Welcome to South Africa, the country where everyone has an opinion and nobody is willing to have his view challenged, influenced or changed. We have developed a “singularity narrative” to suit our beliefs, prejudices and whopped expectations of ourselves or others.
Government is incompetent and corrupt.
Business is exploitative and socially inept.
Leaders are corrupt.
Capitalists are greedy.
BEE is cronyism.
Whites are racist.
You could prefix each of these sentences with the words “ALL” and it would read like the conversations most dominant in the dinner tables of the middle class, 2 glasses of wine later.
The list is endless. So we hold these beliefs (and others) close to our hearts and then spend our lives looking for evidence to support our own beliefs.
What are the facts:
1. The public service is full or highly technical, competent and dedicated people. We lose 1800 policemen and women in the line of duty every year. 1800! These are people who give their lives for a measly R8000 salary. This is passion and service.
2. Some big businesses have invested deeply in enterprise development: we work with an agricultural production and marketing business that over the past 5 years has assisted 72 small scale black farmers bring the products to market. There is a problem there and that why must the farmer being assisted always be the “arm skepsel” black farmer? The answer is because this is part of our singularity narrative. However, in my case study we have brought 72 previously scattered unorganised entrepreneurs into the mainstream of the economy. This is nation building.
3. We speak about incompetence and inefficiency in the public service but we have amongst the most advanced tax collection systems in the world. We have amongst the most advanced Home Affairs IT and systems architecture in the world. These didn’t build themselves. Over the past twenty years, we’ve had a deep cohort of structure, educated and competent leaders working in the public sector to change the very face of this country.
4. We have a fast expanding telephony infrastructure that is seeing the government invest deeply in giving internet access to the most rural of our communities. Apartheid spatial planning was constructed over 100 years and ruthlessly implemented over half a century. To expect that this reality will be changed in two decades is naive if not malicious.
5. Our rail infrastructure is so advanced it dwarfs anything in the rest of the continent.
6. Eskom is building more capacity and in the process creating a class of black industrialists that are technical, competent and driven. You could say the same for PRASA and Transnet. Entrepreneurs like myself wait anxiously for SAA and Denel to join the cause and meaningfully transform their businesses and supply chains.
We cannot deny that our country is challenged but no-one dare argue the strides we have made.
What is required is for us stand up, in our local communities, our boardrooms, our churches and our chisa-nyamas and lead.