Sunday Times (2/3/2008) — 03/03/2008
Mondli Makhanya, Editor.
From the world’s most optimistic nation to a state of depression
I'd like to deal with the rather gloomy mood our country is in. The big question is, how did we find ourselves in this situation where a country whose citizens were among the world’s most optimistic, finds itself in a state of depression, with the world increasingly doubting its viability as a prosperous democracy.
There is compendium of reasons. Crime is the biggest one. It is a big dark cloud hanging over us and could be our undoing. For a long time the South African government sent out a very definite message that it did not care about the safety of its citizenry. Instead of empathising and rallying us all to action, government leaders insisted on telling us that it was not as bad as we made it out to be. By the time the state heard the nation’s wails, so many had lost hope. And lives and limbs and sanity.
'Most corruptible politician'
Then we had the run-up to Polokwane, when the resurrection of South Africa's clumsiest and possibly most corruptible politician became a reality. The past 18 months also saw the unhinging of President Thabo Mbeki, who proved a more and more dangerous man with each deranged decision he took, and each whacky statement he made. We then had our most senior policeman confirming and reconfirming that he rather enjoyed the company of Mafia types and societal scum.
No sense of urgency as the dream slips away
Post-Polokwane, the behaviour of the triumphant ANC bloc has not helped. By the looks of things, some in the party want to ditch any pretence that this is a participatory democracy - an illusion that we could at least hold onto during Mbeki's leadership of the ANC. And, to crown it all, we were reduced to the status of a tropical outpost by the massive power blackouts that hurt the economy and made our lives a misery. As if that were not enough, there has been the spate of racist incidents, which reminded us that apartheid was too deep and sophisticated to be wished away by an enthusiastic archbishop. So, yes, it is a bad place we find ourselves in. We are watching the dream slip through our fingers, and there seems to be no sense of urgency among our leaders about rescuing it.
South Africa in the relegation zone
Elsewhere in this newspaper there is a report about a piece that scenario painter Clem Sunter has written for Leadership magazine's next edition. In it he warns of dire consequences if we do not quickly reverse our political and economic and social decline. 'The country is now in the relegation zone and faces possible ejection into the economic mire of the second division. And this could happen quicker than we think,' he says. We need to revisit the dream and establish where we went wrong - and just how exactly we get ourselves back on track. What was our intention for the character of our republic when we set out on this journey? What was contained in that pact that we signed with each other and ourselves that April day in 1994?
Making an icon of a man with massive moral deficit
We know that we wanted to create a civilised nonracial republic that would put people first, value good governance, and be ambitious about its place in the community of nations. We need to ask ourselves why, in recent years, so much effort has gone into soiling this pact. And why the supposedly 'people-centred' state is so badly failing the people - and no one is held accountable for it.
There is a need to get to the reasons why public morality has been ditched as one of the defining characteristics of our republic. The ANC sent out a strong message in this regard when it propelled to icon status a man with a massive moral deficit, and reconfirmed it by electing on to its executive dozens of highly dubious individuals. The start of our 15th year in 2008 would be a good time to renew our vows and recommit to the rebuilding this dream. There is so much enthusiasm and energy among ordinary South Africans who want to make this republic work. They now just need to be led.