South Africa is running on auto pilot and going nowhere with no national project and no vision for the future. Today the leaders of South Africa are confused, and students jump from one issue to another. Labor unions run amok and render education and mines unworkable. Young people loiter aimlessly causing mischief. Leaders create friction between the population in an attempt to mask the failings of bad governance. All too often analysts and commentators are nothing more than cheerleaders and agent provocateurs. Is South Africa replacing quality with quantity?
Without strong moral leadership, mediocrity is setting in, masquerading as radicalism. Personality cults, mere talking heads are taking center stage, compelling South Africans to comply with the current leadership or remain silent. The sporadic bouts of unrest, including political party stampedes are trying to fill the vacuum. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) chanting slogans has become commonplace with nothing new to offer the people. Other political parties have not much more to offer, and moral values are no longer important.
South Africa has a severe socioeconomic situation, and contrary to analysts there is no racial tension. The black people, the population segment, are mostly disadvantaged and are not preparing to attack minority groups. The picture painted about frustrated, angry and bitter black people regarding the failed Mandela legacy of reconciliation is false. Despite the massive unemployment, shameful poverty and class inequality, poor blacks are not about to attack other races.
The anti-Afrikaans language debacle at Stellenbosch University, affirmative action, and decolonization issues at other universities are not revolutionary; they are events and debates. These discussions are not representative of black nationalism, and the number of people involved in these issues is probably less than Christian groups on campuses.
The service delivery protests are civic actions that are localized and part of the democratic culture. Despite the high level of violent crime, it is not political and most victims are black people. Sports, entertainment, and public spaces are fully integrated. There is a leadership crisis, and that is the real concern of the day in South Africa. The legitimate economic class actions are racialized and exploited by the political elite as a mechanism to consolidate power.
Politicians are parasites with the sole reason to accumulate power and keep the masses powerless. Political parties operate under competition incorporating social movements for gain. Whatever is happening in South Africa today is not unique, and ultimately the only logical outcome is freedom from the political elite.
The state of governance in several provinces fills people with despair. It is all about the egos of a few and leadership disputes. There is a fear to organize around civic interest based on the local politicians perceiving spontaneity as a threat to popularity. Sabotage of public gatherings is nothing new.
Where is the vision, a rallying point to move forward as the custom of the past decades indicated? During the apartheid, there was a divided unity and a vision of what South Africa should become. Political parties purged ahead to make the country ungovernable, and the minority tried to protect the whites from communism. During the nineties, whites were united while blacks rallied around nationalism, a decade of hope, change and reconciliation. Between 2000 and 2010, South Africa experienced a decade of public service transformation and Black Economic Empowerment, change, and uplifting. Now in the 21 years of democracy the vision has disappeared, the country is on autopilot, heading into a disaster.
Until the government gets the education system on track and eradicates illiteracy, the country will not move forward. Education will add value, and that could turn the redundant vision into one of empowerment and hope. Education will ignite potential to get young people working and encourage entrepreneurs. The decolonization events will no longer be a prominent feature for politicians to hijack. For now, South Africa is like a wildfire, burning until nothing is left.
Opinion by Laura Oneale
Polity.org – The Reasons Behind Service Delivery Protests in South Africa
SABC – Vavi accuses Nedlac and govt of protecting corruption
Featured Photo Courtesy of Paul Saad’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License