Recent images on our TV screens and in the general media of service delivery protests in most South African townships and informal settlements have certainly got our politicians on a merry go round, trying to find solutions to a problem they have played an important part in creating.
Not so long ago, it was the same politicians who went into poor neighbourhoods making promises that some knew they would not have the capacity to deliver, just to gain votes. This, it must be said has been happening since the dawn of freedom in 1994, where high expectations were created about the kind of improvements people were going to see in their neighbourhoods when the new government got into power. No politician has been bold enough to tell the masses the truth about the cost of this to the economy and that this culture of “free things” is not sustainable.
It has not helped that our local government, tasked with delivering these services, is plagued with corruption. Patronage has become the order of the day, especially with the awarding of government tenders. The King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality in the Eastern Cape is a classical example of a dysfunctional government in shambles.
The much lamented culture of entitlement, which these service deliver protests are but a manifestation of, has come back to bite us. It is disturbing to hear able men and women blaming government for failing to do things they are capable of doing themselves, like fixing a leaking roof.
South African needs an urgent “Marshall Plan” to deal with these challenges. This should take the form of government dedicating resources towards skills training and job creation. While it can be argued that government is already doing this, the only difference with what I propose is it should not be optional for people take up these jobs. If we are going to effectively deal with unemployment, the destitute have to be put to work. This includes training them for jobs such as painting and gardening to other specialist trades such as welding. Such services are needed in most public facilities such as hospitals, schools and government offices.
It is scandalous that we have bred a nation of beggars and laggards who depend on social grants to make a living. These resources should be dedicated to improving the lives of those who need them the most such as the physically handicapped and orphans.
We need leadership from Mr Zuma to end this madness and get our society working. South Africa and Africa’s future depends on it.