Dashiki Dialogues – Imagine there’s a consensus...

2011-10-21 08:20

Imagine there were no politicians. No one to steal or swindle all your taxes. No mismanagement or corruption either.

Okay, maybe the John Lennon song doesn’t quite cut it, but think about it: why do we need anyone telling us what we need and how to get by just because they’ve invented a reason to ask to do so?

Well, the truth is I owe these quasi-utopian musings to the census currently being undertaken in South Africa. I was lounging at home, fiddling my thumbs, when census ads came on the radio the other day.

They employed a stoic voice to explain what the census was about, and how it was meant to unfold. So I listened, especially since there has been talk of thugs robbing families while pretending to be enumerators.

While the lady with a wooden voice explained why we needed to have this census, I must say she also killed the raison d’être. She explained that by collecting this data, the country is able to understand its needs.

In other words, by knowing the size of populations in particular neighbourhoods, we are able to collate the amount of resources that should be invested for their upkeep.

So we will be able to tell, with relative accuracy, a particular suburb’s income level, the place’s consumption patterns – think here of water and energy – and so on.

As her voice became more focused, phrases like “service delivery priorities” charged the ads with greater social relevance. Then I started to drift off into my utopian vision. I thought that if she’s telling the truth, the world should already be where we dream it should.

I wondered why – if we already know what our societies’ needs are based on a pretty scientific audit, which is what the census campaign actually is – do we need politicians to promise us what we already know we need?

We know how many roads, schools, clinics and so forth need to be built. We’ve calculated how much must be injected into the pensioners’ monthly payout because we know the price of food and medicines.

Are we such a gullible lot that even as we know what our priorities and needs are, we allow big-bellied men in suits to preach to us about what needs to be built, bought or fixed?

Oh, but I can’t help it – imagine we only had few administrative clerks accounting for resources spent and keeping tabs on progress made, and specialists going in to build and implement projects that are designed based on a community’s needs audit identified by the census.

Imagine there was no need to have Nelson Mandela going to prison, Chris Hani being assassinated or even that bad boy singing “shoot the boer”.

Just imagine a public dialogue with no one saying how lovely their dashikis are, even as we see their nakedness.

» I’m on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

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