Ravi Mackenjee
Ravi Mackenjee

Dear government, you’ve let things slide too far

My previous letter to you seemed to strike a chord with some of my fellow South Africans, hence this letter to you. Once more, I will use a point form approach.

1. We need decisive leadership. That does not mean holding a press conference. Apart from making you out to be perennial underachievers, they bear no weight and nothing really seems to ever get done. This means categorical statements, and more importantly categorical action. Stand up, make things happen and demonstrate to us your ability to govern.

2. Xenophobia is not a catchphrase. Rather it is an excuse for disenfranchised South Africans to lay the blame somewhere. This is racism and murder in action. The Somali shopkeeper or the Malawian mechanic did not steal anybody’s job. They simply saw a gap in the market and took it. No theft, no exploitation. When locals saw this happening, instead of following suit and doing something similar, we blame them for making a living in a way that anyone one of us could — if we bothered to try. We need to stop blaming everyone else for our problems. The violence must be stopped now. The police services were well aware of the rising tensions throughout South Africa. Why then, were the mobilisation plans so slow to take effect? What is the point of deploying 800 police members after the event in Durban? This is not a show of force, instead it is a small measure of attempting to show that we really do care about the plight of foreigners in South Africa. Judging by the comments of the political elite, we don’t really seem to care.

3. Why do we make such concentrated demands of our sports teams, yet barely bat an eyelid at Eskom and Telkom? Eskom is literally the fuel that keeps our country running. It is doing a terrible job of keeping the lights on. We can blame this on innumerable things, but let’s consider the reality. Good businesses are run by good managers. We cannot have politically connected people using these entities as cash cows at our expense. If we can hire a foreign coach for our soccer team, why not hire experts as management from a worldwide pool? And no, talent from the Brics countries will not suffice. Leftist leaning ideologues with governmental connections and agendas will not work in the best interests of keeping our lights on. As for Telkom, why is there another price increase on the cards? And one that is well above inflation too? Both these utilities demonstrate the evils of monopoly. Time for a rethink on that strategy.

4. The war-room at Eskom is pointless. A few people have been removed with no effect. We are back to severe load shedding, which is another means of antagonising South Africans. Minister Lynne Brown, instead of wondering why Eskom pays more for diesel than it needs to, actually do something about it immediately. Cutting out all the middlemen would be helpful. Another example of appalling choices is Ben Ngubane being installed at Eskom. Why? The man left the SABC under a cloud, has no track record to speak of and is suddenly (even though it is temporary) thrust into the hot seat at Eskom.

5. Why do we allow politicians to become experts? Since when do people with a talent for speaking, networking and being connected in all the right circles, replace academic knowledge and work experience? Riah Phiyega and her medals are a case in point. There is no control of the current xenophobic violence — policemen and policewomen with experience in crowd and riot management are required. Press statements are not effective policing. Crime seems to be escalating and the police force seems more vulnerable than ever.

6. Political infighting and factionalism has to stop. There are various political camps at every level of government. Local government is paralysed by differing camps supporting different leaders, preferred tender bidders and vindictive administration. Nothing gets done while politicians are looking out for their own longevity, personal benefit and taking care of friends. We cannot have the speaker of parliament discussing political rivalries at rallies and feeding this very type of conduct. Provincial and national government do not fare very differently to this. In fact, political patronage seems to be a root cause of the virtual collapse of the healthcare system in the Free State. Instead of denials and political protection, we need intervention and decisive leadership. How is it possible that the status of a political appointee is more valuable than the lives of patients or in a broader sense the citizens that they are meant to represent?

7. Trade unions need to take a more temperate approach. This can only be achieved by decisive government intervention. We cannot have the bulk of the labour force involved in political points-scoring and militant action. The country cannot be brought to its knees each time wage negotiations begin. In all honesty, people taking on jobs are aware of the salaries paid, which in most cases has been mandated by government in the first place. So, how is it possible that each year there is outrage at how much people are earning. Yes, wage levels are not high, but the reality is that unemployment levels are shockingly high and we are struggling in a low-growth economy. We are in fact one of the least productive when comparing growth. We cannot continue functioning the way we are. We need strong, determined leaders to support workers while still supporting the economic needs of the country as a whole.

8. Through false promises, attempting to appease political connections and the failure to be resolute in the face of adversity you have let things slide too far. Political appointments need to be made in a meritocracy. This is not for the sake of the old order, the new order or anybody’s agenda. Rather it is for the sake of our country and the resuscitation of the potential and promise that we as a nation possess. Your friends and family are not meant to be the beneficiaries of your decisions and choices, rather we as the people of this country are — irrespective of where we were born, or what (legal) means we chose to earn our living. South Africa does not belong to any race or particular group, instead it belongs to all of us that reside here and you as our elected government need to defend each and every one of us and owe us a debt of care and responsibility to the best of your ability.

A citizen of South Africa

Tags: , ,

  • The war on our women, children and fellow Africans
  • A world without electricity?
  • The resilience of a Somali community in Joburg
  • Beyond Trevor Noah and Mandela’s rainbow: Towards a politics of empathy