In the wake of our recent triumph in the Rugby World Cup, beyond the exhilaration and the demonstration of national unity that ensued, our country has witnessed two pivotal takeaways. Firstly, there was a widespread discussion and writings in social media about Siya Kolisi’s leadership and the immense positivity it can inspire. Secondly, we witnessed the exploitation of the euphoric event by people with political agendas, which ironically work against the fostering of national unity. 

President Ramaphosa’s politically nuanced address to the nation shortly after the Springbok win, however, exemplifies how politicians will try to capitalise and hijack a positive nation-building event. This despite the fact that neither Government nor the ruling party had anything to do with the team’s success. 

Julius Malema also made a desperate attempt to hijack the Springboks’ success by deliberately disrupting the unifying nature of the win. Most South Africans luckily recognised this as a blatant tactic that suit his party’s political agenda – an agenda which draws strength from division based on race, class and culture. If there were an Olympic event for self-sabotage, Malema would effortlessly clinch all the medals.

I have emphasized on multiple occasions that we are a much more unified nation than we believe ourselves to be, and contrary to the narrative that politicians try to perpetuate. Despite our politically induced hardships and economic challenges in South Africa, the Rugby World Cup win served as a testament to our unity. As a nation, we embraced this victory and for a brief period diverted our conversations away from the depressing overload of corruption and economic demise to the euphoria of being a winning nation through sport. For a moment, we revelled in the atmosphere of unison in our national diversity. We should hang on to that feeling of pride we have and could still share as one united people.

However, after the celebration and the euphoria subsided, the harsh reality re-emerged. Following a brief respite of 9 days without load shedding, power cuts resumed on the Monday after our weekend win. Media coverage highlighted Finance Minister Godongwana’s caution that the country will face financial insolvency by March, if government spending remains unchecked. The remainder of the news consisted of the usual reports of widespread service delivery failures, government corruption, the water crisis in Gauteng and many local Municipalities collapsing. The unfortunate incident involving Transport Minister Chikunga and her bodyguards being robbed at gunpoint along the N3 also made headlines, with far too many South Africans pointing out that they have all been victims of crimes like this.

The unity and resilience demonstrated by this year’s Springbok team underscore that we are undeniably stronger when united. It evokes contemplation on what we could achieve if we harnessed the team’s fighting spirit and leadership and the collective support they got from ordinary South Africans. Just envision the joy of an economy thriving with job creation, high exports, and a robust currency. There’s no reason why we can’t reach such heights, except for the detractors who wield disproportionate influence. As Herman Singh, a frustrated South African business leader, aptly stated: “We are a nation of winners, led by thieving dunces.” I firmly believe that South Africans have the power to change this narrative.

Karpowership recently won environmental authorization for one of their three ship-mounted power plants in Richards Bay. While this is certainly very concerning, OUTA wishes to reassure its supporters that this misguided proposal has many hurdles to clear before becoming a reality. Our legal challenge is aimed at ensuring total transparency and proof of the rationality behind this decision before the green light can be given and financial closure can happen. In our view, there is very little prospect of this scheme going ahead.

Civil activism continues to grow in influence, exerting significant pressure on the government for change. The unity among NGOs within the Joburg Crisis Alliance – which was recently formed to address the decline in service delivery in Johannesburg – is a source of encouragement. OUTA’s Joburg Community Action Network (JoburgCAN) is part of this collective effort, alongside our WaterCAN division, collaborating with other NGOs in the Water Crisis Committee to tackle the city’s severe water challenges. (You can read more about all of this elsewhere in the newsletter.) 

Over the past month, OUTA’s investigations and reports on NSFAS irregularities led to the dismissal of NSFAS CEO, Andile Nongogo. This after pressure by OUTA and disgruntled students compelled the NSFAS board to seek a legal opinion, which vindicated OUTA’s findings that Nongogo should not have authority over the spending of public funds. (See full article elsewhere in the newsletter.) 

On the e-toll front: despite the lack of final regulations a year after the announcement of the end of e-tolls, OUTA assures the public that e-tolls are indeed over. While the lights may still be on and bills sporadically arrive, the scheme is effectively defunct and there is almost zero chance of getting money out of e-toll defaulters.

The final approval and signing of our application to the EU for funding a significant Parliamentary Oversight Reporting (POR) project took place two weeks ago. We will collaborate on this project with two other notable NGOs, OpenUp and PMG. The project is aimed at developing a database and dashboard to measure Parliament’s oversight role and executive accountability. This is an independent project, financed by the EU, and will commence next year. We wish to point at that none of the funds will be diverted to OUTA’s current work, as it is ringfenced for the database. Conversely, the POR project will not redirect resources from our ongoing work. Instead, it will contribute significantly to OUTA's other projects, and will be a valuable resource for the South African media, the Office of the Auditor General, and numerous other stakeholders, including the public.

Corruption, mismanagement, and the abuse of power persist unchecked and have, quite frankly, worsened when compared to the State Capture era under Zuma. This trend is likely to intensify in the lead-up to next year’s elections. There's no time for civil society to relax under the current government, which has shown a lack of political will and an inability to take meaningful action against corruption. 

As we hurtle towards the final working weeks of the year, I’m sure you’ll agree that the much-needed summer break can’t come soon enough. We could all benefit from a rejuvenating holiday, allowing us to unwind, recharge, and prepare for 2024—a year that promises to be tumultuous, especially with the deluge of empty political election promises that will no doubt precede the election. 

Once more, we express our gratitude to our supporters for your unwavering support and commitment. We understand that times are challenging, but the fight for our country’s essence is something we cannot afford to lose. As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends and family – let’s make the circle of active citizens bigger!

Best regards,

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