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change dependson ‘us’ . . .not ‘them’


Did this victory give the president a sufficient mandate to carve out his vision for South Africa?

According to the author, Eskom stands out as a millstone around our neck. File picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

Many South Africans are waiting for some sort of extraordinary intervention to save us from our national predicament. Who will lead us to a better place, they wonder – while they sit and wait.

The ANC won the elections comfortably, but what does it actually mean? Did this victory give the president a sufficient mandate to carve out his vision for South Africa? The recent internal squabble in the ANC about the mandate of the Reserve Bank and, adding to this, the very contentious issue of land reform, illustrate how deeply divided the ANC is.

With the exception of a few critical positions, the president’s composition of his Cabinet illustrates that he does not have a free hand. In the absence of a noteworthy opposition, the ANC has become its own opposition.

Eskom stands out as a millstone around our neck. It is often said that Eskom is too big to fail, but ratings agency Standard & Poor’s warns that it may well be “too big to support”. Surely, the same applies to SAA. In fact, all state-owned enterprises – and there may be an exception – are similarly dysfunctional.

The rot is being exposed in the Zondo Commission. Justice has to take its course – and that was always going to be a very slow process. The president has dismissed the previous Sars boss and appointed a new head of the National Prosecuting Authority. That’s not enough, we say: much more has to be done, and be done now.

Despite all these efforts, what we say is this: we will invest and risk again as soon as business confidence is restored, when we feel welcome in the country, when the murder of our citizens stops, when South Africa is healed of racism, when corruption is rooted out, when crime in general is under control, when the self-defeating “Black Economic Empowerment” arrangement is modified, when our labour laws become more business-friendly, red tape is reduced, doing business is made easier – and many, many other good things are done.

The question we must ask ourselves is this: what are we going to do if this ideal environment, our condition if “they” want “us” to give it our best, does not come to bear. And, unfortunately, and this might be construed as the bad news, it might not happen soon – if at all.

The truth is, while we wait for “them” to change the circumstances, circumstances wait for “us” to change them.

This life presents us with two options. We can wait for others to shape our world according to our world view, and then blame “them” if “they” don’t. We can remain adamant that it is “their” responsibility, after all. It is just unfortunate if “they” don’t get it right. In the meantime, just don’t expect of “us” to give it our all while everything is just not right – and “right” is measured against our criteria of the perfect world. Be reminded that choosing this option is choosing the life of a victim.

The alternative is not to wait, to take ownership in the area of my influence, where I stand, to take responsibility for the task I am called for, to be the solution I long for, to realise that this life is a gift, that I must “play” with the hand I was dealt, to live life to its fullest and not waste it as a result of my misplaced expectations of what this life owes me, or as a result of my fears and my hesitations.

Psalm 37 calls on us to dwell in the land and to do good, under all circumstances. Dwelling in this context is the exact opposite from wandering in the desert of murmuring, fretting because of evil-doers, who, in any event, has no future. It is guaranteed that evil men will wither, they will fade, like grass.

Where wickedness abounds, there is even more reason to do good, to build, to plant, to employ, to expand, to repair, to clean – and to do that without ceasing.

Papenfus is the chief executive

of the National Employers’

Association of South Africa. He

writes this in his personal capacity.