What will it take for government to regain respect and credibility?

2015-06-07 13:11

In the wake of the Nhleko report exonerating President Zuma in direct contrast to the Public Protector's report,leave aside for moment, for the Rand's sharp decline to R12,36 against the U.S. dollar, there is clearly a palpable frustration on the part of thinking South Africans which needs to resolve the big picture that is getting blurry by the day.

So what will it take for government to regain credibility ,respect etc amongst the people? When there is a major hiccup at the level of SARS and the NPA there is cause for concern as this shakes both national as well as international confidence vis-a-vis effective governance and control.

What saddens me is the declining confidence on the part of people on the state of our democracy and what William Gumede and Leslie Dikeni's book laments "the retreat ( or should it be silence?) of intellectuals"( Read 'The Poverty of Ideas: South African democracy and the retreat of Intellectuals').

No I don't believe that pretenders to the throne like the DA provide the solution or a credible alternative.

And as Professor Adam Habib postulates in his book "South Africa's Suspended revolution:Hope and Prospects", impatience amongst the people who feel betrayed is feeding into many a phobia and directly into the hands of populist parties champing at the bits and salivating at prospects of grabbing power from the ruling party, following revelations of corruption and graft amongst leading politicians in government or supported by government.

So it begs the question: What will it take for government to regain credibility, respect etc amongst the people?I have no doubt that government was foist with many challenges when it assumed office in 1994 but seriously, 21 years down the line to continue flogging apartheid as the cause for the present days ills that won't leave it like the plague is wearing thin.

It's counter productive to dwell on the negatives but to ignore them through obfuscation and denial is dangerous. So here's my take.

We need a multi pronged non partisan approach and the most important one that is immediate is one that enhances a strategic and political vision (that addresses the values enshrined in our constitution,especially the Bill of Rights), driven by economists and civil society organisations including the unfortunately eviscerated trade unions and academic community.

We need, as Gumede and Dikeni rightly postulate, 'space for progressive engagement' with government over those really big questions of policy. We have highly competent people languishing in the wilderness because of affirmative action and other considerations. Add to that is a deliberate ignoring by government of radi cal alternative ideas that are challenging existing policy despite the illusion that we have a robust and critical debate involving intellectuals in shaping policy.

It is important,I think, for platform and space to be provided that advance, in the words quoted by Gumede and Dikeni 'a politics of the truth' free from the politics of patronisation and the consequences of being critical of government.

The long term needs of the masses who continue to experience the most severest  forms of oppression and deprivation despite ideological claims that ' we are all in the same boat' must be addressed alongside the immediate and the necessary changes that are being resisted by the privileged and the noveau riche in the face of the irreconcilable gap between the rich and the poor.

Only when government initiates a national conversation or dialogue with the masses through civil society structures, academia and trade unions  and   sincerely engages with them will it regain credibility and respect.

I hope that these ideas see the light of day soon.

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