South Africa remains a divided nation despite living under a Constitution that enjoins us to heal the divisions of our ugly past and embrace a shared value system that affirms human dignity and equality for all.
We have failed to create an ecosystem where everyone’s talents are nurtured and expressed in contributions that would have made us a great society.
We need a complete overhaul of our socioeconomic system, which is a legacy of apartheid. It is a system that should have been overhauled in 1994, along with its apartheid political foundations, but was retained as a compromise — at great cost to our country.
Inequality, crime and insecurity, dysfunctional public services and unaccountable public servants and representatives are the bitter fruits of this iniquitous system.
State Capture represents the bankruptcy of a political leadership that has betrayed the value system of Ubuntu, which requires each of us to treat others as we would want to be treated and to understand that to be human is to be interconnected.
I am because you are.
I cannot steal from the public purse because that is stealing from myself and my fellow humans.
We have to reimagine and rebuild our society into one embedded in the dreams of millions of citizens who continue to draw sustenance from Ubuntu as the lodestar of a better tomorrow.
We have to recapture the essence of what matters in life — our relationships embodied in the ancient wisdom of Ubuntu.
Reimagining our socioeconomic system within an Ubuntu-values framework would open up boundless possibilities of a vibrant sustainable system that offers wellbeing for all.
Let us reimagine our energy system, education and training system, our public healthcare system, human settlements in both urban and rural areas, our towns and cities, all coming alive to signal a society that is interconnected and interdependent, working together to create a vibrant country!
All this would take is for “we, the people” to come together as we did in our struggle against apartheid, to demand and mobilise for a governance system that serves us — not just a select few.
Good governance is not possible without citizens demanding and sustaining it.
The shifts in the 2021 local government elections towards independent candidates are indicators of voters’ desire for change. This desire should be nurtured and turned into a tide that turns around the ship of state in 2024.
The relentless electricity load shedding we are experiencing is the culmination of disabling mismanagement and massive looting of Eskom by successive ANC governments.
This has to be stopped by “we, the people”.
Poverty in a resource-rich country
We have huge endowments of resources for the production of renewable energy: abundant sunny days, wind and biomass to become self-sufficient and export energy.
But we have a government that cares more about staying in power by appeasing short-term interests in the coal industry, than ensuring adequate secure energy for all citizens.
Imagine the impact of multiple rural solar plants that would electrify villages, farms, and small towns! Imagine the improvements in the quality of life of all citizens of our country!
We have the skills base to pull ourselves out of the current unsustainable energy system and into a winning, low-carbon one. What is missing is leadership.
Civil society must hold the line to prevent our country being pushed further into indebtedness by Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s Karpowership preference — despite identified environmental risks — over local renewable and low-carbon solutions.
Young people are ready to provide the appropriate leadership for the 21st century, at all levels.
Mining regions of our country, such as in North West and Mpumalanga, offer another avenue for integrated bottom-up development to transform the many ghost towns into productive nodes.
Innovative transitions of land use, from extractive mining to regenerative agribusinesses, would enhance our sustainable food systems.
There are also opportunities to grow non-edible produce such as flowers on contaminated land unfit for food production.
Mine waste, properly treated to neutralise toxic elements and rehabilitate the land, could be a significant resource for road-building and other infrastructure needs.
Mining companies have an opportunity to make good their rehabilitation commitments and become leaders in transformative practices to restore the land that has given them so much wealth.
Healing the land would also heal the people who were dispossessed.
Our education system — that is only graduating 22% of each age cohort — is ripe for a major turnaround.
Parents and civil society groups have the power to insist on the adoption of known models of successful education, even in resource-scarce settings. For example, LEAP Science and Maths Schools operate in the poorest areas, yet produce superior results with an 85% graduation rate, of whom 97% qualify for higher education.
What stops us from adapting this model nationally to give every child a chance to become the best they were created to become?
The distinguishing factor in the performance of successful education institutions is the attention paid to enabling self-liberating learning and teaching process of the life orientation curriculum every day of the learning week.
Every LEAP graduate is also a leader with personal mastery and unlimited dreams. Teenage pregnancies and drug and alcohol abuse are extremely rare in these schools.
Many other successful models are there for the taking, to replace the apartheid education that does not bolster the self-image of our children. Models that promote mother tongue education and teach history, enabling our children to embrace the rich heritage of Africa as the cradle of humanity and the first human civilisation.
Civil society-driven programmes
We, the citizens, can and must demand that the private sector working with local and willing provincial levels of government, utilise the wasted or under-utilised billions in the Sectoral Training Authorities and in the Presidential Jobs Programme, by redirecting them to successful civil society-driven programmes.
For example, the eXolobeni community in the Wild Coast region of the Eastern Cape is training young people in leadership of self (who am I in an Ubuntu culture?), of their communities, as well as in organic farming, drawing on ancient wisdom and in harmony with nature.
There are many examples of agribusinesses at the small and medium levels in other rural areas that are becoming successful commercial enterprises, working together to create sustainable food supply chains.
Our public healthcare system is on life support.
The good news is that we have many skilled and dedicated professionals who remain determined — despite failures of public service leadership — to make the system work for all citizens.
It would take no more than committed courageous leadership at the provincial level — working with dedicated health professionals — to reimagine and transform our healthcare system to become an enabler of wellbeing for all.
The Western Cape has consistently supported health professionals within both the academic and general sectors, to ensure good quality health for all, as well as training of some of the best professionals in the country. We can and must restore our public health system to promote wellbeing for all.
Finally, the dysfunctional state of our national infrastructure system is an opportunity to reimagine and design a more inclusive system.
Our roads, rail, water and sanitation systems are in a terrible state due to neglect of investment and maintenance over the last 28 years of ANC governments.
Imagine the number of jobs we could create by tackling the backlogs in infrastructure investment and maintenance!
Healthy ecosystems to reduce and tackle the impacts of climate change are a huge opportunity for investments in innovative solutions that create sustainable jobs and livelihoods.
Cities that have invested in public transport infrastructure — such as Basel, in Switzerland — are reaping the benefits of fewer private cars, speed and safety of travel, and cleaner environments. We have an opportunity to reimagine our public transport systems to provide dignified safe travel for all citizens.
Rural areas have been completely neglected with respect to provision of public services and sustainable livelihoods.
Innovative public transport is essential to restore the dignity and self-confidence of people to build on their many innovative initiatives in human settlements and sustainable livelihoods to become thriving communities.
What is needed is a caring government with professional public servants who are self-liberated from the trappings of being defined by having material goods, rather than being proud of who they are as people.
Our country deserves better.
We can still turn it around and make this the great country of our dreams. This turnaround requires all hands on deck! We have done it before. We can do it again. DM/MC