South Africa is a great place, in natural and physical terms. It is a land endowed with riches of all kinds. The resources include rich deposits of valuable metals, precious stones, coal, gas and vast stretches of land, rivers, forests and adequate rainfall. The sea around the edge is rich with fish and provides a highway on which to move produce all over the world. A healthy and energetic human population is also viewed as a resource when assessing a countries worth and future.
The population fills two roles in an assessment of this nature. In one role, the people are “planners, users, developers, possessors and exploiters”. In the other role, they are part of “resources”. This duality is a bit strange-seeming, but that’s one of the interesting things about human beings. Anyway, the people are able to use and work with the land, rivers, mineral ores, as well as using their fellow man. The people are in a position to teach each-other skills, educate each-other, look after one-another’s well-fair, or to exploit and abuse each-other in various ways. People may dig up the ground for gold or to plant crops, or they may employ other people to do these things. The atmosphere and prosperity in the country, as well as the future thereof, is in the hands of the people. “Present” and “future” are in the hands of the people !
So how is South Africa getting along? How diligently are the people working on the resources? Are the people teaching each-other? Are they empowering each other? Are the people making good use of the non-human resources? Is the iron ore, the coal and the platinum being economically mined, and are those resources being worked upon to produce goods of greater value than the plain raw material? Are the people-in-charge, the leaders, managers, governors etc, doing a good job in using the skills of the general citizenry? Is the general population holding the leaders, managers and governors to account for the way things are run in the country? Are those elected to govern the country doing so for the benefit of the nation as a whole? Is the leadership and legislators’ time being used to improve the relationships between citizens, and to improve well-being and security for all? In short, has South Africa made good use of what it received from history and from nature?
Why do I ask these questions about the state of the South African nation? Well, it is because these days one reads, hears and sees many interesting things, some good, some not so good and some very disturbing.
Here at the very South of Africa we find evidence of the earliest spiritually and anatomically Modern Man, the folk who clung to life when, across the world, some calamity, possibly super-volcano-induced ice age, rendered man-kind almost extinct. Here the artistic, intelligent, big-brained Mankind developed on the rich seashore foodstuffs, and the resources of game and fynbos plants. As the conditions eased, these forefathers spread across the world, using the resources as they developed tools and skills. Over the last 70-100 thousand years, Mankind learned to understand the worlds resources, and to organise society to exploit them, to up-skill himself, to improve the life and well-being of the groups and nations. Here in the South of Africa we had a flying start, an early start, great resources, brainy people. What have we achieved with what we were given?
Looking back from this year 2015, we find ourselves in a land still rich in resources, but with a troubled history over the last 300-400 years, years in which colonists from elsewhere took control for their own benefit. They mined the earth for diamonds, iron,copper and coal.They farmed the lands, introducing different herd-able animals and exotic fruits and vegetables. They built societies, industries and organisations according to their own backgrounds. They used and abused the “native” population . Much exploitation, and heavy-handed treatment of the local population was the hall-mark of this country. But things change, and by 25 years ago, that old minority colonialist regime was driven to hand over the governance of the country to the majority population.
So how have things moved on from 25 years ago? Firstly, by the power of negotiation and common sense, a new State was conceived, with great legal and constitutional minds hammering out a famous Constitution. Every eligible adult person received the right to vote for representation of their choice. A Bill of Rights covering education, justice, health, movement, property and more was created. In order to rectify disadvantageous situations, laws and regulations promoting the empowerment and advancement of affected persons and classes of persons were developed. The Proportional Representation system was selected for the national parliament, with mixtures of ward-based constituency representation and proportional representation at lower tiers of government. All this suggests that the country should have moved on-wards and upwards since we attained democracy.
What we have seen is that the Proportional Representation system has become a tool to enforce loyalty and obedience to the Party, with little or no accountability to the voter. We have seen the Executive branch of government, and particularly the President, deploying loyal party members into positions of influence in various State departments. Other official positions at many levels have been given to friends and family of those in the upper ranks of Government or of the Party. We have seen the police become a brutal force who shoot people far too easily, and in whose ranks hundreds of people with criminal records are employed. We see the consequences of the lack of technical and managerial ability among those deployed to occupy the top offices of the national broadcaster, the national airline, road and rail agencies and the national electricity provider.
The results of lack of accountability has resulted in self-enrichment by connected persons, and failure to serve the people with adequate water, electricity, health, education, employment, housing etc, and has given rise to violent protests. Violence has become a way-of-life in wage negotiations, in competition for members in labour union tussles. This same lack of accountability, combined with factional loyalties has given rise to disruption in State Security, in the National Prosecution Authority, in the Police.
These things have tainted the image of the nation. They have resulted in disruption and failure of the energy supply, in volatile and violent industrial disputes, in exploitative business ownership habits. The economy is not healthy, investors are putting their money elsewhere, unemployment is staring the youth in the face and crime is spreading.
Is this the better situation that was suppose to come out of the change of regime from minority Nationalist government to majority ANC government? Is the voting citizen content with the direction things are moving? Does the voting citizen see that the country can be better served by a change of government? Is that voter going to do anything about improving things down in the South of Africa? After all, we did have a head start in terms of Man’s history and in the gifts of resources.