Wearing our brains on our sleeve.
20 February 2017 19:49 (South Africa)
Opinionista Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar

Time: It steals and it squanders. Just like Zuma.

  • Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar
    Andrew-Gasnolar.jpg
    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar

    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.

We will need to do a great deal more to improve on the track record of these past 10 years in the shadow of Jacob Zuma.

At least 10 years have been lost under the leadership of Jacob Zuma. This is a critical time that could have been utilised to confront South Africa’s deepening divide of inequality, poverty and unemployment. We could have used the time to do more than simply talk about the underlying need to confront the structural (and historical) challenges that perpetuate and entrench inequality. We could have done something meaningful to address the systemic challenges.

Time that could have been put on the table to confront our educational, housing, spatial planning, employment and social challenges.

Time that could have confronted the underlying reasons that allowed the Marikana massacre to unfold.

Time that could have been utilised in service of the people of this country, but instead it was squandered.

The responsibility for the inaction, failure of leadership and inability to confront the real issues does not simply reside with Mr Zuma, as he was empowered, enabled and allowed to push his own agenda at the expense of South Africa. We will need to do a great deal more to improve on the track record of these past 10 years.

Instead we have been dragged into a period of scandal, obfuscation and doublespeak. We have been forced to witness the unravelling of state institutions, including PetroSA, the SABC and SAA, as well as the use of state resources to play the short-sighted party-political game that seeks to entrench particular positions or to protect individuals at the expense, often, of our collective futures.

We have lost all of this time because of our inaction and the inability of our institutions to hold the disruptor-in-chief, and his slate, accountable. We have failed to utilise our own power to confront the inability of our country to meaningfully address the critical issues that don’t just cripple young South Africans but entrench an inter-generational cycle of abuse.

Our inability to put real solutions on the table is untenable and will be our country’s undoing. Mr Zuma offers the perfect excuse for all our problems as he reflects the destruction. However, if we look closer we will realise that Mr Zuma is not an anomaly but rather he, and those aligned to him (past and present), reflect something far more entrenched and possibly rooted in the system that perpetuates abuse.

After the lost years, it will be easy to rely on rhetoric, but the last 10 years have highlighted the dangers of relying on disruption as the only mechanism to effect social change. South Africa has lost far too much to simply be enticed by those claiming that they are pushing a radical agenda of transformation. South Africa needs to start confronting and tackling the critical issues instead of trying to reduce our problems and solutions to sound bites wrapped up in political banners and ideological rhetoric.

The State of the Nation should be an opportunity to outline workable solutions to the country’s issues but, more important, to provide leadership that is in service of the country. Instead we are weighed down by the inability of our leaders to confront the challenges and – even worse – their inability to articulate an alternative vision. The focus in our country is centred far too much on the personalities of our leaders. This focus creates a divide between what we need and want and the ability of our elected officials to deliver on that promise. We have not yet mastered the ability to hold them accountable and so instead we act with shock and surprise when they fail us.

Inequality, poverty and unemployment will not simply be solved by the removal of Mr Zuma. It will not magically be resolved when the governing party accepts a new suite of policies or we find the answer to increasing our paltry 0.5% growth rate. We need to be far bolder. We require some radical thinking that harnesses the social compact of our society in order to drive the change that can truly address the inability of our education system to provide real opportunities for South Africans to strive for better lives. We need a radical approach in how we implement those solutions that are rooted in collective interest and a long-term view of what is possible instead of the narrow and short-term interest of a small elite.

The lost years of Jacob Zuma have served the interests of the status quo with the emergence of elite groupings such as the Gupta family. Our government has failed to confront the challenges that have entrapped far too many South Africans. The only way to truly achieve radical economic transformation in our lifetime is for our government to confront the structural challenges in our economy, the failing education system and the perpetuation of inequality that plays out in the apartheid spatial planning that continues to entrap millions of South Africans in this vicious cycle.

The solutions are on the table. The thinking on many of these issues has already commenced and the key requirement is that we now need responsive and ethical leadership that is able to harness and galvanise the social compact across business, civil society and government to drive the radical implementation of the solutions that have been gathering dust in these lost years. There will be a time when we talk about the Zuma years in the past tense. If we are ever going to prepare for that time then we had better start working on fixing the fractured state of our nation. DM

  • Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar
    Andrew-Gasnolar.jpg
    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar

    Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.

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