Friends & Friction: Greed has beaten our new nation

2014-04-09 10:00

Satisfying everyone’s needs is not a problem in a country as rich as ours – it is satisfying everyone’s greed that is the challenge.

In a short period, RDP houses have mushroomed and families that previously had nothing to eat have been given a boost through government grants so no one has to go to bed hungry.

All of those achievements and more have been blurred by the mist of conspicuous greed and so workers are demanding more.

Even while the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system was being rolled out in Joburg, the bus drivers were on strike.

The Medupi Power Station is behind schedule because of endless labour unrest and the workers in some of the platinum-mining companies continue to demand more money.

At the heart of the strikes and service-delivery protests is that South Africans are generally unconcerned about how their actions affect the next person, much less the future of a business or the country.

We have quickly moved from a nation that aspires to “a better life for all” to “a better life for me and my family, at all costs”.

So it becomes more difficult to convince a hospital cleaner to remember that the life of a patient is more important than a salary at the end of the month, or to ask a store clerk to go beyond the call of duty to help a customer.

This is proving to be one of the most difficult times for business leaders because they have to inspire their staff to swim?–?and win?–?against a powerful tide of negativity and uncertainty.

We are looking at a party that recalled a president who delivered its highest number of voters, but is protecting the one who is prone

to scandal. But we have to assume democracy works and that May 7 will, in effect, be a national referendum on whether the country is happy with President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla and other perks.

It may well be that someone who recently received a social welfare grant may well ask: “So what if Msholozi built himself a swimming pool? I see them all the time in the white suburbs. After all, I am eating too.”

So businesspeople have to make decisions about the South Africa of the future.

In industries such as mining and farming, business leaders may well decide to mechanise and use machines instead of people because machines never ask for pay increases. This will undoubtedly lead to job losses?–?a scenario too awful to contemplate.

Nevertheless, the business of rebuilding our country must never be abandoned.

From time to time, countries do get afflicted by poor leadership. Warren Harding, the 29th president of the US, comes to mind.

An incorrigible womaniser, he allowed his greedy friends to loot the state, leading to an outbreak of corruption in the US.

His father once told him: “It’s a good thing that you weren’t born a girl, you can’t say ‘no’.”

South Africa will survive the folly that is Jacob Zuma’s presidency. As the second president of the US, John Adams, so eloquently put it: “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity.”

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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