Let’s break the spell in 2012

2011-12-23 11:43

One of the most notable pictures of 2011 was of the national football team celebrating a goalless draw at home to Sierra Leone, a team ranked 20 places behind ours at the time.

It was not so much that the team erroneously thought it had qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, it was that it had trotted on to the pitch with the mind-set of avoiding defeat rather than one of winning
the match.

The sad spectacle at Mbombela Stadium crystalised our descent into the dark pit of mediocrity. We celebrate and justify underperformance.

It is easy to focus on the state’s many faults and gaffes, but Bafana’s gaffes were a national dance.

Too often we are comfortable with what would ordinarily shame other nations.

We accept that our children need not know almost 70% of their schoolwork to proceed to the next class or to graduate from school; we accept that by the end of this year, yet another 10 000 people would have died on our roads.

Many would have perished during this period, and often because they drove when they knew they were intoxicated or had vehicles that did not belong on the road.

We glibly accept that the Special Investigating Unit would have had three heads in six weeks.

Why were those briefly appointed to the job given the position if they had shortcomings?

And why didn’t anyone ensure that we had the right person for the job the first time around?

Mediocrity often emerges when accountability disappears.

Nobody is held accountable for how a provincial government suddenly finds that it has run out of cash.

How do we expect police officers like those who wrongfully arrested Zizi Kodwa for drunken driving not to believe that they are a law unto themselves?

It is a shame that we have to find catchy slogans to encourage teachers to be at school on time for teaching.

That is why in 2012, we ask that we rediscover the pursuit for excellence, ethics and a sense of accountability.

For the new year, we hope to never again see high-fives and pats on backs for anything less than excellence.

We ask of all of us that we replace empty sloganeering with the rigorous application of thought and deed.

Our wish for the new year is for a leader whose priorities are not just about holding on to power, but leading our country through an increasingly treacherous political and economic terrain.

We can do without a president whose every other departure from a prepared speech requires aides and acolytes to explain what he actually
meant to say.

But first, we have to soberly look at the year that has just ended. We have to celebrate our strengths and build on them for the year ahead.

We also need to soberly accept where we have gone wrong in 2011 and pledge to do better.

Most importantly, we have to consciously eschew mediocrity as the national standard before we can make 2012 a prosperous new year, which we wish for you and yours.

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