Bafana and service delivery
We tolerate bad performance because it is easier than dealing with the problem
SINCE the Springboks united South Africa in triumph at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the performance of our national sports teams has had the ability to send our nation on incredible highs and lows.
When it comes to football however, Bafana Bafana’s disappointments have been epic. The nation has surged from frustration to complete hopelessness as the team have crashed out of every major tournament.
There have, of course, been fleeting moments of brilliance, as in November 2013, when Bafana Bafana beat double European and world champions Spain in an international friendly. But on the whole, the national squad’s string of defeats and inability to score goals have crushed the national psyche and evoked a sense of selfloathing about the quality of our football.
The straightshooting Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula this week abandoned all sense of restraint in expressing his annoyance at Bafana Bafana’s 31 defeat against Nigeria, and resultant elimination from the African Nations Championship. “What I saw was not a problem of coaching, it was a bunch of losers,” Mbalula raged at a media conference. “Their performance was not even lacklustre, it was useless.”
Mbalula came under heavy criticism for his comments, and was accused of humiliating the players instead of taking responsibility for the mess.
The perennial debate about the need for investment in development and coaching clinics ensued, while South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan suggested a change of name and colours for the team.
It is a sure sign that everyone is at the end of their tether, with no clear plan as to how to fix the problem. The high turnover of coaches for the national team has certainly not produced a winning formula.
Unlike everyone else, President Jacob Zuma seemed to be more forgiving of Bafana Bafana’s defeat.
In an interview on SABC radio, Zuma said: “We’re wellaware that some people are criticising the way the national team played against Nigeria. Some want the team disbanded. It has improved greatly and needs our support.
“The current coach knows what he’s doing. He’s great at his job. The fact that the team lost, that doesn’t mean anything, as other teams lost as well.”
So according to the president, South Africans should not be critical of our team’s performance because other teams also performed poorly.
It is a gravely worrying attitude and symptomatic of how we approach many issues in our society, including how our country is managed. Far too often, we tolerate bad performance, inefficiency and failure because it is too difficult to try to delve into the root of the problem.
We have become accustomed to mediocrity and average performance, par ticularly when it comes to the public service. People get by doing the basic minimum, which is why the wheels of government turn so slowly.
There is a poor work ethic in the public service, with no motivation for people to perform at their best so that the country can run optimally.
It is no wonder that all around the country, communities are revolting and taking to their streets to express their frustration at being denied basic rights and being forced to live in squalor.
These communities are saying about those responsible for delivery exactly what Mbalula said about Bafana Bafana: they are a bunch of losers.
The difference is that with our football team, our national pride is at stake. When it comes to the public service and running of our country, it is human life, dignity and safety that are on the line.
Yet, while there is general consensus that there needs to be an overhaul of South African soccer to infuse new talent into the national squad and instil in them a drive to win, there is not the same sense about the state of our country. South Africans need to stop tolerating mediocrity and poor performance.
Otherwise it is us who are the bunch of losers.