In her latest column in City Press entitled “There is Hope for SA”, Professor Thuli Madonsela gives us a host of reasons why we should be hopeful. She cites her recent Social Justice Summit in which a broad community of powerful stakeholders ratified her social justice M-Plan and where proverbial lions lay down with lambs: Former President FW de Klerk and Professor Ben Turok agreed on the catastrophic legacy of apartheid; Helen Zille and Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib shared a vision for our country; students from Rhodes and Fort Hare held constitutional dialogue sessions with no hint of the vitriol we see in our politics. We have come so far and yet our South African narrative is so massively skewed towards the negative.
Living with hope
The piece that is missing from Prof Thuli Madonsela’s powerful exhortation, only we can scribe. And the question we must consider is this: How do we wish to live our lives in SA? With hope or without it? Madonsela has clearly decided how she is going to live: Hopeful and actively involved (of course these are two sides of the same coin). But how do we – whilst not ignoring the many deep challenges and often ghastly horrors of day-to-day life in our country – do the same? We know that to live with hope whatever the circumstances is the only way to lead a happy and productive life. Yet amidst the relentless noise of bad (often fake) news and the constant resulting barrage of negativity, it can be so hard to find flickers of hope. To cope, many of us settle for cynicism. It’s a way to survive. But I invite you to consider this:
Taking the high road
There are two roads in this country. You might imagine them as a flyover suspended above a highway. The flyover is used by scores of people each day; good people who are busily making this country work. They are hard-working; they don’t do corruption; they don’t spread lies, fake news or negativity; they have integrity and are passionate about seeing our country succeed. They are school principals, policemen and women, businessfolk, politicians, parents, domestic workers, engineers, NGO workers, advocates, judges, religious leaders, doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, taxi drivers, admin clerks, labourers, entrepreneurs. They ensure that the single story that South Africa is failing, is a false narrative.
Then there are the ones on the low road. The media has much to say about them. Contrary to News24, braai-talk and social media, my lived experience of our country is that this is the quieter road.
Madonsela’s implicit challenge is this: Which road do you and I want to travel on? This is a choice that only we can make, knowing that if we choose to join the high road it will take work and a constant commitment to fanning the flames of hope into being, for a better future for SA.
South Africa wont fail
But it will be worth it, because here’s some exciting news that most serious thinkers locally and abroad know but that gets very little airtime: Africa is rising – it is the next big thing. And South Africa is not going to fail.
Join me on the high road.
This column is proudly sponsored by Partners for Possibility
If you would like to find out more about Partners for Possibility visit www.pfp4sa.org
I have always believed that one must vote.
But an insightful piece by journalist Ranjeni Munusamy before the elections questioned this hitherto unquestionable logic and I must say – as I saw how many voters chose to spoil ballots or simply stay away – I now question it too.
Choosing to withhold or spoil your vote, is also a democratic choice. Whilst it won’t assist in putting a politician into a seat in parliament, it does send a message that you are gatvol and no party deserves your vote. This year 235,449 people spoilt their vote. Well over 9 million people registered to vote but abstained. This is massive. People are clearly tiring of a system that does the same thing every few years, but for them doesn’t produce the promised change . Surely, we are entering a “post-democracy” era?
I have also heard it said that if you don’t vote you have no right to complain. Well, this is absurd. Firstly, everyone has a right to complain if they will. But more importantly, if you aren’t going to vote surely you should do something else to contribute to change? I am not a big fan of complaining but if you can’t vote, get involved in other ways. Write letters to your local press explaining why you chose not to vote. Get hold of your local ward councillor and demand accountability for specific needs within your community. Resolve to tackle racism in yourself and others. Get active in your local community: Start a community dialogue in which you discuss how to help your local school to perform better. Join your community block watch. Fix something that’s broken. Pick up litter. This is all doable regardless of who you are and what your situation is.
I did vote and I was excited to exercise that right. But as
far as political choices were concerned, I was deeply conflicted. Had I been true
to myself I wouldn’t have voted.
The truth is that to vote, withhold or spoil our vote is the end of our role as citizens of a democracy, unless we are prepared to participate for change beyond the ballot box. We can no longer delegate the running of our lives and our country to politicians and bureaucrats. This dance is up, and it didn’t work particularly well in the first place.
We must show up as active citizens every day between
elections and contribute in ways that build our people and our country.
Then we will watch our country rise.
In South Africa we are no stranger to miracles; miracles of course that don’t only happen in buildings with crosses on the wall.
In fact, one definition of the word miracle that I like is: “a remarkable (and yes by all means replace this word with ‘supernatural’) event or development that brings welcome consequences”.
It dawned on me whilst listening to a talk by Max du Preez last week that South Africa has had a number of significant miracles that have taken place in the past 26 years that have either paved or saved our democracy.
There was the miracle of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the unbanning of the ANC in February of 1990. Then there was the miracle of the peace that was experienced in the aftermath of the assassination of Chris Hani on 10 April 1993. What was designed to cause a race war became a rallying call by then ANC President Nelson Mandela: His words were the miracle: “Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us.”
There was the miracle of the appointment of Adv Thuli Madonsela as our Public Protector on the 19th October 2009. It is common cause that her and her team – acting with supernatural integrity and bravery – brought to the public’s attention what is now known as state capture.
All these events went against the run of play – surely the main criterion for calling something a significant miracle. And believe me, there are plenty more happening every day.
But Max du Preez highlighted another and perhaps even more unlikely miracle than any of these. It happened at Nasrec in Johannesburg in October 2017 at the ANC elective conference when Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC President paving his way to the Presidency of the Republic. According to du Preez who was there, there were heavies manning the entrances handing out stacks of R100 notes to ensure the vote went with Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma – Jacob Zuma’s preferred candidate. As we know, it was only the 11th hour switch from then Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza that tipped the scales in Ramaphosa’s favour. If that hadn’t happened Jacob Zuma would still be our president. #shiversdownmyspine.
What of all this talk of miracles?
Quite simply, we have no evidence to support the often-touted view that South Africa will fail. We have only evidence of miracles happening just-in-time. If miracles are what cause our faith to rise, then we should all be full-to-bursting with faith that our country is headed in the right direction.
And finally, all the above miracles involved – in one way or another – the active participation of the citizens of this and other countries.
Angelo Agrizzi has put a new face to the rot of corruption
in South Africa. He is forever stuck in our minds as a corpulent manifestation of
the excesses he so minutely detailed at the Zondo Commission into State Capture.
But BOSASA, the Guptas, Jacob Zuma and any other
high-profile individuals or organisations that emerge from these commissions represent
only a part of the corruption story in South Africa. Over the past few years I
have worked with and/or mentored several SMME’s – businesses that typically turnover
less than R10 million per annum. Each one has told me their own painful stories
of how they have had to play the “tender game” to survive. Whether they are in
waste management, building, consulting, electrical contracting you name it, if
they are supplying government (or indeed the private sector for that matter),
they have a story to tell of corruption.
Corruption is our malignant cancer that doesn’t just exist amongst the big players. It has spread into every province, every city, every municipality, town and village. It is a part of South African’s every day, lived reality. It has infected every sector from construction to music (allegedly, bands have to bribe judges to win a SAMA music award.)
This stuff will never make it to the Zondo Commission and most
of it will never see a courtroom. But it
is killing us. Because corruption is not something we do per se, it has become
a part of who we are – of what makes us South African. If you don’t believe me,
ask a small business owner. Or easier yet, ask your friends and family.
The good news is that at our end of corruption – the “little
people’s” end – there is stuff we can do to put an end to it. You may not like
what I am going to say, but if we all do our bit it will help to save our
country. We will need to be prepared to spend time in jail if we are caught
drinking and driving, because we refuse to pay a bribe. We will need to be
prepared to report anyone who asks us for a bribe. I suggest SAPS plus the
Corruption Watch hotline 0800 023 456. The more detail we can
provide the better. We will need to do the same with our friends and family who
are engaged in corruption.
If we are not prepared to tackle corruption ourselves, then
we can’t say that the likes of Agrizzi, Watson, Gupta, Zuma or anyone else is solely
to blame for the ruin of South Africa at the hands of the corrupt.
We are too.