Opinionista Geoff Davies 30 August 2016

Cry, the Beloved Country, Take 2

Cry, the beloved country. Why are we once again crying? Is it because the same greed and selfishness and injustice is prevailing as in apartheid days, now in pursuit of personal wealth?

Our beloved country is being led to destruction and conflict – all because a small minority of unethical leaders believe financial gain for self is more important than the well-being of all.

If we are to live in peace and harmony in our beloved land, we must uphold values – the values of integrity, honesty, and justice. But dishonesty and untruths prevail – all for our self-seeking greed for wealth and power.

It would seem the targeting of Pravin Gordhan is due to his level-headed approach to our financial stability and sustainability – and unwillingness to sign off on the nuclear deal. President Zuma said he couldn’t interfere where the Hawks are concerned, yet he chose to abolish the Scorpions!

We know President Zuma is committed to nuclear energy, and we hear he will be handsomely rewarded by President Putin when the deal to spend R600-billion – more likely around R1-trillion – goes through with Rosatom.

He is also encouraged – or held hostage – by his son and uranium miners, who will enrich themselves, devastate the environment, and impoverish those who live on the land.

Even Britain is reviewing its Hinkley Point C nuclear power station because of dramatically increasing costs, and it has far inferior renewable energy resources than ours.

A deciding issue is whether Eskom and the government continue to promote the myth that ‘base load’ is only possible with coal or nuclear – and that nuclear is cheaper.

In fact, nuclear generation is by far the most costly, and irresponsible, energy, particularly when we consider the impact on the land and on water resources of uranium mining, the enormous cost of decommissioning each nuclear power station, and the attempts to dispose of nuclear waste – an issue still not resolved.

Do we want to be held hostage, enslaved for the next 60 or 70 years, to an outmoded, dangerous and toxic form of energy, leaving nuclear waste which exists for thousands of years, when dramatic new developments in renewable energy are taking place, and costs are dropping equally dramatically, in some cases by half the price of five years ago?

It appears those in power are not prepared to forego the considerable acquisition of wealth to work for the well-being of the majority of South Africans.

Whether it is nuclear energy, uranium mining, toll roads, selling off oil reserves, the fiasco of both SABC and SAA, or ordering the wrong size diesel engines – Zuma’s government is crippling our country.

Then there is Nazir Alli, head of Sanral, whom we thought was retiring. Has he not done enough damage with the Gauteng e-toll fiasco and its cost to the citizens of the country? He is still committed to the Winelands N2 – opposed by the City of Cape Town – and wants to destroy one of the most beautiful places in South Africa – with the Wild Coast N2.

We know there is lots of money to be made by construction companies, but the Wild Coast N2 toll road will be disastrous, environmentally as well as socially, and is opposed by the local communities. We have been telling Nazir Alli for 12 years that this is a huge mistake, but he is pushing ahead with a project costing over R12-billion, including two of the longest bridges in Africa costing R 4.5-billion. This is all good for Nazir Alli’s ego, but another financial disaster for our citizens, including the local community. On top of this, he and SANRAL continue to tell untruths about the local community’s appetite for it, claiming he has support from local leaders – the very same people appointed by President Zuma to undermine the legitimate leadership.

Already we see massive roadworks from Mthatha towards Port St Johns, built to toll road standards, which require an 80m footprint. The road is set to go through the Pondoland Centre of Endemism – second only to the Cape floral kingdom, with over 200 plants found nowhere else – and threatens the endangered Cape vulture colony on the Msikaba River Gorge.

The Mkambathi Nature Reserve is one of the most spectacular places in South Africa and must be preserved for future generations from the destruction of a toll road.

There are preferable routes which would benefit the local population. Since 2004, we have been asking Nazir Alli to build roads that benefit the local communities. He told me then that if I lifted my opposition to his “greenfields” Wild Coast route, he would build the local roads we were requesting for the benefit of local communities.

A tiny minority is making a great deal of money through large infrastructure programmes – and corruption, of course – whilst the majority of young people receive totally inadequate education.

We don’t need more mega infrastructure projects which enrich only a few. We need to educate our children so they can read and count and help themselves. Their education is of far greater consequence and importance.

By the time most learners in poor schools reach the end of grade three, the chances of them achieving a good matric pass is unlikely. Half our children never reach matric, and many drop out of school at 15 or 16 (studies of learners’ performance in the annual national assessments by Professor Servaas van der Berg of Stellenbosch University). We are sitting with a ticking time bomb.

Professor Jonathan Jansen states our universities cannot maintain their high standard without more finance. We also know that there are hundreds of thousands of young people – the 15- to 34-year-olds – who are not educated and have little or no prospect of employment.

For God’s sake and our country’s sake, educate our youth. Spend R1-trillion on education, not nuclear power or ill-conceived roads, and give us hope for the future.

The ANC recalled President Thabo Mbeki. Surely it is time to recall Zuma before he inflicts further damage? DM

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