Faith Daniels

We need a holiday from our country

2017-03-06 12:58

I recently had a discussion with a colleague about the state of the country – ironically after the State of the Nation Address.

Although I was in the midst of the chaos and our parliamentarians were wreaking havoc on the night in the National Assembly, I viewed it as something that was really not unexpected. The writing was on the wall with all the EFF warnings beforehand.

Besides, we had a dose of this reality at last year’s proceedings as well.

So when my colleague said, “we need a break man - a holiday from our country,” I laughed. I thought it was funny. Fast forward to today and I’m not laughing anymore. Not so much.

This business of adulting in South Africa and making sense of what is happening in government and the broader society is complicated – let’s not forget confusing and highly traumatising at times.

Big ups to you if you can give a concise and sensible rundown of what exactly is happening and where we are headed at this very moment. If you can make sense of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s press conference on Sunday, you deserve extra brownie points.

The entire saga is just one big, chaotic mess. We can only despair at the utter lack of respect for the 17 million grant recipients affected by the Sassa saga.

For three years the social development department knew that it needed another service provider – that’s at the back of a Concourt ruling ordering as much in 2014. And what was really done to remedy the situation and comply with the court judgement?

According to the minister the tendering process started and a suitable company was not found. In her words: “The tender was not awarded due to non-responsive bids.”

In other words, there’s no service provider. But don’t worry South Africa, because the president, deputy president and the social development minister say payments will be made next month. Yes.

But how, where and at what time, I ask you? What are you telling the most vulnerable of society – the elderly especially, about what the process will entail? My mother, a pensioner, watched the press conference with me. She listened to the minister’s speech, turned to me and asked: “What is going on?”

Well, that is the million rand question isn’t it? On Friday the director general of the department of social development, Zane Dangor, resigned. So naturally the reporters at this press briefing wanted the minister’s reaction to this. They were met with “this is OUR press briefing”, “we are not going to address that matter”.

All the while, the rest of Mzansi is watching this spectacle, and the minister’s inability to string one sentence together that inspires confidence.

So with no service provider in place at the end of the month, will big trucks of money move in and out of suburbs and townships dishing out cash to millions of people on a list? Will people have to queue at new venues and be prepped on a new collection process? Can a new service provider be found in this time? People depend on this money for their survival. This mess leaves them with little else to do but sit, wait and watch how things unfold.

Labour federation Cosatu says the president must intervene and heads must roll – that the minister and those responsible for the mess must either resign or be dismissed. Cosatu describes the situation as a political own goal, one that smells of corruption. This we know. The Constitutional Court questioned the process and its legitimacy back in 2014.

Cabinet says it will discuss the Sassa crisis with all affected parties this week – and get a comprehensive report from all teams. Dlamini will also appear before Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts, if she pitches.  

But even if she does – all these measures seem a bit too late. The damage has been done. The gaping hole in terms of leadership has been exposed. And we are watching it all happen, live.

We are reacting to it on social media, but other than that, what else are we doing? We’re all just waiting for proper leadership to emerge.

Well, we’ve been waiting a long time, Mzansi. And it will have to take much more than a Cabinet reshuffle, or a fumbling minister, to convince me things will change.

For now though, I’m looking at holiday destinations. It’s all just a bit too much really.

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

Read more on:    bathabile dlamini  |  sassa
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