WE live in treacherous and perilous times.
Oftentimes, we have this perpetual feeling of being hemmed in.
When it is not the volatility of the rand and the markets and the havoc these wreak on our purchasing power, we have to worry about the level of service delivery especially from local government agencies and entities.
Too often to count, we have to worry about our security of person; and the annual macabre ritual of releasing crime statistics – muddled as they often and expectedly are – doesn’t help matters.
On other occasions we are enthralled and held at trance by the obscene tragicomedy that the so-called governing tripartite alliance dagger and cloak politics has become.
Actually, nothing much seems to go down in terms of governance and policy execution.
Our consciences – for those who can still legitimately lay claim to some – seem to be perpetually held hostage by the manoeuvrings of the avaricious governing elite and their partners in business.
As if all these are not ghastly enough, a government minister responsible for performance monitoring and evaluation, a department housed in the presidency, calls a press conference and admits – straight face and all – that 80 percent of government departments do not comply with service delivery requirements.
Folks, a whopping 80 percent of government departments do not comply with service delivery requirements!
Do we still have a government to write home about?
What are we paying for through our taxes every time our paycheques come through?
At this point, something deep in our psyche seems to give in as well as move.
A combination of a festering consternation and a deep feeling of being gravely let down by those we entrust, with not only our future, but the future of our progeny.
But, come to think of it, we should have seen all these coming.
Nothing reminded me that we should have seen all these coming more than two advertisements that have been carried by the Business Day online platform in recent days.
The genius of these advertisements is the questions they pose and challenge us to think about – or, in the words of the advertisements, if we don’t, we risk losing our country.
That is if we haven’t already lost it to an insidious cabal deeply embedded within the state.
The questions posed in those advertisements are worth pondering and answering.
In line with my promise in my last instalment, an attempt to answer one of these questions could help us figure out how to fix our broken (basic) education system.
In one of the advertisements, a schoolboy sitting in a dilapidated classroom looks straight into the camera and gives the following heart-wrenching soliloquy:
“The national budget for basic education is R17.6-billion. More than 90 percent of schools in South Africa haven’t got functioning libraries.”
With a deeply pained look as he purses his lips, the young man then delivers a line that will forever tag on my conscience, for I still have mine intact.
He asks: “What kind of basic education doesn’t have books?”
Good people, tell me: what kind of basic education doesn’t have books?
All the while we read stories of contractors paid tens if not hundreds of millions of rand – year in, year out – and they don’t deliver something as basic as books to students across this pained land of ours.
How do these people live with themselves?
How do they manage to look into the innocent eyes of their very own children when they are busy denying their children’s age-mates what they legitimately deserve and what has already been paid for by the taxpayers?
In the other advertisement, which begins with a silhouette of a man pushing a wheelbarrow at sunrise before settling onto a desolate chair in a shack, the man says:
“I went to South Africa with nothing, trying for a better life. But then I was arrested and deported, I had no rights. In 2013, 200 wealthy foreigners flew into South African military airbase, with no papers, no customs. They had more rights than you.”
After this, the gentleman delivers another heart-wrenching question.
He asks: “Is money what gives foreigners more rights than South African citizens?”
Another pained look – and seemingly a dream shattered.
Fellow countrymen, I dare repeat this question: “Is money what gives foreigners more rights than South African citizens?”
In a relatively functioning constitutional democracy, these questions shouldn’t arise but the sad reality is that we have to confront these questions – queasiness and all.
Were South Africa a banana republic, we wouldn’t be demanding answers.
But we have a legally constituted government in place.
Effectively, this government must live up to the legitimate mandate of constitutionally constituted governments and give the good citizens of this great country answers to these questions.
Of course, some would want us to believe that both advertisements are instances of warped political marketing genius.
I beg to differ.
As I differ, my simple message to fellow South Africans is that we just can’t stand by as a few people wreck what is one of the most promising emergent democracies on the face of the planet.
What we have is just too precious not to fight for or protect.
Never say I never told you.
- Dr Munene Mwaniki is a senior lecturer/researcher at the University of the Free State. You can follow him on Twitter @munenemwaniki.