No, not really, but I thought the headline might just get people who’ve sent teams of hitmen to find me after my previous article - http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/The-ANCs-doing-a-great-job-20120813 - to read this one.
I want one more crack at getting this point across, and hopefully people will give their F, O and L keys a bit more of a break than they did on that story in their comments! Unfortunately it means I need to take a more academic approach, so apologies if this comes across as ‘boring’: there’s a serious message in here.
The starting point really has to be this: the ANC KNOWS that South Africa is faced with serious troubles. If you don’t believe that, and just see the ANC as a faceless devil which is content to line its own pockets and party up a storm, you’re doing both the ANC and yourself a disservice. The ANC, because it’s not true, and yourself, because you’ll look stupid.
Sample 1 can be found on the news right now, in the form of the huge policy document the ANC has presented in parliament which presents numerous possible solutions – ranging from simple to complex – towards poverty. The goal – and this is important, so that you can set your frame of reference – is to ensure that all South Africans are above the bread-line within 10 years.
Sample 2 can be found in the discussion document the ANC has towards the Second Transition, to be debated at the upcoming policy conference: http://www.anc.org.za/docs/discus/2012/transition.pdf It’s an interesting article, because it shows a frank and intellectual side to the ANC which the general public hardly ever gets exposed to, and which not many people here would give them credit for. I draw your attention to the following quote:
“The National Planning Commission in 2010 drew attention to the fact that despite the achievements we made during our first two decades of democracy, the persistence of widespread poverty and extreme inequality in a middle-income country poses a major threat to social cohesion and nation building. Its implicit conclusion was that a business as-usual approach will result in South Africa failing to meet a great many of its objectives.”
At this point, you can have a range of responses, from “Well, the ANC just hired some PR agency to write both of those documents while they’re getting pissed in a bar somewhere,” to, “The ANC has set its sights too low, in only aiming to get the population above the breadline.”
Discounting the first viewpoint – although I’m sure it exists here – it’s the second viewpoint which is the crucial one. South Africans have become immune to poverty, and we’ve forgotten about the islands we live in. The fact is this: South Africa is NOT a first world country, and although your complaints may be leveraged at it out of a desire that it should live up to first world standards, that is not a reasonable expectation in the greater context of the country and the majority of its citizens.
Complain all you want about poor service, write letters to the local paper and tell all and sundry about how hopeless the current Government is, but in doing all those things you’ll just be adding to the problem, not be part of the solution. You’re also just making your own life miserable for no good reason, and something I was trying to do with another recent article was counter just that: http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Ignore-the-Government-20120813
With all of that out of the way, here is my Survival Guide to South Africa for citizens:
1: Your concerns are important, but they may not be the most important relative to the greater context. Understand this when looking to the Government for support on an issue.
2: The greater context is that we have huge unemployment, poor education and people are starving to death right this minute. These realities all contribute towards crime, which no amount of policing or electric fencing is going to prevent.
3: The Government is not a miracle worker. Not only is the ANC a ‘new’ Government – 18 years is nothing compared to the mature democracies – but it is having to face a fairly unique challenge in converting national infrastructures (both physical and economic) designed to provide only for a minority to serve the majority.
4: None of the above is new. You KNEW all of this already, you just didn’t want to think about it because it erodes your grounds for complaining, and we all want to feel we’re fully justified in our complaints.
5: When the latest anti-poverty roadmap was handed over in parliament, Trevor Manuel stood up and said that there’s only so much the ANC can do in achieving success, and that all South Africans are going to have to take responsibility in bringing about the change. I know we hate having responsibility – after all, isn’t that what the Government’s there for, to do the icky stuff we don’t want to? – but this is the ultimate reality in South Africa.
I hope this has added more constructively to the debate created by my two widely misinterpreted articles, intended more to rattle the cages of entrenched prejudices against the Government than seriously undermine them.
I did not write this article to commend the ANC for the awesome work they're doing, because even they will and have conceded that there is a lot of room for improvement. I've written this article because it is high time that all South Africans - both those privileged and those waiting in line for Government handouts - realise that repairing the country is NOT a quick-fix, that there WILL be teething problems going forward (which may well get worse before they get better) and that it's better for your personal well-being to buy a rechargeable lamp if the electricity goes out than sit in the dark moaning about the incompetent Government.