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.
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
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
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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