Guest Column

SA’s like a smartphone: It would be fab if we could figure out how to use it

2015-06-30 20:21
A smartphone is as good as the user  configures it. Picture: Daily Sun

A smartphone is as good as the user configures it. Picture: Daily Sun

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Eskom can re-open tariff hike talks with Nersa - expert

2015-06-30 15:52

Although the National Energy Regulator has rejected Eskom's proposed 25% price hike, the door is still open for talks on price increases. Watch.WATCH


Smartphone owners who use half the “smart” features of their handsets are a thousand a dime. It’s like South Africa. It has all the constitutional and institutional gizmos, but when it comes to functionality, the country sometimes exhibits the features of a “brick phone”.

The Constitution is rated among the best in the world with the necessary checks-and-balances institutions to match. It doesn’t get better than this – at least on paper. So how do we manage to get things so wrong so often? Lack of political will, someone said.

Take Eskom for an example. The power utility doesn’t have the greatest scorecard for delivering on its mandate. Calling the parastatal a “power” utility is quite humorous considering that it sheds its load more than it sheds light on why we’re often in the dark.

But there could be some light at the end of the tunnel. The way Eskom manages to loadshed thousands of communities at the flick of a switch shows the utility has the technical know-how to manage a sophisticated electricity grid. If only this technical expertise was used to keep the lights on.

Another bright spark is the South African Revenue Service. Damn, Sars is one well-oiled machine. The institution even exceeds tax collection targets. But something goes wrong once the money has been allocated to various state entities.

Couldn’t we use similarly skilled personnel and good controls to ensure that we get value for every rand spent?

Government departments are no exception to institutions that can be efficient and inefficient at the drop of a hat. It took a few quick and smart moves from the Gauteng education department to get Curro private schools’ franchise management to commit to reforms or lose their operating licence. If only the same vigour would be used to rid us of mud schools.

Our political heads are known the world over for conflict resolution prowess. It makes one wonder how we have disasters of the Marikana magnitude when we’ve brokered peace between rebels and governments who could barely spell the word.

South Africans are not “a bunch of losers”, as one minister referred to the national football team. We are a great people who, with the right political will, can excel like a smartphone used to its optimum.


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