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Make South Africa great again – it’s time for a new social contract

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Andy Du Plessis is Managing Director of FoodForward SA, an NPO established in 2009 to address widespread hunger in South Africa. FoodForward SA recovers quality edible surplus food from the consumer goods supply chain and distributes it to community organisations that serve the poor. More than 80% of the surplus recovered is nutritious food.

Yes, the daily news is grim: Crime, gender-based violence, corruption, unemployment, State Capture. But South Africans are resilient, and together we can forge a new social contract and rebuild our country for our children’s sake.

South Africans are truly remarkable and unique. Despite our very brutal past and the legacy we still live with, along with our very different cultures and subcultures that tend to divide us, we also have much in common. We are resilient. We live in hope. We remain positive in spite of the circumstances around us. We understand the value of hard work and we get things done. 

We inspire one another and love to hear about and share stories that lift our spirits.

Yet, according to recent Statistics South Africa and South African Police Services data, in South Africa a car is hijacked every 32 minutes, 58 people are murdered each day and more than 3,600 homes are broken into daily. 

We spend huge amounts of money to secure our homes and businesses. Our sexual offences crime rates are among the highest in the world. South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. In a country with 59.62 million people, 40% are unemployed – taking into account the expanded definition of unemployment. Load shedding aggravates us and corruption is rife in government and the private sector.

All this miserable data paints a bleak picture for our children’s future and is enough to make one depressed and contemplate leaving SA for greener pastures. Despite all this negativity that we constantly hear about, read about, see around us or experience daily, South Africans are strangely optimistic. We joke about things that could lead others to depression. We are tenacious – despite the odds stacked against us. We are naturally altruistic and display care and empathy quite generously. We tend to unite around and get involved in social causes and we love to support charities.

We have deep roots in South Africa and the soil connects us in very strange ways. Yes, thoughts of emigrating are considered, but this is just not an option for most of us. We all, generally speaking, love South Africa and hate the negativity that surrounds us. We constantly envisage a thriving South Africa. We are keen to do what’s necessary to reconstruct this beautiful country of ours so that we can build a future in which we imagine our children feel safe, are growing and, especially, thriving.

For this new birth to materialise, we need a new social contract. 

One where we see social activism (citizens/civil society) and political accountability (Parliament and government) as two sides of the same coin. We need both to work well and do what is necessary to bring about the change we want to see.

We have what it takes to make South Africa great. And this is what frustrates us because we can visualise the amazing possibilities. Yet, daily we hear about the negative things that occur and we see the missed opportunities sliding away that could improve the lives of all our people.

Civic responsibility and social activism are part of our DNA. We must not stop doing good where we have the opportunity to effect change. Even the smallest gesture has the power to transform a person, a family, a community and a nation. 

We have media freedom, an independent judiciary, a strong civil society and more than enough people who are willing to work together towards a common goal – a united and prosperous South Africa. 

We must continue to expose corruption, hold people in power to account, be intolerant of where our government is failing, fight against the inhumane treatment of people, care for those in our communities who are vulnerable and demand ethical leadership in government and business.

The flip side of this coin is political accountability. 

For far too long, President Cyril Ramaphosa has been silent on the corrupt activities of high-ranking ANC members and government officials. Thankfully, we are starting to see some encouraging action against perpetrators. But given that we have 10 years of State Capture to unearth, we have a long way to go to regain some of the past losses. 

We must see constant waves of action by the National Prosecuting Authority, the Special Investigating Unit and the Hawks against corruption. 

Treasury must continue to tighten spending and be diligent and transparent about where the funds are directed, so that we start to see constructive growth and development. We must demand ethical leadership from our politicians and take swift action against those who fall short.

In September 2020, the Wave 2 report published by the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) describes our current state of the nation as one that “resembles a post-civil war country facing a humanitarian crisis”. We have much work ahead of us. But this beautiful country and all its people are worth fighting for.

I am making a renewed call to all of us to work together to create a future where our children can thrive. 

Let’s do this! DM

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All Comments 5

  • Positivity pervades your every thought in this opinion piece Andy. Refreshingly anticipatory of a better future despite the odds. I’m glad that we have compatriots like you. All the best with FoodForward SA. Take care.

  • Right. The first part of “working together” would be if we all vote for the same party. That would, of course, not be a party that stole from the poor, trashed the businesses and employment potential of the rich and lied about the corruption and crime affecting all of us. That party that we should all vote for should have high standards of justice and social fairness. Education and medical services would be of a high standard, for all. Law enforcement would be efficient and honest. So, which party would that be? Sounds like it should be democratic liberal party to me.

  • Totally agree with your analysis and observations. I would just add that we have lost our pride! This country was once great because we had pride and were determined to be as good or even better than the best! We now see lack of pride in all walks of life! Simple example – in most parts of the world, if one is elected to be a mayor or councilor in a town or city this is something to be proud of. There is a determination to make the town or city a desirable place to live in and to attract businesses to ensure prosperity for all! This determination to “be better” applies to everything in successful societies.
    In this country, we have forsaken this pride, our pride nowadays is showing off possessions we have acquired through theft and corruption! Our towns and cities are now described as being “in a state of decay”! International film crews come to SA to film scenes in seedy, decaying city locations – something to be proud about?

    Another example is Bafana Bafana – have you noticed the distinct lack of pride and passion shown by the team during the National Anthem? Watching them makes one feel the team are wishing to be anywhere else but on the field – any wonder that they lose most matches they “play”? They are defeated before even the start whistle is blown!
    NO PRIDE!!! the new motto of South Africa!!

  • Wishful thinking? Democracy around the world is under pressure for the same reason as we see here: ruling parties work for themselves, not for the people. What we need is a new style of democracy. The old form of winner takes all and rules needs to be kicked out. We need all parties in parliament to participate – not to oppose. They should enforce transparency and laws. For this to work we need some changes in the Constitution.Then all South Africans can participate is building the nation. Currently the politics is driving us apart.