From clients to citizens

2011-02-12 13:15

In his interview with Gail Smith (The Foreigner, City Press, January 23), Rene Tshiakanyi, a South African-based Congolese, notes: “Something that puzzles me about South Africa is that people tend to complain a lot. I do not ­believe it is the job of government to give people jobs.”

Indeed, the ubiquitous dependency syndrome that afflicts South African communities is deplorable and needs to be discouraged.

But achieving economic emancipation in present-day South Africa is a complex matter that requires a radical reconfiguration of the ­relationship between the state and communities, a paradigm shift in the way in which communities should relate to government.

These are communities that had built organs of people’s power in the chaos of apartheid to provide for their safety, credit, cultural ­expression, information dissemination and other needs.

These communities achieved all this under brutally repressive ­conditions.

But the advent of ­democracy has somehow seen this power being stripped away from our people by banks, insurance companies, funeral parlours, ­consultants and government ­agencies, among others.

Labour and related laws enacted by the democratic government ­only serve to weaken communities, urging them to remain ­disenchanted beneficiaries, clients if you will, who forever expect ­delivery from above.

Tom Dewar of the University of Minnesota differentiates between clienthood and citizenship as ­follows: “Clients are people who are dependent upon and controlled by their leaders and helpers.

“Citizens, on the other hand, are people who understand their own problems in their own terms. Good clients make bad citizens. Good ­citizens make good communities.”

Both Dewar and Tshiakanyi might as well have paraphrased Steve Biko by saying: ­“Communities you are on your own!”

The point is that most ­community-owned organisations tend to deliver relatively efficiently, as their survival depends on their good reputation, whereas ­detached service providers and government officials are inclined to rest on their laurels, relying on protection from their networks, ­patronage and employment ­contracts.

The expansion of the real civic public realm, as found not in ­conference centres but in ­community forums, will boost the dynamism of democracy and aid the contraction of indolence among service providers and ­public representatives.

» Makoko is a social entrepreneur and small enterprise development practitioner ­who ­belongs to grassroots community-based ­organisations in Katlehong, Gauteng.

Feketha is an economics lecturer at the ­University of Fort Hare in Alice, Eastern Cape.

The authors write in their personal capacities 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.