By Aviwe S. Mtila
“I couldn’t help but think how a country with so much abundance still struggles to feed much of its population. I am not a politician and maybe things aren’t that simple, but clearly this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be”… These are the exact words used by UK magician, Dynamo, in describing South Africa on his recent visit to the country, words which, to me, would perfectly summarize the current situation in South Africa.
We might be in our twentieth year of democracy as a nation but the reality is that we are still living in the shadow of our past. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and more people living in squatter camps now than during the apartheid era, it is evident that apartheid has only ended racially rather than economically. In fact economically, the rand has weakened immensely when comparing it with the US dollar over the last twenty years, with the rand trading at R3.41 to the dollar in January 1994 and now currently trading at over R10.00 to the dollar.
What is really frightening is the neglect in the education system of the country over the last twenty years. The conditions of some of our schools’ infrastructures are despicable and the level of literacy amongst South Africans is appalling to say the least. Countries with far worse poverty rates than South Africa receive better education than South Africa. If South Africa boasts one of the worst education systems in Africa, what is that implying about the future of the country? If we pride ourselves in not educating our nation, what is in store for South Africa in the next twenty years of democracy?
Corruption in government structures has almost become acceptable in South African society with our leaders setting examples on how to go about it. When looking at the current situation in parliament, one tends to wonder if this is the cause struggle icons such as Steve Biko died for. Issues that are of national concern are far from the hearts of parliamentarians, instead parliament has become a joke in which the nation looks to for amusement. With examples of the Nkandla issue, the Madiba funeral scandal and others, South Africans need to realise that the only people government are benefiting are themselves.
In a recent Daily Dispatch Dialogue, editor of Business Day, Songezo Zibi, emphasized the need to “depoliticize politics,” stating that after twenty years of democracy “ we aren't the society we’re supposed to be,” and I couldn't agree with him more. 20 years is a long time to have not seen progress in our democratic country thus far. South Africans need to realise that government will only do the bare minimum, if anything, for South Africans. In facing facts, we've become a rather lazy nation over the last twenty years, the bulk of South Africans living off government grants and handouts. As we’ve experienced and are currently experiencing, that isn't helping the nation at all because the majority of the nation continues to live in poverty and is not progressing in life. In going forward, we need to eradicate the laziness out of our systems and have a proactive mindset.
Educating ourselves and the upcoming generation needs to be our number one priority in going forward. There is no bigger investment we can have for South Africa and its future than education. With an educated South Africa, the huge gap between the rich and the poor will be closed down largely. Besides being able to sustain ourselves, an educated society will be able to place worthy leadership in to power, leadership that will only advance the cause of the nation.
In curbing the high unemployment rate, South Africans first need to curb the “high-laziness” rate because the truth is, employment is available for those who truly want it. Many of our fellow Africans walk many kilometers from their various countries to South Africa knowing very well that they’ll make a living in South Africa, so it can’t be disputed that there is employment in South Africa. The difference between South Africans and foreigners is that the foreigners are willing to work hard in order to make a living. Self employment is also a form of employment. If employment is unavailable, we need to make our own employment by means of being entrepreneurs. Who knows, that could lead to greater things.
In writing this article I have tried to remain objective as much as I possibly can, but the truth is nothing immediately comes to mind when thinking of positive strides taken by South Africa in the last twenty years. I’m not saying the country hasn’t taken any positive strides over the years of democracy, but the realities of the situation in the country at the moment over cloud those strides. The endless strikes alone over the last twenty years paint a bleak picture of the country, costing South Africa billions (if not trillions) of rands economy wise. Not forgetting the Marikana strike which saw the death of 44 people, the majority of whom were striking mineworkers killed by the South African Police Service (SAPS), the very SAPS who are suppose to protect the country’s citizens.
I could write a book if I were to go into the incompetence of our police service in South Africa over the last twenty years, with endless references of cases and incidents of our ‘protectors’ proving to be incompetent. Just a week ago 9 policemen and a former employee of the SAPS were arrested in Parow, Cape Town, for allegedly taking bribes from suspects and stealing crime scene exhibits. If the majority of our policemen are they, themselves criminals, how are we suppose to curb the ridiculously high crime rate in our country? South Africa is rated amongst the top countries with a high murder and rape rate and those statistics will only get worse if something is not done about the corruption within our police force.
South Africans need to wake up and take pride in their country. We cannot reverse the twenty years that have passed, but we can do something about the future of the country, if not for ourselves, for our children and the generations to come. The lazy, laid back attitude of South Africans needs to be eradicated and we need to be proactive in shaping South Africa.