HALTING OUR GROWING NUMBNESS TO DECAY
We can’t wait another 20 months. Our change must begin today, constructively, consciously and with meaningful purpose
Following our historic peaceful transition to democracy and almost three decades of investment into the socio-economic development of South Africa, it’s not difficult to understand why frustration levels are extremely high as society witnesses the gross mismanagement of our country by a ruling party that finds itself deeply divided and in turmoil.
The sense of growing despair and hopelessness is palpable because we know what our potential as a nation could be. We all know we shouldn’t be floundering the way we are. The high levels of inflation and petrol prices that exacerbate our woes are global issues and not unique to us. But the excessive levels of poor service delivery and inept leadership that permeates our daily lives are South African challenges that we have come to accept.
One only needs a basic understanding of global best practise to know that South Africa is punching far below its potential. However, it is of significant concern that mediocracy is becoming our new and acceptable norm. Comments such as, ‘it is what it is’ and actions such as paying the traffic cop ‘cooldrink money’ are largely seen as acceptable conduct nowadays. Even worse are the corporate payments of ‘facilitation fees’ and ‘front companies’ set up to obtain multi-million rand tenders, knowing full well that all South Africans will bear the brunt of the overpriced contracts and shoddy workmanship that pervades Government procurement processes.
We have come to accept that our education system will not be world class and that our school-leaving youth are largely unemployable. We have full knowledge of the high risk that our lives are in when visiting public hospitals and clinics. We have come to accept the fact that calling our police for assistance when our lives are in danger is a futile affair. Overflowing sewage manholes and faulty traffic lights no longer anger us, as we dodge potholes and risk our lives crossing traffic lights that are out on our way to and from work.
Why do we not question the value of return from the personal taxes and VAT that we extract from society and pay over to the receiver? Why do we make our monthly contributions of skills development levies (SDL) and Workmen’s Compensation, never really caring about how well our Government is managing these funds and taxes? Why have we stopped questioning and challenging policies and decisions that are glaringly wrong or ineffective when it comes to promoting investment confidence, job creation or poverty alleviation?
In my many encounters with business leadership, I am astounded that despite the degradation of service delivery across all fronts, there is a continued view that these positions come with the proviso to not speak out or challenge the authority of Government, even when it is the right thing to do. Other than the internal expression of one’s frustration about our national decay, corporate boards prefer their executives and corporate management teams to look away and retain the company’s procurement status with state.
We speak of how precariously close to the edge of a failed state we are, but that’s where it stops as we hope that something will change for the better. We ignore the fact that change for the better can only be applied from within the very systems that we have a definite influence on. Almost every medium to big business belongs to one or more industry association. And every business association in South Africa is acutely aware of one or more significant inefficiencies within their industry that impacts negatively on the socio-economic plight of our country. And when looking deeper into the issues, we find that many of them have been on our ‘industry fix list’ agendas for many years. Yet, we do little to take the bull by the horns and robustly address these issues with the powers that be.
With around 20 months to go to the next national elections in 2024, the question is: what will happen between now and then? Can South Africa afford another 20 months of incompetent and arrogant conduct that emanates from several ministers and people who command positions of power and authority in South Africa? Are we to simply grin and bear excessive crime, shocking incidents of rape and murder and poor (or no) service delivery due to lacklustre leadership that has no plan or vision to fix their respective departments?
Even though cabinet appointments are the prerogative of the President, ours is a collective duty to up the ante and call for the removal of those who perform so poorly. Every day that we lack the necessary leadership, vision, and a clear strategy to introduce excellent service delivery in the SAPS is another day of unnecessary death and corruption. Every day we allow mediocrity and corruption to flourish in our health departments is another day of unnecessary suffering and death in our hospitals.
When it comes to the role of leadership in business, civil society, academia and faith-based entities, an inordinate amount of work is required to conscientize our respective collective associations and administration bodies to speak up and call out that which needs to be changed. Furthermore, all who can, should support the organisations and media houses who work tirelessly to expose and mobilise measures of accountability by the state. In addition to this, every effort must be exercised to ensure those in positions of power, feel and fear the pressure they are under.
Research shows that we are more connected and united as a nation than some would like us to believe. We are also very aware and believe in the incredible potential we have as a nation. But belief without action to unlock what can and should be, is futile and doesn’t bring about the change we want to see.
We can’t wait another 20 months. Our change must begin today, constructively, consciously and with meaningful purpose.
Thank you once again for your support for OUTA’s work. Without you, we won’t exist.
PS: Please feel free to share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues. The more people we can make part of this fight against mediocrity, the better for our country.
Wayne and team