Guest Column

Why must I still love you, Mzansi?

2017-05-07 06:25

Current political events and governance matters have raised more quizzical narratives about South Africa than they have provided sound appraisals.

The recent Cabinet reshuffle and acquired “junk” status decreed by global rating agencies add to the ugly twist of our affairs – thus posing the question: Tell me, Mzansi, why must I still love you?

Tell me, Mzansi, why I must still love you when 23 years of democracy have not ushered in quality education and infrastructural resources?

Generally, educational provisioning across the education sector remains unequal and hugely differentiated.

Relentless court cases by civil entities to compel the basic education department to expedite the minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure – as well as the #FeesMustFall protests – underscore provisioning challenges.

A free, compulsory and inclusive education system remains a distant dream, despite a litany of policies churned out since 1994.

Tell me, Mzansi, why I must still love you when practitioners of the teaching profession pay lip service to classroom effectiveness?

Pupils’ performance over the years remains problematic – school-leavers lack fundamental skills and their literary skills lag behind those of their African counterparts.

Performance in international assessments is poor, notwithstanding marginal improvements notched in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

Mzansi’s quality of educational practices does not match the political rhetoric ventilated when education was declared the “apex of governance”.

Presidential declarations merely morph into sound bites with irreverent outcomes – teachers and pupils still arrive at school late and classroom efficiency remains questionable.

Tell me, Mzansi, why I must still love you when educational provisioning is not as cool as the “Nuke Enterprises” solicitation?

The ridiculous nuclear energy budget speculated to go into trillions could easily fix the wretched schooling infrastructure.

Pupils’ pride and constitutional rights could be affirmed for generations.

The narrative “we are conducting a comprehensive audit of infrastructure” seems to be an effervescent official response to the quizzical.

Why do we still have wretched structures called schools? Could this retort be a euphemism for departmental incompetence and its inability to deliver on the most basic educational needs?

Could it be symptomatic of the state’s inability or incapacity to prioritise national imperatives? The jury is still out...

Schooling in Mzansi is a dangerous enterprise. Pupils travel long distances to school on foot and in “coffins-on-wheels” – taxis. Others cross crocodile-infested rivers.

We can make schooling accessible to every pupil and community by investing appropriately.

The recent, tragic death of 18 children in a taxi collision in Mpumalanga and daily reports of taxis laden with schoolchildren being involved in road accidents underscore our tolerance for nonsense and lack of will to preserve young lives.

Our roads are hubs for death and physical maim. The approach to traffic misdemeanours has not changed – it’s worsening by the day.

We have this tendency to rationalise road fatalities – “it’s the devil’s work”, hoping it will ease the pain.

Tell that to the wolves – it is us, the people of South Africa, who do not care about young lives.

If we really cared, this madness would have stopped decades ago. We continue to drive unroadworthy vehicles to work and school, with traffic officers competing for the best snapshots under bushes.

Tell me, Mzansi, why I must still love you when callous murders are tolerated?

Recently, a young boy lost his life when he was allegedly mistaken for a warthog – that ugly four-legged animal.

Only in Mzansi do hunters randomly shoot and hope it’s a wild pig. Similarly, a young life was terminated for allegedly stealing a sunflower in Coligny, North West.

Human life is not expendable, law enforcement must be beefed up. Alleged police complicity in some criminal activities is worrisome.

Public disorder cannot be a measure used to force law enforcers into action. Police intelligence efficiency is non-negotiable.

In this country, racism stalks our streets and social media with impunity. People tend to romanticise it. Sanctions meted out have no long-term effect.

The sanctioned pay off their guilty fines and rekindle their behaviour.

Political factionalism and Wild West-style killings gobble up democracy’s gains. Comrades turn against comrades for political patronage and a piece of the public pie.

Do law enforcement agencies have the capacity to stamp out acts of lawlessness and murder? Do they have intelligence efficiency? Could leadership tussles undermine their mandates? Police intonations morph into sound bites devoid of torque.

Tell me, Mzansi, why I must still love you when 23 years of our affinity are dominated by political rhetoric?

Yesterday, “a better life for all” was echoed with piety as a national mantra for our freedom.

For Abahlali baseMjondolo [shack dwellers], “a better life for all” remains a euphemism for sectoral economic emancipation – only the few and connected have access to the in-demand public pie.

For Shackville residents, death stalks with burning fury. The torrential rains in summer add to a toxic mix. The choreographed political intonations in the aftermath are mere sound bites.

Twenty-three years on, Mzansi’s political discourse flip-flops like Cabinet reshuffles. From primordial reconstruction and development, to fuzzy Gear economics and “fashionable” radical economic transformation.

Twenty-three years on, we have the same horse, varied jockeys, the same backers, and perhaps a refurbished saddle – radical economic transformation.

But what are its functional dichotomies?

How would it change lives in Shackville? Would it embolden and institutionalise the Freedom Charters’ ideals? Isn’t it more political rhetoric in glamorous lingo?

Tell me, Mzansi, why I must still love you when the invocation of political luminaries has become the conduit of expressions?

Could the invocation of erudite narratives by Chief Albert Luthuli, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Helen Joseph, Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo and Lilian Ngoyi lessen the dexterity of today’s challenges?

They are men and women of stature with an indelible legacy that is hard to emulate.

Could it be savvy political strategy to camouflage governance dyslexia? Are we merely calming a nervous citizenry? Could it be a mere resuscitation of exuberant erstwhile political nostalgia?

Can nostalgia solve and improve our current socioeconomic circumstances? We must move beyond our nostalgia syndrome.

When Solomon Mahlangu retorted in the face of a vile death: “My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight,” he planted the seeds for active patriotism and economic freedoms.

Monyooe is a director for grants management and systems administration at the National Research Foundation

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Read more on:    education  |  feesmustfall  |  cabinet reshuffle  |  service delivery
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