The fate of the nation
John Kane-Berman, Long Walk Since Freedom
Friday, March 12, 2010
Although many people are unwilling to read it, the writing is on the wall for South Africa.
From the thuggishness of the police to moribund public schooling, from the endemic corruption of the ruling party to the chronic incompetence of the civil service, from assaults upon the Judiciary to official cowardice in the face of violent trade unions, from hazardous public hospitals to potholes in the roads, from failed land reform to declining life expectancy, from poisonous rivers to rampant crime and killer drivers, we are in trouble.
What makes all of this worse is the contempt with which the government routinely treats the public, even as it filches more money from our pockets. Ministers - even the president - jet in to communities in violent revolt and make promises they have no more intention or ability to fulfil this time round than last.
When a president with Jacob Zuma's track record wants to start a public conversation about morality, one can only conclude that he is either a complete and brazen cynic or-worse-that he does not understand that he has done anything wrong.
When the Gauteng premier can send the cops to block off half Johannesburg for half the day while she makes a speech, you know we have a mini Mrs Mugabe in the making. We are not a failed state, but that is where we are heading. (The comrades don't notice this because they are forever busy with parties, launches, summits, lekgotlas, conferences, grandiose occasions, overseas trips, etc.)
Even if South Africa can pull off a Soccer World Cup where tourists don't get mugged or raped to the extent that South Africans do, or where they don't disappear into potholes or down manholes, we all know that when the party is over the country will resume its downward slide.
Bits of the place spruced up for the benefit of World Cup visitors will be nothing better than Potemkin Villages. Fortunately, criticism of the ANC's deployment policy and of poor public service is growing, even within the three-ring circus sometimes known as the tripartite alliance.
Unfortunately, we know from the apartheid era how long it takes for failing policies to be reversed, even when the penny has dropped. But we also know from the apartheid era that change is not a function of government alone. The private sector, civil society, non-governmental organisations, and ordinary citizens can bring about change without waiting for the government. This is already happening in the labour field, where regulatory rigidities are being undermined by labour brokers and noncompliant clothing employers. Like apartheid, the ANC's ‘national democratic revolution' will eventually disintegrate.
John Kane-Berman is the CEO of the SA Inst of Race Relations [I imagine this was written in his personal capacity]
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Johannesburg Damned and Doomed ...
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Long Walk Since Freedom
Just months before the Soccer World Cup, the country's biggest city looks like a minefield, with potholes around just about every corner, accompanied by ditches that lie open like graves waiting for fresh loads. Street signs are either wrong, missing (stolen) or in disrepair; streetlights everywhere need attention; stormwater drains lie blocked and choked, and traffic lights seize up and back up traffic for 10km and more.
There are funny smells everywhere and rats are breeding like flies. Flies are breeding like rats. Residents of Johannesburg, which advertises itself as "A world class African host city" are sick and tired of the Masondo's of this world; the ex-Robben Islanders, ANC cadres who were automatically given licences to torture their fellow South Africans for a minimum of a century.
Masondo and his cronies were quick enough to slash the 2009/2010 Johannesburg operational and expenditure budgets by R1.1bn to fund completion of the Soccer City stadium, yet another overblown FIFA knickknack. Masondo and his fellow vampires were quick to write off R2.8bn in bad debts, and just as quick to splash out R45m on the "Miss World" pageant, an apoplectic load of schlock.
If Masondo and the ANC were vaguely aligned with reality, their focus would be job creation, 24/7. Among the numbers from the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey, published on Tuesday, comes the news that during 2009 as a whole, the South African economy shed 870 000 jobs. That was the year when Zuma was promising . . . the creation of 500 000 jobs. What was he thinking? And if Amos Masondo is still thinking, what is he doing? It's time to go cadre; do yourself a favour and hand over the reins to a professional.
JOHANNESBURG is in a dreadful state. With potholes now so numerous they are a threat to life and limb, street lights and traffic lights broken for weeks on end, roadworks and pavement diggings started and abandoned, SA's biggest metro is looking about as beaten up as a modern city could be.
Nothing illustrates better its decrepitude than the hole dug many months ago on the corner of 7th Avenue and 6th Street in the suburb of Melville -- it has been so comprehensively abandoned that for nearly a month it has been home to a TV set.
It is a common story. There are literally thousands of unattended holes all over Joburg's pavements and roads. It is an absolute disgrace to SA and to Joburg's own citizens.
It is not that Melville is some upmarket, spoilt, white place. Its homes are modest, and its inhabitants mixed. There would have been a time when the city's black inhabitants would have cheered the tarring of a road in Soweto at the expense of one in salubrious Hyde Park, but if any are still cheering they would be badly misguided. Joburg is increasingly one city.
Joburg's problems are about leadership, starting with the mayor, Amos Masondo. His most striking political characteristic has been to be absent during Joburg's moments of crisis. Given the job by former president Thabo Mbeki as a reward for running Mbeki's first (1999) election campaign, Masondo has distinguished himself primarily as a cutter of ribbons and a deliverer of projects. Not for him the drudgery of also maintaining what he was given.
But a contributing factor in Masondo's failure must surely be the way the municipal machine around him is structured.
In Joburg, the municipality has been corporatised into fragments that enable Masondo to deflect direct responsibility for things like killer holes in the roads. The roads (and traffic lights and street lights and drains) are all the responsibility of the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA). There are other agencies for water, garbage, electricity, buses, development and the like. Their effect is to create a distance between the city's leader and its problems that would take a person much, much more engaged than Masondo to overcome.
But while water shortages, power outages and untidy rubbish collection are common, the JRA is a special problem.
The JRA manages more than 9000km of roads and bridges and 3500km of stormwater drains. That would be a nightmare for the most experienced manager. For JRA MD Dudu Maseko, who made her way to the top as a human resources specialist, it has clearly been an unfair burden.
The JRA's own "Stakeholder" booklet is a clear measure of the problem. It is a result of endless "workshops" building up through the "Customer Charter", the "internal controls being put in place", the Mission Statement ("to provide a sound transit infrastructure management system in support of enhanced mobility"), which must be settled before we get to the all-important Vision Statement.
Here is part of the JRA's: "The JRA's vision is 'the vehicle that makes the City work'. The JRA regards itself as the ultimate catalyst that makes other services in the City realisable ... the means to a better quality of life for all."
So much blather. It costs R100000 to maintain a kilometre of road, a year after it has been built, R1,8m for the same stretch if it hasn't been maintained for five years. Assuming 9000km of roads and that they are all just one year old, Joburg would need a maintenance budget just for roads of R900m a year. Yet the entire JRA budget is less than that. That mayor Masondo can argue that there is money to do the job is beyond belief.
We hope the mayor is replaced at the next local elections. But that doesn't mean he still doesn't have a real job ahead of him. He does. It is to find the money to fix the roads. That's easy, unless you're Amos Masondo, deliverer of projects.
Joburg collects just over 60% of the rates and taxes owing to it. Collect the other 38% and you'd have enough money to make this a world-class city in reality and not just in advertisements.
But that money is largely owed by the ANC's poorer constituency, and collecting it would take political courage and will way beyond anything Masondo has demonstrated in office. President Zuma has made much of ending poor municipal governance. While it is understandable he should care about the backwaters where people struggle for a lifetime against municipal indifference, he ignores large cities at his and our peril.
It's about the hole on the pavement that contains a TV set. The will to collect the money to fill the hole doesn't exist.
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