Future (Im)perfect : South Africa's Story

2012-10-17 08:28

Jokes aside and serious faces on; things don’t look good.

The Adventures of Jacob in South Africa has turned out to be a tragedy – far from the rosy promise of Polokwane 2007.  Angie advertises her failures in newspapers quicker than she delivers books; Bobby pleads his innocence and cites ‘inadequate pupil data’ as one of the chief reasons for the non-delivery of the books in Limpopo, the walls in Nkandlaville are rising while the livelihoods of 12000 miners are in disarray as Amplats has fired them, and Goldfields is expected to do the same to 15000 miners later this week.

This is only part of disconcerting plot of the South African story. The antagonists are many and the cathartic moment seems impossible to imagine. Amidst all of this murkiness, we need to rewrite the plot if we are going to make it. It will take a lot from all of us, but it must be done.

Searching for the Cathartic Moment

It’s difficult not to be dismayed by the current state of affairs in our country. Everything that should be okay is not and those that ought to act often don’t. This feeds into our national psyche negatively. The mood is at an all time low so much, that the international credit rating agency, Moody’s (go figure!) downgraded the government bond rating by one notch (from A3 to Baa1). Their rating outlook remains negative.

The impact of this rating is important; it is a symptom of our socio-political unrest and will affect all institutions in the private and public sector.

Okay, let me stop with this is nonsense.

The truth is, there’s probably ‘something’ that we can all do as South Africans.

You won’t find this ‘something’ in a political manifesto of the yellow or the blue party and you probably won’t find it in the grandiose 444 page National Development Plan drafted by smart Trevor and his equally intelligent mates.

Everything that is happening around us is a obvious suggestion of what needs to be done. No fancy diagnosis needed here kids, we know our problems.

My suggestion?

Empty as it may sound, get your own proverbial house in order. Try to ask the question, what is it that I can do here, right now?

You’ll be impressed at what you can contribute.

This is no sweeping statement, but a well considered thought. Most of our problems are self-inflicted anyway, acting in some or other way to mitigate these problems will help. The cathartic moment will largely come from your own fulfilled duty. There are no Messiahs in this story, wake up.

 The Backstage Protagonists   

To prove to you that asking the right question(s) is a great place to start, consider this:

A mentor of mine left a cushy executive position at a thriving Investment holdings company with a goal- to mitigate the education crisis in South Africa.

With no stable income and job security, he now travels the length and breadth of South Africa setting up IT systems for schools and advising principals on the day to day running of their schools. Recently, he spoke to more than 400 principals at a conference on developing strategies for new approaches in school management and education.

He needed no ‘divine revelation’ for this. He says he just ‘knew that something had to be done’.

The other protagonists are those that we know of ; the influential campaigning of the social movement Equal Education. The movement has been campaigning for quality standards and norms in education for a few years now and has been doing impeccable work.

Section 27 is taking bold action against the Department of Basic Education, the r2k (Right to Know) campaign has galvanized thousands of South Africans in the fight to preserve the right to a free press.

Many others exist.

These protagonists are playing their part in what seems to be a grim tragedy.

The current state of affairs needs more than just armchair moaning and groaning; but action in all our individual circles of influence.

Lenin Revisited  

Ideological lines aside, Old Lenin was a wise chap. Inspired by the materialist-philosopher, Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s (that’s a mouthful I know) on philosophical materialism and asceticism, Lenin wrote a famous polemic detailing the issues facing the working class and the tactics required to move their struggle forward.

The pamphlet titled, What is to be done?, asks some pertinent questions about Marxism and the economic struggles of the poor.

The time in which the pamphlet was written was unflattering. Despite the challenging context, Lenin managed to inspire the working class to take their economic struggles more seriously and inspired class consciousness amongst the workers.

Lenin did all of this through one question, What is to be done?  

Different context and times, Lenin’s question might assist us in finding the roles we need to play in our society.

Ask continually, What is to be done? And more importantly ask What can I do?

Maybe then we won’t have to be trapped in the awful plot of The Adventures of Jacob in South Africa.

Another thing, those among us who threaten to leave the country should rather roll up our sleeves and stop whining. Our Father in Qunu’s health (bless him) does not depend on your presence or absence in our beautiful country.

Also, in seeking to do your part, you might want to stay away from those with inept crystal balls like Moeletsi Mbeki; making depressing predictions at every letter he utters.

Instead, ask the questions and act your part in this story. The plot can be rewritten. It should.

Follow me on Twitter: @SbuTshabs

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