Some fix­ing needed

It is dif­fi­cult to cel­e­brate our her­itage when real is­sues are un­der­min­ing na­tion­build­ing

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - BAR­BER­SHOP GIRL Ran­jeni Munusamy

AS has bec ome cus­tom­ary ev­ery Na­tional H er­itage D ay, South Africa w ent thr ough the mo­tions of de­bat­ing what ex­actly our her­itage is and whether hav­ing a braai is an ap­pro­pri­ate way of mar king the da y.

It is one of the thing s we do e very year, with the hol­i­day pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine and cel­e­brate our di­ver­sity, quirks and South African­ness.

At the of­fi­cial Her­itage Day cel­e­bra­tions in the Western Prov­ince, Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africans dare not ig­nore their her­itage.

“In isiZulu w e sa y: ‘ In­dlela ibuzw a kwabapham­bili’. B efore w e un­dert ake any jour­ney, we must re­mem­ber where we come from and learn from those who have gone be­fore us,” Ramaphosa said.

On the same day, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was ad­dress­ing the United Na­tions gen­eral as sem­bly in N ew York, telling the world of South Africa’s “good story” in im­ple­ment­ing the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Go als.

The goal of re­duc­ing by half the num­ ber of peo­ple earn­ing less than a dol­lar a day has been achieved, and South Africa has also at­tained the goal of pro­vid­ing ac­cess to pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion for all.

The pres­i­dent said South Africa has recorded “impr es­sive pr ogress” through the ex­pan­sion of health in­fra­struc­ture and im­proved ac­cess to health ser­vices f or all South Africans.

Some­times we do not pay enough at­ten­tion to the great achieve­ments of our coun­try and ac­knowl­edge that, by global stan­dards, there is move­ment in the right dir ec­tion. But when you look at events in the news over the past week, it is not dif­fi­cult t o see why the coun­try’s achie ve­ments ar e mitig ated b y neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment.

Large p arts of G aut­eng ha ve been with­out wa­ter for a week due to a power cut at the main pump­ing s tation. The cri­sis in South Africa’ s ec onomic hub shows no sign of abat­ing, with the City of Jo­han­nes­burg and Rand Wa­ter un­able to give an­swers as to how they will re­solve the mat ter.

Crime statis­tics re­leased by the Min­is­ter of Po­lice and Na­tional Po­lice Com­mis­sioner las t week sho w that South Africa is less safe than it was two years ago, with a spike in mur­ders, house rob­beries and hij ack­ings.

The fig­ures show that there were 800 more mur­ders in the past fi­nan­cial year and house rob­beries in­creased by more than seven per­cent across the coun­try.

Crime an­a­lysts say the lat est statis­tics show that the po­lice do not ap­pear to have a clear strat­egy to deal with the in­crease, par­tic­u­larly in con­tact crimes.

On Thurs­day and yes­ter­day, the par­lia­men­tary ad hoc com­mit­tee con­sid­er­ing the pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s re­port on the Nkandla up­grades was bogged down on whether the pres­i­dent should be called to ac­count for the­ex­ces­sive state spend­ing at his pri vate home.

The meet­ing saw a bat­tle of wits be­tween ANC and op­po­si­tion MPs about whether Zuma should be made t o an­swer the que stions he a voided dur­ing the pub­lic pro­tec­tor and Spe­cial Inves­ tigat­ing Unit in ves­ti­ga­tions.

The ANC ar gued c on­sis­tently that the pr es­i­dent c ould not ha ve kno wn how much was be­ing spent and that the pub­lic pr otec­tor’s r ec­om­men­da­tions, which in­clude that Zuma should re­im­burse the state for un­due ben­e­fits, were ad­vi­sory r ather than man­dat ory. T he ANC w ants the g overn­ment of­fi­cials and con­trac­tors in­volved in the project to face the con­se­quences, but does not be­lieve that the homeo wner should have t o. Op­po­si­tion MP s ar gued that a c on­sti­tu­tional cri­sis is on the car ds if the pres­i­dent is not held to ac­count.

All th­ese events re­late to very dif­fer­ent as­pects of South African lief and im­ pact on peo­ple diff er­ently.

Their col­lec­tive ef­fect, how­ever, is to mit­i­gate against na­tional co­he­sion and a sense of w ell­ness in the c oun­try.

It is dif­fi­cult to cel­e­brate South Africa’s achie ve­ments and herit age w hen peo­ple are de­nied ba­sic rights, feel un­safe and gov­ern­ment lead­ers refuse to be held to ac­count for wan­ton spend­ing.

They are real is­sues that un­der­mine na­tional c ohe­sion and mak e peo­ple neg­a­tive about South Africa.

With­out th­ese be­ing dealt with, na­tion­build­ing will be c os­metic. • Ran­jeni Munusamy is a po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist and com­men­ta­tor for the Daily Mav­er­ick. r an­[email protected]

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