Reading 'The Witness', living in London

2008-06-06 00:00

What is your connection with The Witness, to Pietermaritzburg and to South Africa?

I’m from Pietermaritzburg, but work in London.

Where were you born, where did you grow up? What’s your educational background?

I was born and raised in Durban, but came to settle in Pietermaritzburg in 1994. After completing my matric in 1989 I spent the next four years studying for a nursing diploma at King Edward viii Hospital.

What are you doing in the UK? Do you intend returning to SA?

I work for the West London Mental Health NHS Trust as a forensic mental health nurse. I intend returning to South Africa in the next three years.

Do you write letters to other newspapers? Why do you choose The Witness?

I rarely write to other newspapers. I write to The Witness because it is my local newspaper.

How do you receive your news about South African politics?

I read most of the mainstream newspapers and books by South African current affairs commentators, political analysts and emerging market economists.

Why do you follow South African politics so closely?

I love my country. I value freedom above everything. Democracy is about participation in the political system. Our Constitution requires this of every citizen. After voting for a political party, you then have to monitor its responsibilities to the electorate, suggest solutions to problems, influence decisions etc. We must instil this mindset in people because it is the only way to safeguard our freedom. Otherwise the ANC will become like Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe.

What do you think is the value of letter writing? What inspires you to write letters?

Most ordinary people like myself don’t have direct access to politicians, but we need to participate in political debate. One way we do this is through newspaper letter columns. I have seen numerous examples of Pietermaritzburg residents using The Witness’s letters columns effectively to put pressure on politicians to address issues they would have otherwise ignored. There are also other non-political discussions taking place there about society, morality, religion etc which make interesting reading. I’m inspired to keep writing because of the positive feedback from your readers.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing South Africa today?

The leadership crisis is the most serious. We need political leaders with integrity. Sadly, money and political expediency is valued above principle in this country.

The second major challenge is the ANC’s parliamentary dominance. Undermining the courts and democratic institutions, intolerance of dissent, abuse of state institutions and political interference in judicial processes etc shows the party’s contempt for the Constitution. Protecting the Constitution and the chapter nine institutions will, therefore, will be a huge challenge in the next decade.

Moral regeneration is important to restore the values we are losing as a society. The youth were highly politicised in the eighties and the nature of the struggle gave way to the evolution of a subculture, the defining features of which were fearlessness, rebellion, defiance, vigilantism, and state antagonism. The gruesome nature of crime today can be traced back to our violent past. This is a sign of a nation that has lost its moral compass.

On the economy, although we boast sound fundamentals and macroeconomic stability, unemployment, and poverty remain stubbornly high. The threat of political instability resulting from this should not be taken lightly. The consensus on addressing unemployment is a macroeconomic strategy that will raise economic growth to levels of between six percent and eight percent. Is the developmental state model the answer? Some say we don’t have the highly skilled workforce that made it a success in East Asia. Should the central bank be adopting a more flexible approach to inflation targeting? Is the target band of three percent to six percent too restrictive for a developing country? Is industrial policy addressing anticompetitiveness effectively? What about labour legislation restricting private sector expansion as has been argued? Where does the problem lie?

Your age, marital status, children and occupation?

I’m 37, married to Thokozani. We have two sons, aged 13 and eight.

What do you believe has been your best letter?

I wrote on June 6, 2005, about the abuse of patients at Fort Napier Hospital following the conviction of six nurses. None of the higher level decision makers was held to account, but some of the criticisms I made were actually addressed as part of the action plan now being implemented there.

Do you get any feedback as a result of your letters?

I do meet some of your readers who I know and they speak highly about what I write. Your decision to invite me to this interview endorses that view and I’m very grateful for that.

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