In 2017, let's roll back on the sense of entitlement, lawlessness and disorder

2016-12-25 22:21

As we wrap up year 2016, I hope we recall that this was a tumultuous year for our young, ambitious nation.

A tumultuous year in many ways. From rampant racism, to President Jacob Zuma's troubles with the law, the SABC, turmoil in our universities, consequential municipal elections, Pravin Gordhan and the National Prosecuting Authority, state capture.

Every nation, in every year, endures its political and economic wobbles. We endured ours too.

There are two very worrying trends that emerged out of our wobbles in 2016. Trends that, if not addressed immediately, will culminate in speedy decay of our still-beautiful country.

The first one, is the sense of entitlement that swept across our nation throughout the year; evidenced, in large part, by violent, uncompromising students' demands for free university education.

Academic facilities in campuses were set alight, people's properties vandalized and peaceful students assaulted. It was a shameful, despicable, extremely embarrassing and totally unacceptable situation.

I was amongst those who opposed the free-university-education slogan. By opposing this disastrous thinking, I made myself enemies. A flurry of insults by fellow South Africans came my way.

My objection to free education did not mean that I care less about access to university education for the poor. I objected to it because I was being realistic - free university education is not feasible - we don't have the money. It is very expensive. We're already living on debt that's approaching 50% of our gross domestic product.

And aside from that, I believed that when something is free, it usually results in low quality. Because nobody values it; the seller doesn't value it, and the buyer doesn't value it.

Universities that provide top-class, high-quality higher education in the world, aren't free.

I believed that if people value something they must pay for it. They must pay something. It must not be free.

The demand for free education was driven by the troubling sense of entitlement. Those who were at the forefront of this so-called "struggle" would not make any concessions, and, they ridiculously felt they are entitled to free education. They didn't, and still even today, don't want to pay for their education.

What sickened me even more, was that lead-rioters claimed to be representing the poor in the process. The term "poor" was thrown around everywhere during the riots, as if it meant something in the context of the protests for free education; when in fact it never meant much.

Only less than 5% of the poor qualify to enter university in South Africa. And the reason why they cannot qualify is not that difficult to grasp. It's because government is failing them with public education.

Yet the riots were portrayed as pro-poor - that fees denied the poor access to university education. That false rhetoric, said repeatedly, began to sound true, until today.

The reason why the poor aren't in universities is not exorbitant fees, it's because of failing public basic education. Making higher education free will not solve the problem. It's public basic education that needs a fix so more poor children can qualify for university education.

Most of the people enrolled in our universities are from middle and high income families. These are the same people who didn't and still don't want to pay for their education. Madness, fueled by the disgusting sense of entitlement. The idea that somebody out there has to pay for your education - that somebody out there owes you something.

The second trend, that will ruin our country, if not addressed soonest, also manifested during student riots, is government's failure to maintain law and order.

The protesting students, backed by left-wing politicians, went amok - disrupting classes, throwing stones at police, threatening other students, setting people's cars alight, vandalizing buildings. Yet they received little to no serious punishment at all.

Their criminal acts were reinforced by the police pulling back on the use of force to protect fellow South Africans and their properties. Law and order disappeared, because the police were discouraged from exercising their mandate fully.

It is the left-wing elite in the academic, political and media circles, that discouraged and ordered the police to be soft on student criminals in our campuses. As a result our universities became lawless environments and unsafe. Lives were lost.

This left-wing elite characterized violent students as victims fighting for justice - a completely irrational thinking.

It is absurd and immoral to violently demand that other people be forced to pay for your education. It's testament to how inconsiderate and self-destructive our society has become.

These two trends worry me about South Africa and its future.

I hope that in 2017, South Africans will roll back on the destructive sense of entitlement. That the police will not be restrained from exercising their responsibility to maintain law and order.

When violent riots ensue, I hope the police will use overwhelming force on the scene to disperse them. Because it really is time to put an end to this nonsense.

If these two trends are not reversed, our country will be a vehicle with no wheels. Meanwhile other nations will be continuing to rise, leaving us behind.

We are destroying ourselves piece by piece. And if we continue on this path in 2017, then we're on our way downhill. Because no nation ever prospered with the destructive sense of entitlement and absence of law and order.

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