Heed the SOS call

2016-10-16 09:06
PATRIOTIC FRONT A crowd of South Africans gathered to march across Johannesburg’s iconic Mandela Bridge as part of last year’s #ZumaMustFall campaign. Different demonstrations, under the same banner, took place across the country on Reconciliation Day (December 16) to call for the removal of President Jacob Zuma, after his dismissal of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene the week before. Picture: Leon Sadiki

PATRIOTIC FRONT A crowd of South Africans gathered to march across Johannesburg’s iconic Mandela Bridge as part of last year’s #ZumaMustFall campaign. Different demonstrations, under the same banner, took place across the country on Reconciliation Day (December 16) to call for the removal of President Jacob Zuma, after his dismissal of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene the week before. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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In the past few weeks, we have seen protests at our institutions of higher learning, often resulting in violent confrontations between students and the police – a situation we thought had been relegated to our tragic past.

The burning of libraries and institutional infrastructure has set us back from progressing as a nation.

We have seen the institutions denigrated – a disturbing phenomenon, given that these are important heritage sites for our communities and future generations.

Attempts to find solutions have thus far fallen on deaf ears as we continue to bear witness to the persistent standoff paralysing our universities.

It pains me to see this.

Universities countrywide preserve the history, knowledge and deeds of leaders of yesteryear‚ and serve to educate and nurture the leaders of tomorrow.

I am fully aware that the ongoing unrest plaguing our schools and tertiary institutions is a microcosm of a broader crisis currently engulfing the nation.

It is a crisis that, if we fail to arrest, will soon threaten to eliminate all the advances achieved since the advent of our democracy.

During these times, the popular saying attributed to Irish statesman Edmund Burke – “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – assumes a deeper meaning.

As many good people wait and wonder in silence, signs of moral decay in our nation continue to deepen.

We have seen different government institutions at war with one another, to the detriment of our nation’s economy; we have seen leaders make public comments that suggest attacks on our country’s businesses such as our banks; our people seem to have lost faith in their political leaders; and the biggest party in the land seems to be in a state of confusion and paralysis.

Meanwhile, the triple evils of poverty, unemployment and inequality seem to persist amid a growing culture of corruption by those entrusted with the responsibility to address these ills.

Our economy continues to struggle. The citizenry remains concerned about the possibility of a downgrade by ratings agencies.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has been hard at work here and overseas, and has made a point of meeting South Africa’s role players – particularly the business sector and labour – to ensure that these stakeholders work with government to build confidence in our economy.

The ratings agencies want our leaders to demonstrate that they have taken steps to ensure that our country’s economic direction is sound.

While Gordhan is doing this, his efforts seem to be deliberately undermined by the National Prosecuting Authority and the spectre of his arrest.

This adds to our people’s concerns.

Then there is the continuing political infighting, weak economic growth and mounting debt at state-owned companies, all of which pose an increased risk for the wellbeing of our economy.

It seems as if there are those in our government and public institutions who do not care about some of these challenges and are hellbent on precipitating the impending catastrophe we face.

August 3 gave our people an opportunity to express themselves by voting for leaders to represent them in local municipalities.

This was positive – something that we as South Africans could be proud of as, by their very existence, the polls proved that, despite the myriad problems we face, ours remains a thriving democracy.

The elections saw the ANC suffer a dramatic decline in support, attributed mainly to poor leadership, corruption and the perceived arrogance of the leadership.

In response, the party promised the public that it would undergo a process of introspection to correct its mistakes and regain the people’s trust.

During the weeks following the elections, we saw half-hearted attempts to demonstrate that the party was serious about this.

Sadly, some ANC cadres argued that the party performed well, so no change was necessary.

Other ANC members, who remain unhappy, have called for serious action and a return to the moral high ground that the party was renowned for.

They argue that what made this party an elite liberation movement, attractive to most people, was its strict adherence to ethical conduct.

The above challenges require us to work together to find solutions.

The message is clear: our nation is in dire need of constructive engagement, unity and collaboration between leaders and citizens.

It is a collaboration that requires religious leaders, business, civil society and government to come together for a new and improved South Africa.

It will also be important to find ways to ensure that ordinary people are able to make suggestions on how to rescue our country from this crisis.

Fortunately, times like these – when our country stands on the precipice – are not new to some of us from the faith community.

In 1985, this community mobilised and developed what was to be popularly referred to as the Kairos document in response to the apartheid calamity we were facing then.

This document served as a theological commentary and critique of the activities of the apartheid regime.

It also offered suggestions for the type of activities the church needed to engage in to confront the catastrophe and try to resolve it.

The crisis we face today requires a similar effort by those concerned about the wellbeing of this country and the future of our children.

I believe we all have a responsibility to reflect deeply on this situation and determine what response is needed to bring about the much-needed change.

It is during these times – when it is clear that the majority of our people believe the country has lost its moral compass – that we have to unite and restore faith and optimism.

Let us develop a comprehensive strategy to effect a sustainable turnaround and restore faith in the ability of this country to achieve a viable, sustainable and better future for all our people.

Makgoba is the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town


What strategies are required to turn SA around?

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Read more on:    pravin gordhan  |  fees must fall  |  student protests

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