THE HILL DEBATE

South Africa

 

Sunday Times ( South Africa)

August 17, 2008

 

By Brendan Boyle

The Sunday Times probes the state of the nation

 

1. OUR AFRICAN DREAM: Has race trumped excellence?

‘We’ve been lazy; we assumed that achieving a democracy wasthe end of it’

– Wendy Luhabe

Davis:President Thabo Mbeki, in his "I am an African" speech, said the constitution constitutes an unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender or historical origins. I want to put it to you that many people would say the journey has come to a screeching halt, that the speech is now honoured far more in the breach than it is in the observance.

Ramphele: The journey has arrived at a point where you can no longer deny the unfinished business because we remain divided by the opportunities that are available to me which are not available to the rest of South Africa.

Cronin: The beginnings of wisdom are to recognize that we’ve actually squandered 10 years. There have been many lost opportunities; the momentum of the 1994 breakthrough was thrown away with unwise policies in many respects.

Leon:We have substituted practically every vision in this country and every policy for racial percentages; we’ve gone for demographic bean-counting as the essential pillar of current policy.

Ilbury: We’ve been a little too inwardly focused in some of our things in terms of looking into the country, and we’ve lost some of our competitiveness.

Macozoma: I think the answer is a typical South African ambiguity – ja-nee. If there’s anything I fear, it’s a situation where a society just stagnates and gets into the rut of a fruitless and useless cacophony, of a discussion about nothing. But we must not tell this nation that that dream was stillborn.

Maphai: I would be more concerned about watching trends. We were on the brink of being a Bosnia,a Rwanda,and if you think that we have survived all of that, then you have to say we have done exceptionally well.

Luhabe: We’ve alienated a lot of people; society has become disengaged. We have abdicated to a fantastic constitution, we’ve abdicated to government. We’ve been lazy; we assumed that achieving a democracy was the end of it.

Macozoma: I do not believe that the present government officials are competent up to the level at which they should be. The fact of the matter is that much more could have been done.

Davis:Are you saying we don’t have a competent government?

Cronin: Well, I think we have an uneven government; I think it’s very patchy in places. I think that it’s very uncoordinated. I think we need much more effective planning.

Davis:But we have all these plans.

Cronin: Ja, but all over the place – vanity projects.

Davis:But it’s your party’s policy.

Cronin: It’s not the South African Communist Party’s policy.We talk about fiscal discipline, but there’s been very little fiscal discipline- I mean, wild spending which has benefited a small BEE elite … some of whom perhaps are present.

Davis:What do you mean, "wild spending"?

Cronin: Well, take the arms procurement, take Coega, take the Gautrain, things that are not transforming the reality for poor people in South Africa.The Left is often presented as being in favour of macro-populism. But who are the macro-populists around here?

Leon:I don’t think we’re actually addressing the core question, and that is the unemployed.

Davis:Saki, what about the lost generation?

Macozoma: I don’t really believe that we can lose a human being, but whatever we are trying to do in terms of getting them employment,there is just no spirit left in many of our people. Everybody’s just looking to the municipality, and there’s just nothing going on.

Ramphele: One of the reasons we don’t have a competent government in the way we could have had is that the powers that be chose to affirm certain people, particularly party political loyalists.

Raymond Louw (from the floor): All our problems, I believe,from crime to everywhere else, are dictated by the fact that we have adopted policies which are sending our people overseas – (from) the black community as well- and that is the thing that we should be worried about.

Macozoma: You have the audacity to argue that the emigration of white skills in South Africa is a substitution effect that arises as a result of affirmative action? Part of the problem is the propaganda that is peddled in this country about affirmative action.

Leon: The fundamental duty of the state, any state, is to secure its own citizens, and we have this violent psychopathy of crime; we are the third-most violent nation on earth, only beaten by Columbia and Venezuela in the last table that I saw. So to me, that’s got to be on the table.

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