South Africa has been in steep decline ever since Jacob Zuma became president. Things would be radically worse if Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had replaced him rather than Cyril Ramaphosa, but as we all know, Ramaphosa has not been able to stop the decline.
Eskom, Transnet, SAA, the Post Office and more have collapsed, many of our cities are decaying and we all, rich and poor, live in constant fear of crime. With the masses of youth unemployed, the future seems bleak.
But we are a deeply patriotic people and there is, amid the despair, much that we should celebrate about our beautiful country. At the moment the good story that millions of us are hanging on to is the extraordinary success of our rugby team.
That we have been able to build and sustain a world-class team gives us tremendous pride. That it includes leading members from across the old divisions of race and class shows that we can build a new future. To put it bluntly, while the ANC destroys our hopes, the Springboks show what we are capable of as a nation.
After all, just imagine where we would be if Eskom was run at the same world-class level as the Springboks. Imagine if we approached the crises of crime and poverty with the same seriousness as we do our national rugby team.
The Springboks show us that we can be world-class, that we can make South Africa work, and make it work very, very well. This gives us all hope.
The question, of course, is how we replicate the success of the Springboks in other aspects of our society. There are no easy answers in light of the sad fact that we do not have a single party in Parliament that inspires any hope, and that our misguided proportional representation system is allowing the worst kinds of opportunists to hold the balance of power in coalitions.
It is essential that we fix this. But, in the meantime, there is much we can do as a society. We can, as a first priority, simply refuse to accept incompetence and mediocrity.
Capacity to be world-beaters
Why should rubbish pile up in downtown Durban or residents of Johannesburg go without water when, as a country, we have a clearly demonstrated capacity to be world-beaters?
We all know that nobody gets into the Springbok setup as a player, coach or physiotherapist, or in any other role, without being brilliant at what they do.
It should be the same with Eskom, refuse collection, teaching, hospital administration and all aspects of our society. The Springboks have shown us what excellence looks like and we must demand it everywhere.
This does not only mean demanding it from the government. We should also demand it from ourselves, from our neighbourhood organisations and professional associations and in all aspects of our lives.
Of course we should demand excellence in other sports, and have zero tolerance for incompetent, self-interested and corrupt administrators.
If we accept mediocrity, incompetence and outright mendacity, our society, its institutions and its cities will continue to crumble. We may not have a credible party to vote for in the coming election, but we can and must bet on ourselves and demand the best from ourselves and from others.
We have the skills and the economic infrastructure to make South Africa a dynamic country with expanding circles of hope and possibility. We can unleash the potential of the millions of young people who are currently consigned to a life of hopelessness and unemployment.
We need people of the calibre of Rassie Erasmus, Siya Kolisi, Manie Libbok and all the others who make us so proud as a nation in Eskom, Transnet and all the rest of our failing institutions.
If we can find world-class rugby players, coaches and support staff, there is no reason we can’t find world-class people to stop the decline of our society. All that is required is sufficient commitment.
The passion that we all feel for the Springboks has its roots in the fact that we love our country and are deeply patriotic.
We need to bring that same love of country and patriotism to dealing with our serious problems. DM
Dr Imraan Buccus is senior research associate at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.