Bafana and ser­vice de­liv­ery

We tol­er­ate bad per­for­mance be­cause it is eas­ier than deal­ing with the prob­lem

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - BAR­BER­SHOP GIRL Ran­jeni Munusamy

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.

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