The hotline to the presidency was launched yesterday. The toll-free number is manned by 43 officials (yes, that is about 1 person for a million South Africans) who will then be responsible for seeing that the complaints raised are addressed, or at least that the respondents are held up to date on how their issue is being dealt with. I can almost hear the Disney music as we turn the page to a new chapter in the South African story.

It seems very tempting … doesn’t it? The idea that you could call on up and have your say, and that something will be done about it. Those potholes in the road, the electricity shortages, the high prices, the lack of jobs, the lack of adequate health care … and now you don’ t have to bore your friends with your endless complaints about the lack of water supply to your house, shack or mansion. You can complain to our president, or at least to the presidency.

What would the response be if I called up and asked why we’ve decided not to make a commitment to trying to save our climate? “Thank you for calling, we will see if you problem can be dealt with before the hole in the ozone sucks you up.”

What would the response be if I phoned to complain about the startling levels of sexual violence? “Thank you for calling. We will deal with your issue shortly. But remember, do not wear a short skirt or play with traditional values.”

What would the response be if I phoned and asked why out of the past 6 meetings in Parliament that I’ve been to, have there always been less than 50% of committee MPs present? “Thank you for calling. Unfortunately none of our national MPs can come to the phone right now. Please try again later. Or contact them on their larney car phone if you can get through.”

And poor Brandon Huntley if he ever tries to call. “Thank you for calling. For a one-way ticket to Canada, please visit your nearest SAA office. Don’t forget to take the mandatory kilogram of cocaine, and share it with the flight staff. Please never call back because we are actually unwilling to help you either way.”

Pardon me if I’m a bit cynical but I’m not sure how these 43 people are going to make a difference. People already know what the issues are, they are reported daily on the news and in the media. Everyone knows that service delivery is poor. I feel like there is someone holding up a swinging pendulum and hoping that the masses will be hypnotised at the prospect of getting through to the hotline, rather than attending local and municipal meetings to encourage their leaders to actually enact change. It’s just another sedative to social change led from the ground up, and an attempt by the government to con us into thinking that they are going to make a difference.

Not that I’m complaining …


Jen Thorpe

Jen Thorpe

Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing...

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