Mandela Rhodes Scholars
Mandela Rhodes Scholars

South Africans, here is an Inconvenient Truth

Submitted by Judy Sikuza

“Woe to me who is South African! All the problems that I see and experience in my country must be sorted out. Somebody should be doing something about the crime and the violence and the poor education system? Shame, those poor people in the squatter camps. This is really unacceptable! Well, if only the government would……!”

In almost every conversation that people have regarding the condition of our country, a ubiquitous tune emerges: “If only the government would….” I must admit that I used to be part of that choir; if I was not the lead soprano, I definitely must have been the conductor. I guess it is easy to fall into the mindset of expecting government to wholly deal with the country’s socio-economic imbalances. My reasoning was this: “It is valid to expect government to fix all the problems in our country because they were elected by the majority to do exactly that.” However, what I see everyday is that this majority still lives in poverty, receiving poor health services, rudimentary educational instruction and are basically left in destitute.

Yes, government is doing something and I am sure that there are many statistics that can be aired to validate that. But ultimately, when one juxtaposes government intervention and the current socio-economic condition in our country, the outcome is not a picturesque. As much as my old “government bashing self” is aching to be resurrected, I shall resist the temptation. The purpose of this article is to ask a simple question: “What are you doing for your country?”

I have seen that many people want things to change for the better but either sit around complaining or expect someone else to fix the problem. How can we expect things to get better in this country when you as an engineer decide to emigrate to Australia while you know that South Africa is in desperate need of your scarce skills? How can we expect things to get better when you as a sports lover see that the children in your community play soccer on the streets with a patched-up ball and without any boots, yet you do not take any action to rectify the situation? How can we expect things to get better when you as a successful business person choose to squander your riches while you see that there are disadvantaged people with no food, blankets or books for school? Moreover, you sit in your Camps Bay home drinking some wine conversing about how sad it is that this is happening to people, yet you forget that you are where you are today because someone believed in you and invested in you. However, you choose not to do the same for those who are now in the position you were in back in the day when your life was saturnine!

I believe that crime, HIV/Aids, poverty, poor education facilities and all our other shortcomings can be alleviated in our lifetime. However, people get impatient or scared and they complain or emigrate for “greener” pastures. Do not get me wrong, I have no objections to people going overseas to further their studies or to gain work experience in a new environment, but my hope is that these people would return to South Africa and plough back their knowledge and expertise.

A few Sundays ago, I heard a powerful sermon that inspired me to continue in my endeavours of trying to make a difference in the best way that I could. The message that I extracted was that it was not a mistake that you were born in this country or that you find yourself living in South Africa at such a time as this. Furthermore, you have everything that you need to be able to make an impact, no matter the magnitude of that impact. Therefore, it does not do anyone any good for you to sit around and complain or to run away to another country. And if you do choose either of the above, then you are saying that all those people who fought and even lost their lives so that you could be free, employed their efforts in vain.

There are too many people to name who have fought for this country, but one thing that I can presume they wanted to see was a South Africa where everyone is equal and where people’s basic needs are catered for. As we all know, this is currently not the case in our country. If you call yourself a South African and you want to see “a better South Africa for all”, then ask yourself this: “What am I doing to contribute to ensuring that the vision of a better South Africa for all is achieved?”

How about assessing what you would like to see improved in our country and then actually getting yourself involved in a project or process that speaks to that. Indian philosopher Mahatma Gandhi could not have said it better when he said: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” The inconvenient truth that I allude to is this: Colossal changes in our country will probably only transpire when every single resident takes ownership and employs their efforts in ensuring that the imbalances are brought to equilibrium. However, people need to realise that it will not be easy, but should remain cognizant that nothing worthwhile was ever easy to achieve. History has proved that time and time again, so why should things be different now?

Imagine if everyone would react positively and proactively to the problems that bothered them about our country? Every village, town and city in this country would be turned upside down with schools being built, shelters being built, loads of trucks delivering food and school books, sports shops donating equipment and kit and the list of amazing things that could happen is endless. This could all be possible merely because you decided to do your small bit to try and make a difference. The success to this mechanism as a medium of change depends on the full participation of everyone who is able, willing and determined to see a better South Africa for all. A better South Africa for all also includes people who are not South African by birth, but who reside in this country and consider it their home.

I am not championing you to quit your jobs and become social workers or to start a community project. I am merely beseeching that we move away from our comfort zones and take active steps in bridging the gap between the upper class and the lower class. If we sit back and do nothing, and merely write about how this intervention strategy could work best or how that policy would be relevant; then we must not be shocked when crime continues in our country.

Yes, debating and writing about the issues in our country has its place, but we need to become people of action and not just expect other people to fix the problems we face. My hope is that we all discover our roles in this collective body called South Africa and if you have, may you fulfill it to the best of your abilities. A better South Africa for all is possible, but it begins with you…….

Judy Sikuza is in pursuit of her Masters degree in Organizational Psychology. She is a fervent follower of God. She finds delight and value in learning from those who are different from her. Besides dreaming of becoming a rock star, her pursuit to effect change lies in her five seemingly dichotomous passions: business, sport, drama, politics and education (training and development). However, she has realised that the specificity of the medium is not important since there is a common vision behind all her passions. This vision is to emancipate and empower the people of Africa to reach their full potential