11 February, 2014

Gatvol en Vies: Bleak Prospects for South Africa

by Hussein Solomon

Forgive my beginning this column with some Afrikaans expletives. I can, however, think of no other words to express my current state of mind. In my defence, the choice of expletives has lots to do with a certain Black Air Force officer who chose to use Afrikaans expletives during my basic training at the Air Force Gymnasium. According to him, there is no better language as expressive as Afrikaans to curse in. I believe he was right.

My work takes me all over the world and I am always amazed at the beauty of South Africa, the resilience and general friendliness of its citizens and its vast human and natural resources. However this country will not realize its fantastic potential under this ANC government. Three issues illustrate the point well.

First, the country is burning with service delivery protests spanning Hout Bay in the Western Cape to Welkom in the Free State to Zithobeni in Gauteng and to Brits in the North-West. To put it differently, South Africa has experienced 430 service delivery protests over the past year – or a shocking 33 each and every month. What is particularly disconcerting, however, is the government’s inability to accept the obvious – that they are failing South Africa’s long-suffering citizens. Government’s refusal to accept accountability is aptly illustrated by a Gauteng MEC believing some dark machinations are afoot to scuttle the upcoming elections as opposed to citizens’ genuine unhappiness with the state of service delivery and the ANC’s increasingly disappointing track record in governance.

Service delivery protest, Standerton (Photo by Jan Truter)

The refusal to be accountable and therefore responsive to citizens’ needs would, in turn, result in the intensification of such protests. The burning tyres and toyi-toying masses which increasingly has come to characterize South Africa in the international media is a definite turn-off to foreign investors when we desperately need them to fund the goals of the National Development Plan since domestic savings are so paltry.

Second and closely related to the first, service delivery will not improve if the government continues to see local, provincial and national government as part of their ever-widening patronage network – loyal party members being deployed into lucrative government jobs. A case in point is the crisis-prone SABC where the redoubtable Stephen Mulholland has reported that that 60 percent of senior management failed to meet the minimum requirements for senior management. This is also illustrated in the sorry state of affairs at SAA – another albatross around the necks of taxpayers. Despite cash infusions of R16 billion this past 13 years, the national carrier is unable to turn a profit and is now asking for more money whilst fat-cat executives are not punished for their incompetence.

Third, the ANC government has also succeeded in turning South Africans into a nation of takers as opposed to people willing to work hard to build a decent life for their family and the country. This is well illustrated by the 21 million South Africans living off welfare. Far from creating a conducive business environment to get more people into formal employment and thereby growing the dwindling tax base, the ANC government has created a nation of parasites and a culture of entitlement. This is their enduring legacy after two decades in power.

Sadly, we will never realize our vast potential with this corrupt, incompetent government.

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