africa has all the features of a colony. Just watch the sport report on the national broadcaster. The report will detail all the results in the English Premier League. Little wonder that many people are huge fans of English teams at the expense of Orlando Pirates and other local teams.
Whether Tourism SA spends the R1 billion sponsoring Tottenham Hotspurs, South Africa has been sponsoring the English soccer for a very long time. Ordinary people pay, on a monthly basis, to watch English teams play on their television sets.
We may be offended by the plans of Tourism SA to sponsor Hotspurs, but the painful truth is that the anti-colonial struggle has not been won.
CULTURE OF CORRUPTION IS ENTRENCHED
A few months ago, there was an unusual protest in Mpumalanga. Driving schools’ owners were protesting against the high amount of bribes that they need to pay to traffic officials to enable those applying for their drivers’ licence to obtain their licences. Note, the protest was not against the fact that traffic officials were demanding bribes but that the amount of the bribe had increased drastically.
The driving schools’ owners were open about their protest and what it was about. Although their story was covered in national media, nothing happened.
A few weeks ago, Umalusi, the authority that certifies the matric results, reported serious irregularities in the matric examinations. Some of their findings were that some of the learners’ scripts had at least three handwriting. These mean that some learners had others writing for them. In other cases, the scripts were identical, meaning that they copied from the same supplied memorandum. One can ask, how can learners do these when there are invigilators? It is simple. The invigilators, in these cases, are enablers of the cheating.
Last week there was a report of police officers who stood by and watched as cable thieves were busy stealing power cables. Essentially the thieves were offered protection by the police as they stole under police guard.
There are widespread reports about staff at various universities in the country selling spots for admission to qualifying applicants for up to R2 500. University employees have spotted a gap in the market to make a quick buck. For instance, the University of Johannesburg has space for 10 000 first year students but it received more than 400 000 applications. Many of those who applied meet the requirements. Some corrupt staff members working with a section of the student leadership have decided to sell admission spots for R2 500. The practice is rife in many universities.
Corruption has become the new norm. The mistake we make is to expect politicians to be the only people who should address this scourge. Yes, politicians have a big role to play in fighting corruption but unless South Africans can play their part in the fight against corruption, the war against corruption will never be won. Corruption undermines all efforts to fight poverty and to grow the economy which will lead to job creation.