Monday, 14 May 2001

Has Opportunity Stopped Knocking for South Africans?

Just over 20 years ago, the world rejoiced with South Africa as a new era of freedom and opportunity for all, was ushered in. Today, that same world is distancing itself from a country, perceived as the example of misguided energy, ambition, and resources, which include its people. This is emphasized by the notorious despotic Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, "friend" of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its leader Jacob Zuma, stating in effect, that South Africa must change its ways!

From the onset of the new-found freedom, South Africa became a country of great expectations. The leader of change, Nelson Mandela, was not only a motivation and inspiration, but a wise and realistic man who was fully aware of the challenges that lay ahead of the country, especially regarding the fair apportioning of wealth and development for its people.

He also realized that it was a time of opportunity for every person in this wounded and traumatized country. The world and its leaders was looking and focusing on the events taking place in this former pariah state, willing and eager to invest and reap the advantages and benefits of association with it. Mandela and South Africa became synonymous with what could be achieved by people of all races and status, no matter their personal environment and education; it was a turning point for the continent of Africa; the land of opportunity and good fortune for all!

The hidden menace

The words "politics", "political" and "politician" have become representative of manipulation, personal ambition, greed and critically for South Africa; corruption! It is not something that is new, associated with one particular country or environment, but it is a cancer that is an inherent part of life. If this stigma becomes an integral and accepted part of everyday life and part of a culture affecting everyone, the basic structure of a country and the welfare of its people are put at risk. Admittedly, great benefits accrue to the instigators and leaders who encourage and even design corruptive influences, sometimes in the guise of offering opportunities, but at what cost?

As with any great leader, such as Nelson Mandela; on their demise a void is created, to be exploited by ambitious and jealous opportunists, to their own advantage, relatives and those of perceived friends. The continent of Africa has been plagued by tribal conflicts and colonialism, which has in various respects, been both beneficial to development, but at the same time, disadvantaged the people by their exploitation.

The people of South Africa had expected and wanted their new world to transform them into the wonderful dimension of the modern era and the phrase "we want" "previously disadvantaged" and "our rights" saw common usage. "Previously Disadvantaged" formed part of the everyday vocabulary and was widely used by politicians and the media as a means of displaying their concern for the plight of the perceived poor people and gaining attention and support from the majority, of voters. This was a situation the Mandela government appreciated and pursued; to address the disparities between the races and develop a country, designed to support its entire people and not the chosen few!

However, as is the political norm, the worthwhile ambitions of leaders are subject to the whims and machinations of colleagues and friends. They are indoctrinated into believing they also have rights to advantages, personal gain and most importantly, power.

The silent sound

The line of investors wishing to become part of this new-found land of opportunities grew and the country looked forward to a future path paved with the gold of education and a productive working environment. The politicians though, were more concerned with their own path of gold and righteousness and on Nelson Mandela succumbing to age and entering a deserved retirement, the opportunities available to them, mainly exceeded even their expectations.

The following years proved another turning point for South Africa and its people, with an increasing flow of previously obscure, ignorant or ANC party influenced politicians, their cohorts and lackeys, being paraded and lauded to an often bewildered and accepting populace. Promises were made by the ruling party in abundance, but with no visible signs of being met. It was the time of opportunity, for those in favored positions, while the majority remained in blissful ignorance and poverty, as their country and previous suffering, were turned into political campaigning tools.

Hidden agendas were revealed, with many and varied allegations of corruptive acts being lodged against politicians and their minions. The results of these were however, indicative of things to come, as they were either ignored or insultingly settled with contemptuous penalties.

Divide and rule

Divide and rule, is a well designed tactic that if properly applied and controlled, can provide the directors with desired results. However, if the designers of this strategy are either lacking in awareness and refuse to acknowledge continuously changing circumstances, then the door is opened to potential disaster.

In 2008, the world was shocked by xenophobia outbreaks in that land of the free and opportunity, South Africa. It was a country that had thrown open its borders, especially to Africa and Asia; welcoming and offering work and investment to their friends and neighbors across the previous borders that had been so strictly protected. While it was regarded mainly as a show of their frustration by the populace, it was seen by a few as writing on the wall and ongoing calls for change and previous promises to be met became common place, but fell on deaf ears!

A further an d wider variety of promises, rules and regulatory controls were implemented, allegedly to help stop the ongoing growth of political corruption, which had seemingly become perceived as normal business practice by politicians, their advisors and business associates. Vast sums of taxpayers money, instead of being directed into relieving poverty and improving the economy, became the pocket money for obscene spending by the ruling politicians; by example, more than R250 million on upgrading the personal home of the president! This is an issue on which President Zuma is still being pressured to provide an answer; naturally, without success.

It further became apparent that while the population of South Africa, including opposition politicians and the media, have a great ability for discussing, lecturing and putting forward opinions; direct protest actions against the ruling party are extremely limited. They are generally confined to convenient targets; destruction of services, such as buildings, roads, transportation, schools and materials, as well as providing opportunities for looting shops and stalls. Ironically, these demonstrations are usually related to the lack of these facilities? The value of protest demonstrations is further enhanced by the future leaders of the country, or students, who deface statues of perceived previous wrong-doers, with human feces; this seems to be a charming cultural characteristic developed in the "new" South Africa.

Culture, is a word well used in the context of opportunism in South Africa and one that has been cultivated and obscured to suit and meet the demands and perceptions of the government and accordingly, the majority of its people. Murder, rape, children and women abuse, amongst others, have assumed a certain acceptance in this benevolent population. The high impact degree of these cultures, the lack of inherent and enforced disciplines, is reflected in the manner they are perceived by the population and supported by an uncaring, horrendous death toll on the country's roads.

Politicians and government lackeys have become representatives of deceit and perceived as totally lacking credibility by a cynical populace. Uneducated, bumbling, rambling and repetitive speeches, interspersed with riotous, childish behavior patterns have become the norm in the circus that is known as parliament. The president of the country, has become professionally adept and an example of how to repeatedly play both ends against the middle. The policy of divide and rule is practiced with skill, but assisted by a willing and submissive majority.

The new land of opportunity

South Africa is and has always been a magnificent land of opportunity, for those willing to commit. The majority of its citizens were led into the trap of acceptance, expectations, with false promises, resulting in general laziness, with a jealousy for the few, who are discovering and creating opportunistic business conditions. It is arguably, one of the reasons for the antagonism against African foreigners, who could be regarded as being more innovative and productive!

Just more than 20 years ago, this land of contrasts in many respects, had the world at its feet. It was a stage that few civilizations enjoy or experience in modern times, with conflict and turmoil in all parts of the world. The soccer world cup in 2010 rejuvenated a flagging economy, with a new sense of inspiration, motivation and a bonding towards a common and rewarding future. Since that time, this poor, abused country has been subjected to negligent ineffectiveness of an appalling degree; from a blatant disregard of the people and their lifestyles, to the furthering in the fortunes of the privileged few.

Despite this, the natural inherent resilience, in the people of South Africa can enable them to progress and rebuild. However, without sound and honest leadership, it is a task that is becoming more difficult as the months pass. It is population that does not appear to realize there are many and varied options available to them; that it's just a case of willpower and as in the not too distant past, the desire for positive changes in their lives.