Leaders must burst out of their bling bubbles

2010-05-22 17:04

Which planet do you live on? Every time a politician

is shocked about the living ­conditions of the poor majority, alarmed by

hospitals where babies die of diseases of simple infection and hygiene, or is

angry about our dismal public school pass rates, you have to ask: which ­planet

do they live on? Because it’s not Mzansi.

This week it was

President Jacob Zuma, the man who came to office because of his grassroots ­connection,

who was shack-shocked.

Visiting Sweetwaters

settlement this week, the president was moved to tears by the conditions of his

fellow citizens who lived, he said, in conditions ill-befitting even animals.

It’s nice that he has

empathy, but it’s really sad that he is surprised by the real South Africa.

The ANC government pivots on being a people’s party elected into power in four

national polls by a substantial ­majority of South Africans.

Social distance has,

however, set in between the governors and the governed, as is made evident by

the bubble our politicians exist in.

From president to

premiers and even local mayors, they all drive in chauffeured cars, live in

relative prosperity and are cushioned from reality by flunkies and ­spin-doctors.

All their needs are

taken care of with multiple homes, generous salaries, cooks to prepare meals

and child-minders – all provided by a set of ­ministerial perks that have

remained unchanged since the venal apartheid system’s ministerial ­handbook

which is like a guide to living in a bubble.

And so it’s no surprise

that the president was shocked. Premiers, too, live like a people apart.

Consider news this week that Gauteng’s

Premier Nomvula ­Mokonyane had her brother flown by ­helicopter, at our

expense, between hospitals.

Back in Sweetwaters it

was clear that the pattern is similar at local government level, the sphere of ­government

which is supposed to be located among the people.

There, the councillor

named Freedom ­Sotshantsha lives a sunshine life. He drives a bright yellow

Hummer and travels with bodyguards.

And his home has security cameras all

around it because he fears that the community he represents will ­attack and

hurt him.

This story is repeated

in local councils around the country where representatives live in fear of the ­people

who elected them.

They are at the coalface

of a ticking time bomb since one million South Africans lost their jobs in the

latest recession, thus putting enormous strain on communities already balanced

on a knife’s edge.

Government should emerge from the bubble, get out there

and live sans bling among the


Optimism shines on Africa


Africa Day there is a lot to salute and be hopeful about on our continent. If

it is all about the ­macro-economy, then there is every reason to be


Various growth

projections suggest that the ­continent will buck the European and American ­double-dip

recession to grow at rates of between 3% and 4% this year.

While the Millennium

Development Goals – the ­basic set of human decency indicators – show that we

have a long way to travel, at least the horizon is one of hope.

With a commodities boom

and oil discoveries along both coasts, the continent is predicted by some to be

one of the next big global growth nodes like Brazil,

India and China.

The wave of

democratisation means that much more of the continent is free than in chains,

despite there being a lot of human rights work still to do, as the ­conviction

of a gay couple in Malawi shows.

To paraphrase the

Presidency’s Alan Hirsch: the image of Africa

is increasingly of a person, spade in hand, digging out a future while the old

symbol of the begging bowl is slowly fading into ­memory.

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