If Africa settles for less it is racism

2011-08-20 13:34

A friend of mine recently presented a workshop in East Africa. A power failure occurred to which he took great exception.

Along with his expressions of anger, mixed reactions occurred within the audience.

A group of people became frustrated about him being frustrated at the electricity situation, which seemed to be a regular occurrence. He engaged the group. They couldn’t understand why he was frustrated. Their response was: “This is Africa . . .”

If this is Africa, is Africa synonymous with non-delivery? Should we expect non-delivery because we are Africans and are going to be reduced to “people who sing well and are culturally rich, but who are not competent enough to keep the lights on”?

This brings me to a question about South Africa and our trajectory. As a politician in Joburg with its “World-class African city” mantra, I often wonder what this means.

If my friend’s audience is to be believed, world class and Africa should not be in the same sentence.

Let us investigate this from a number of perspectives.

We believe, as South Africans, that we are ahead of many African countries, neglecting the fact that other African nations develop at a rate faster than us. Our information and communication technology penetration has been slow compared to Kenya.

Our electricity is not as efficient as Rwanda’s. And our economy is not growing as fast as Nigeria’s. This has the potential to weaken our credibility as the gateway to Africa and send investors elsewhere.

At the core of this issue is the question that we as Africans need to ask: what do we expect from one another?

We have come to expect, and, at times applaud, mediocrity. For example, a government employee does not need to be exceptional, he/she simply needs to comply to receive a bonus in the City of Johannesburg.

The city is in a difficult financial position. Service delivery has historically been poor and inconsistent. We have a qualified audit report. Yet bonuses are being paid?

This month’s electricity bills will be delayed due to some “glitch” with our world-class technology that has already been producing poor results.
Have we come to expect less of ourselves and our people?

It is questionable that when our sporting fraternity, the Olympic team, returns home with few medals we applaud them without an investigation as to why we produce poor athletes.

Government corruption remains unaccountable and so we bumble along on a wing and a prayer. Have we given our leaders messianic status without questioning their competency and the trajectory of this nation?

Have we come to expect less of our leaders and our people?

Is our education system addressing this vacuum? It is abysmal to say the least, with more children getting poorer and poorer results in comparison to other African states, let alone globally.

We seem to be nurturing a nation doomed for mediocrity. With accommodating changes to the curriculum we still seem to fall short of the results we wish to achieve. In turn we are producing youth who cannot hold leadership accountable due to their sub-standard education.

The net result translates into a lesser society.

My last government conference I attended sums it all up. Nothing started on time. The programme was not adhered to. The meals were great; the resolutions poor. We refused to debate critical issues.

Nationally our political discourse is weakening and perhaps, even though not an advocate of nationalisation, I do hope it raises our conversation.

I cannot, as an African, tolerate mediocrity that is rewarded and call it African. It is the worst kind of racism.

» Maimane is DA councillor and party leader in the City of Johannesburg

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