By Gerry Weber
Our country is in crisis. In July this year, the nation teetered on the edge of the abyss, our government was conspicuous by its absence. South Africans were forced to band together to protect themselves and their livelihood. As a concerned South African, I want to do whatever I can to stop the prospect of that ever happening again and with that seeing the promise of the Rainbow Nation squandered into the reality of another failed African state.
I’m not alone. There are many others like me across the divides of class, colour and creed. Together we have to work together to find solutions that can work and heal our nation and help it fulfil its potential, not for us, but for the generations that come afterwards.
We need another Codesa, another imbizo, to reset this great country of ours. We need to unite in our diversity, we need to channel the talents that we have, to lend a helping hand, to fix that which has been broken and to rebuild. But how do we begin?
I think we have to recreate an economy that is more inclusive, one where people are rewarded for the risks they take and the benefit they bring to both the community and the environment. We can’t afford the current system where the shareholder benefits more than the employees and is never held accountable for the environmental harm the company might cause. Capitalism doesn’t work, but communism is an ideology that has failed and will continue to fail. We have to rid ourselves of the millennial obsession that everyone is a winner just for showing up.
Success takes hard work. We need to stop saying “if you can imagine it, you can do it”. There is no substitute for application and study. Not everyone can be a rocket scientist, but equally no one with the ability should ever be denied access to a place of learning to achieve that, simply because of their background. We need to start celebrating excellence and championing winners, not normalising mediocrity. We must ensure everyone has the same opportunity but stop deluding ourselves that everyone will have the same outcome.
We need to reduce inequality, to bridge the divide between the haves and the have-nots but not by pretending we all have exactly the same intellectual and technical ability or even the drive and determination. As internationally acclaimed author Jim Collins writes in his book Good to Great: “Get the correct people on the bus and, just as important, into the right seat. We do not all have the capability to be the chief executive officer.”
We need to reshape our politics away from patronage and pillaging to service and leadership. We need statesmen. But at the same time, we need to stop burning and destroying what we have. Did we hit rock bottom during the July riots or will these be our new normal? How do we build by destroying? How do we create jobs by breaking the companies that could employ people? Can we create consequences for those who break the law, with even worse sanctions for those who incite them?
Let’s bring about accountability in our politicians. We pay their salaries, let them be accountable to us, not their political parties. Let’s ensure the process is transparent, let’s ensure service delivery that is not tainted by either corruption or incompetence – or both.
It’s time to change the narrative from “I have rights” to “I have a responsibility to myself, my family, my community and my country at large” – when we do that, we can prosper. But if we always believe we are entitled, we are sowing the seeds for failure.
Our failures may have their roots in apartheid, but we cannot shake the legacy of state capture, corruption and cadre deployment. Finding solutions for the future means being brutally honest about our past – so that we never allow the conditions for any of this evil to flourish again.
Maybe we need to start small and focus on community values, working across colour and class lines for mutually beneficial outcomes as has happened in Koster in the North West. The community got clean water when community leaders stepped in. When the politicians took over, it failed. We need to learn that lesson. Schools, hospitals, emergency services, even police officers – surely, they should be accountable to us, not bureaucrats?
If we really want to address inequality in South Africa, let’s start with our children. We’ve lost two generations already because of greed, corruption, and entitlement. Let’s improve academic standards. Let our leaders be formed in these schools where robust debate and problem solving become a norm, rather than mindless political correctness. Let’s fix vocational colleges and celebrate the crafts and the trades. Not everyone must be a manager in a corporate environment. We need small and medium entrepreneurs.
We, the ordinary citizens of South Africa, are the solution to our economic failures and social milieus. Let’s work together to find the right solution to heal and restore South Africa. I know we can.
TO be part of this process, write to [email protected]
*Weber is the founder of Green Bio and a businessman with a background in immunology.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.