Year of hope for coun­try

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

LAST YEAR was chal­leng­ing for South Africa – po­lit­i­cally, eco­nom­i­cally and so­cially. The new year ought to bring with it bet­ter prospects for the coun­try as it seeks to turn the cor­ner from an eco­nomic slump that stunted growth, wrecked job creation and left many peo­ple de­spon­dent and hope­less.

It’s in all of our hands now. We can do it if we work to­gether, set aside our po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and work to­wards build­ing a bet­ter fu­ture for all our peo­ple.

Econ­o­mists have al­ready warned us to pre­pare for a rough year. While we heed the warn­ing, we also hope it will not be as tough as the econ­o­mists pre­dict, and the coun­try can emerge from the eco­nomic slump and be­come a shin­ing ex­am­ple for the African con­ti­nent.

In his mes­sage for the new year, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma em­pha­sised that the econ­omy will be one of the key ar­eas of fo­cus for his govern­ment this year.

We are en­cour­aged to know that eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and na­tion build­ing will be at the cen­tre of the govern­ment’s agenda, and hope that this is not just talk, but a sus­tained pro­gramme of ac­tion that will see real change and all of our peo­ple get­ting a slice of the eco­nomic pie.

The time for talk is over. We must bite the bullet and shake the ugly foun­da­tion of apartheid eco­nomic poli­cies that, more than two decades later, have rel­e­gated the ma­jor­ity to the mar­gins of the econ­omy.

South Africa ought to move for­ward and be­come that na­tion and coun­try we promised the world we would be in 1994.

Cit­i­zens, and not the elite, must lead the charge to trans­form the coun­try and the econ­omy so that South Africans of all races can ben­e­fit from the wealth.

The era of the po­lit­i­cally con­nected and the mi­nor­ity ben­e­fit­ing while the ma­jor­ity eat the crumbs should end.

That bat­tle to end in­equal­ity must be­gin this year.

Po­lit­i­cally, we also hope for bet­ter lead­er­ship. We hope that the re­sults of last year’s lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions, which ush­ered in a new era in the gov­er­nance of our met­ros, in­clud­ing Tsh­wane and Joburg, have sent a strong mes­sage to the elite – that the peo­ple still hold power and that politi­cians serve at the plea­sure of the elec­torate.

Gov­ern­ing through coali­tions must be painful but we hope that the mar­riages of con­ve­nience be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties will ben­e­fit the ma­jor­ity of our peo­ple. That’s what democ­racy should be about.

But even the op­po­si­tion must know that the peo­ple won’t tol­er­ate cor­rup­tion, crony­ism and bad gov­er­nance. The ben­e­fi­cia­ries of th­ese coali­tions should be the elec­torate, who must re­ceive world-class ser­vices and hold po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to ac­count.

This year, the coun­try must also deal with the emer­gence of racism and in­tol­er­ance in our so­ci­ety. Racists of all shapes and sizes came out of their shells last year, with sev­eral racial in­ci­dents on so­cial me­dia and in some restau­rants and other es­tab­lish­ments. We must never al­low such ele­ments to take our coun­try back to the ugly past.

We wish all our read­ers a happy new year.

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