SOUTH AFRICA’s EDGE

SOUTH AFRICA’s EDGE

Below is an article sent to me by a dear friend. He knows me well in this area and lives through many of the battles of faith vs commonsense that I traverse regularly, in fact, more regularly these days.

I make this point right at the beginning so as to avoid any sense of hypocrisy in the area of staying in South Africa. I have been very negative of late in this area of what has become commonsensical to me. I find it very difficult to avoid the evidence as it piles up in favour of those who “pack for Perth.” Tonight I have a friend coming back from overseas who has had more than a good look in the country where he can obtain an ancestral visa. A week ago I had lunch with another friend who spent 6 weeks in Thailand looking and seeing. Let’s not fool ourselves; it was a coloured ex-South African man who had emigrated and who was wounded in the Christchurch massacre.

But one thing I am coming across in the current tragic polarisation that is taking place is broadly four kinds of people: One who goes because they just “can’t live here anymore”; One who stays here and broods because they “can’t go anywhere”; One who stays here and “doesn’t read those things” to remain level-headed; and One who stays and really “does something to help”, however small.

I know there are many permutations of these South African views and I have come to see that the reasons we think the way we do are as personal as the circumstances in which we each find ourselves. To leave is a very personal decision, almost unique to the individual or family. I’ve learned to accept the decision whatever the reason.

However, in copying the article below, an open letter from an incredible man, I trust I could just speak a small word to those of us who are negative and even afraid of the future. I can’t give assurances, but I know that if you fester inside your tortoise shell, you will become even more cynical, negative, bitter and useless than if you acknowledge your concerns, give them a name in your brain, and get on with something, just a little something, good. Again to the rescue, Nelson Mandela who had 27 years of reasons to hate within a self-constructed fortress of bitterness, but said: Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

Find that little something good to do in your daily life. We are not all OUTA CEO’s but we can all do something for someone or something. We have a lady in Hermanus who is a “swallow” from England. She noticed our cemetery was weed-ridden and poorly kept. She compared it to those she knows back home and wrote of her initiative in The Village News. With her own funds, she got a team together of workers and volunteers and cleaned up the cemetery. While the rest of use drove passed and complained about the municipality, she toiled. Eventually, they had cleaned the grounds and begun some very beautiful touches. Before I describe them, at this stage she opened up the opportunity for interested parties to pay a monthly donation of R250 maximum into a trust account for the work to proceed. Then, I think whether she got the donations or not, she put up little white painted crosses on the unmarked graves and began to get Calendulas from anywhere to plant in prepared gardens. For those who don’t know them, they’re waterwise and give a beautiful display of colourful, daisy-like flowers through Spring and Summer. Com’on you say, that’s extreme and she should have just enjoyed her summer holiday and gone back to admire her UK cemeteries. Well, that’s just the point – she decided to do something in one town in the whole of South Africa that everyone else thought was the responsibility of someone else, and for all we know, this may be the only recognition she’s had outside the town.

What about Hermanus Siyakha [Meaning: Building Together] which, if it catches flame, could be applied in every town in South Africa? Interest free micro-loans to micro-businesses supported by mentors [twenty aged, highly competent Hermanus men and women who have a progenerative passion], and community-funded on the internet. Have a look on: www.hermanussiyakha.co.za.

And what about the fact that the Hermanus Night Shelter, against multiple odds including “no money”, got its roof on last week. The project is passionately driven by a man in his mid-70’s. Flippen’ amazing, I can tell you!

Point is, South Africa never allows you to sit on the fence unless you’re a die-hard. Opportunities abound and when you’ve done something there’s always a “stretch something” beyond it. I know it gets difficult to look at what’s going on and not be lost in the sea of it, but there is something You can do. Find it and do it. As per François Pienaar’s MAD [Make a Difference] organization, “be the change you want to see”.

Hopefully, you’re challenged to read this article with a different, upward-looking perspective….

OUTA leader Wayne Duvenage: Here’s PROOF that SA is on road to recovery – #Stay&Fix
22nd March 2019 by Jackie Cameron

EDINBURGH —  Not everyone in the South African diaspora is on the run from corruption and crime. Many of us are working outside South Africa because that’s where the opportunities in our, or our partners’, careers and businesses lie. Some just want to travel or build up savings in low-tax havens. While there are inevitably some who have left the country and talk down South Africa at every turn, there are many who believe that the country is not a basket case. For people like this, me included, it is good to be reminded of the recent improvements that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team have implemented. The respected leader of OUTA, Wayne Duvenage, led the charge against corruption in the Zuma years. In an open letter to South Africa, Duvenage sets out the many reasons South Africans should be optimistic about the future. He is promoting a #Stay&Fix attitude, but he should not forget there are many South Africans who are very willing to do their bit to promote growth and prosperity from afar. – Jackie Cameron

By Wayne Duvenage
[Wayne Duvenage is CEO of OUTA]

The most common questions encountered at the many talks and societal engagements I attend are ‘is there hope for the economic future of South Africa?’ and ‘seriously, shouldn’t we just pack up and go now?’ or ‘are we winning the battle against corruption?’

My short answer to those who are anxious about our future is to dwell less on what is wrong and to open your eyes to what is really happening. The more we are able to determine and see the positive signs of sustainable change, the better we will be at generating positive impetus for growth and prosperity by those who choose to #Stay&Fix South Africa.

Tough times & tough decisions

There is no denying that South Africa is suffering from the corruption upheaval of the Zuma era that pushed us into massive economic hardship and to the brink of collapse. Furthermore, corruption, incompetence and maladministration by many in positions of authority in national and local government still exist and are a significant challenge to our future prosperity. We have our work cut out for us in this department.

Sadly, however, human nature in stressful times tends to allow negativity to take hold. It clouds our ability to see the signs of positive change by new leadership committed to turning things around. We forget that change doesn’t happen overnight and that when turning a massive ship around towards a favourable destination, the extent of the change becomes evident when we look back to see the wake of our revival.

However, the extent of change is not always easy to gauge in the early days as the pace of change is never quick enough to satisfy our natural desire and hungry human nature for a big and fast-paced change, especially after a prolonged period of damaging leadership. And when that doesn’t happen it gives rise to growing frustration.

Throw in a few curve-balls such as Eskom load shedding and you get massive spikes of negativity to catalyse thoughts and group discussions of giving up and emigrating. This is where we are right now.

Looking back to move forward

Consider for a moment where we stand today compared to 15 months ago when Jacob Zuma was still in power. The Zuma cabal was confident of winning at the ANC’s five-year elective conference in December 2017, yet they didn’t.

We need to understand that had Team Zuma won that battle, Tom Moyane would still be in charge at South African Revenue Service (SARS), Shaun Abrahams at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Lynne Brown and the destructive forces would continue to plunder away at Eskom, along with a host of other connected cohorts wreaking havoc in many positions of authority. The last remaining “positive” ratings agency, Moody’s, would most likely have downgraded us to junk status and the international and local investment fallout would have been in full swing.

Well, that didn’t happen and very quickly we became upbeat as Cyril Ramaphosa took the reins of national leadership from Jacob Zuma. Our appetite for change and corrective action ran high and placed us in a state of mind that expected more to have happened by now.

We became blind to the complexity and enormity of the turnaround job that lay ahead and the massive “Zuma-era hangover”, with which CR and his new team have to contend, not to mention the internal ruling party factionalism and external election rallying. Throw into the mix constant rating agencies’ scrutiny and a society baying for more, and it is safe to say that Ramaphosa occupies the toughest job any South Africa president has faced.

Despite all these pressures, encouraging developments within the vital institutions that ensure national stability (which were systemically destabilised by Zuma and his cronies) are now adding to the momentum of change that we seek. Think about the recent revelations at the various commissions of inquiry, the introduction of new capacity within the NPA, at SARS and the Hawks and of the many (often not published) new proclamations resulting from the good work undertaken by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Let’s not forget the significant Cabinet changes undertaken soon after Ramaphosa became president. Remember too the amendment he introduced to the terms of the State Capture Commission that allowed for evidence presented therein to be used in future charges.
Then there are the banks announcing the closure of business accounts of African Global Operations (formerly Bosasa), just as they did against the Gupta companies, adding another effective mechanism to tackling money laundering and corruption in South Africa. One cannot emphasise enough how important these decisions and developments have been in our journey of recovery.

While the recent arrest of Bosasa and past Correctional Services bosses and others has been music to our ears, people ask:

“But why hasn’t the President had Zuma, Koko, Zwane, Motsoeneng, Seleke, Molefe and others arrested yet?”

Well, for starters, the president may not command arrests. That process resides within the NPA and the Police, aided by the Asset Forfeiture Unit, SIU, Hawks and SARS. Encouragingly, these same institutions are currently being restored, fortified and de-Zumafied to enable the rule of law to start working again.

Let us also be mindful that some cases are just more complex than others. Some need more “ducks in a row” before the trigger is pulled, while others have the external pressures of political chess and factionalism that take longer to break down in order to achieve desired outcomes.

High on the juice of positive thinking?

Some may believe that any positive view of the present dire situation could be a case of getting high on the mantra of head-in-the-clouds thinking, or being blinded by Ramaphoria or even being a government or political party lackey that seeks to sugar-coat and downplay the enormity of our problems. And society has a lot of them.

While driving a positive narrative does help to increase the energy in any system, effective civil intervention requires that we remain pragmatic and apolitical, giving credence to developments that generate momentum, consistency and sustainable positive change, while constructively criticising, challenging and seeking to amend government’s inefficiencies and ill-doing.

Civil society upbeat

The focus is on Shamila Batohi and her beefed-up team to re-energise the rule of law – and in fact, this is already underway. Just as the water flows in a dry riverbed after good rains, it starts at first as a trickle. The challenge, however, is to ensure it doesn’t turn into a raging torrent that is out of control and doing more damage than good.

What we seek is a longer, controlled flow of energy that is contained, less destructive and more effective, as the authorities round up and charge the culprits that set our nation back by a decade or more.

As civil society, we must not relent in applying pressure for the government to fix our broken state entities and to introduce the competence and visionary leadership that is able to take tough decisions.

Neither must we decelerate civil society’s opposition to irrational and failed policies such as e-tolls, the dubious Xolobeni mining and N2 toll road decisions, or the forthcoming flawed Aarto process and other matters that questions Government’s legitimacy.

These issues, along with gross electricity tariff hikes, questionable taxation policies, bloated and inefficient government departments and failing municipalities, will keep civil activism dynamic and prevalent for years to come.

While I maintain that we should all commit to challenging that which is wrong, or at least support those organisations which do so, let’s also acknowledge significant positive developments when these are evident.

Without being blind to the stormy waters and uncomfortable swells that lie ahead, now is the time to promote a #Stay&Fix attitude that will ensure hands on deck to give us a better chance of survival and greater prosperity.

I called this blog, South Africa’s Edge. You may have thought I was thinking of the cliff we look into every day. It’s unassailably daunting whether you’re at the top or the bottom. But actually, I’m talking about you and me. You and I, the people of this beautiful, tortured country are the EDGE! Jack Welsh, the famous CEO of General Electric, defined people with EDGE as having: Enthusiasm; Differentiation; Guts and Energy [as adapted from his book, Control Your Destiny or someone else will].

Even if you’re one week from going, do something “vir oulaas” even if it’s putting R250 into the Hermanus Siyakha project – you have no idea if the next Business Woman of the Year is in that photograph.

Yours in Property.

Jack Trevena

Jack Trevena

With over 30 years of experience in the banking and home loan industry, my hope it is share what I have learnt over the years with my blogging community, inspire conversation around the subject and in the process discover unique insights into this ever changing environment.
Jack Trevena

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