Howard Feldman

Are these SA inventions on their way to the rubbish dump of history?

2019-07-03 18:00
African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL) members arriving at the ANC NGC at Gallagher Estates in Midrand last year. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL) members arriving at the ANC NGC at Gallagher Estates in Midrand last year. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

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The Public Protector's office seems to be headed the way of the dial-up modem, in that it was all the rage at one stage, and one could hardly imagine life without one, writes Howard Feldman.

What might have been cutting edge innovation last week, could easily become obsolete in the next. With the increasingly fast-paced rate of development, the rubbish dump of yesterday's technology and businesses is on the increase. The landfill of discarded "essentials" is enormous.

I remember so clearly the debate as to whether to acquire a Blackberry, or not. I was concerned that it would intrude on my family time and on my personal life. I also remember ultimately justifying why it made sense to get on board with this life changing innovation. I was an early adopter to a technology that has already gone the way of VHS, the Walkman, Kodak and car-phones. As important and as significant as Blackberry seemed to be back then, it took no time at all for it to become defunct. Blackberry will now be the subject of throw-back-Thursdays along with floppy-disks, Laura Branigan and Tamagotchis.

It is worth considering what might be next.

The best way to determine this is to measure the product or the organisation's current relevance. With this thinking it is possible to create a watch, or endangered list. Postage stamps, printed wedding invitations, the SABC, e-Tolls and the ANC ethics committee are a few, especially considering that they are about as useful and as beneficial as the latest fax machine.

One could probably also add the ANC Women's League and the Post Office to this watch list.

The ANC ethics committee, for example, who appears to have taken an extended sabbatical during the Zuma-period has recently become the subject of parliamentary debate. In order to maintain relevance they are going to have to prove that they are able to live up to their name. They will need to claw their way back to significance if they intend contributing at all to the country – like Pick It Up and the City Power Helpline in Johannesburg were unable to.

The Public Protector's office seems to be headed the way of the dial-up modem, in that it was all the rage at one stage, and one could hardly imagine life without one. The protector's office under Thuli Madonsela was the darling of South African society at one point, but currently, is not. It might well be because few are able to quite figure out what the new role is focused on, and who the office is intent on protecting. The position could do well with a marketing or PR campaign, but the company they would likely engage, Bell Pottinger, lies buried under the "white monopoly capital" campaign that it conceived and launched.

Like shower-buckets and 2-minute shower songs in Cape Town, it is possible to repurpose some items. Whereas Betamax was not able to transition, the ANC ethics committee could well be. That is, if they have the integrity and the desire to live up to their name, to take on some uncomfortable fights and to make a difference to the country.

The same applies to the Public Protector and ANC Women's League, but not to e-Tolls or to simulcast TV. Like the Blackberry, VHS and the fax, they should simply be thanked for their contribution and then bid adieu.

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    public protector  |  anc integrity commission
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