Friends & Friction: Living in oblivion in the sky

2014-09-11 06:45

‘Does anyone feel pity or compassion for the poor devils about to die?” asked war correspondent William Laurence aboard the B-29 Superfortress as they flew over Nagasaki during World War 2.

At times, one wonders if those in the seat of power here in South Africa have any compassion for the people on the ground, because if they did, they wouldn’t loot the cockpit for scraps in midair.

The quarrels among politicians have become destructive and bitter, and it is as if we are engaged in a struggle for liberation.

The leadership seems to be oblivious to the thousands of pupils who leave school to join the back of the queue in the job market. These young people are not just numbers, but young souls who must be ignited to reach their greatness so they can lift our country to its greatness.

Our biggest barrier to becoming a successful and competitive nation, at least according to the latest report from the World Economic Forum, is our failure to develop our people and our infrastructure.

The state has to solve enormous problems with limited resources, so it is time to choose the most pressing challenges and start with opportunities that will yield the most rewards. The rest will have to wait.

We all agree that our ailing public health system needs urgent surgery.

On the other hand, there is SAA, which forever needs to be bailed out. The board is always in the news for the wrong reasons. Some observers have said the board fights are at their fiercest when tenders come out because some of the board members are looking to get a little something.

Isn’t it time for the government to sell SAA? Clearly it is a skorokoro. And what do you do with a skorokoro? You sell it before it stands on bricks in your back garden, where it becomes a breeding ground for rats.

So why are we still keeping SAA? We love it, of course. It may be our only flag bearer in the skies, but it does not serve the majority. Airports, which are a necessary part of our infrastructure, are mostly in the major cities. The routes to smaller towns like Mthatha and Polokwane are expensive.

The rail infrastructure has crumbled. We have to raise more than R500?billion to revive it.

Again, it is important to remember the difference between the urgent and the important. How mining companies transport their goods from Saldanha Bay through Sishen to Richards Bay should be their problem, just as transporting your groceries from the shop to your house is yours.

On the other hand, how people travel from Tsakane township to the Isando industrial area should be the government’s problem.

The apartheid chickens keep coming home to roost. It is the duty of government to help people get to work quickly and cheaply, and not to help big businesses carry their products. It’s time for more compassion.

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