To my mind
PERCEPTIONS AND reputations have to be managed very circumspectly. One wonders how much attention the world should pay to some rating agencies that recently down-rated South Africa after their own images have suffered considerable damage through their obviously poor judgement in granting AAA ratings to highly suspect financial instruments, a direct cause of the current worldwide financial crisis. Moody’s hasn’t joined those on the bandwagon, citing SA’s still reassuring economic policy as the reason why it’s not changing its outlook on our foreign currency rating.
Regardless of the picture that rating agencies and other analysts paint of SA – founded or unfounded – we’re often our own worst enemy. A case in point is the hollow political rhetoric that we’ll be subjected to during the run-up to next year’s election. Members of the media who attended an ANC spin-doctoring session in Johannesburg last week got a foretaste of what to expect.
Predictably, ANC party leader Jacob Zuma kicked off by congratulating the party on its achievements over the past 14 years. He didn’t bother to mention the fact that much of it, such as its economic progress, can be attributed to a certain Thabo Mbeki, who was unceremoniously recalled as President. Naturally, Zuma also said nothing about the shocking conditions in Government hospitals but emphasised progress made in primary healthcare.
The subsequent preview of what the “new administration” wanted to achieve was simply a futile attempt to make all the right noises about issues such as job creation, crime and education. Much of it was mere bluster, signifying nothing – such as the controversial plan to cart off pregnant teenagers to remote areas. Clearly the man, who is campaigning and preparing himself to be this country’s next president, isn’t concerned about the wave of criticism that this Stalinist idea of his has already attracted. Just as he’s apparently immune to the questions repeatedly raised about his morality. What other explanation can there be for his great emphasis on the need for this country’s moral revival strategy and focus to be implicitly carried out? That’s what this man with suspect business connections wants to tackle at a religious congress on 27 November. Zuma’s repeated emphasis of the importance of children respecting their elders is commendable. But coming from a wanton skirt-chaser?
Another of the “right” noises was the promise that 60% of all children will receive free schooling. However, no mention was made of any practical plans to dramatically improve the standard of education.
Regarding job creation, his contribution was limited to the solution that Government must play a role “directly through the public service”. The “solution” for unemployment by having a larger public service is symptomatic of a lack of vision and the absence of seeking long-term solutions for critically important challenges facing SA.
The damaging consequences are evident – in several fields. The now oftrepeated problem of a lack of skills has progressed to standards that are constantly falling or, even worse, that are deliberately being lowered. Luckily, there are still some pressure groups – such as various engineering professional bodies – objecting to proposed legislation that would lead to drastically lower standards.
Taking such shortcuts to promote transformation is the first step on a downward spiral. Objections must get the attention they deserve.
The entrance of political animals into the circus of the election arena will obviously take place with lots of fanfare over the next few months. One can only hope there will also be some substance and that the major issues of crime, education and healthcare – currently treated so indifferently – will receive sober and thoughtful attention, which would help change perceptions of the country for the better.