We are inured to incompetence, sloth, failure and collapse

The IEC recently launched a national campaign to assist South Africans to register online to vote in next year’s elections. File photo.
TIME TO VOTE: The IEC recently launched a national campaign to assist South Africans to register online to vote in next year’s elections. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell

When our children look back and ask why SA got to the appalling state it is in, there will be only one answer for them: we, our generation of people, became comfortable with the outrageous and the unacceptable.

The evidence will show our children that when politicians were stealing us blind in broad daylight, we muttered quietly and let them continue.

When things were falling apart left, right, and centre, they will find that we told those still brave enough to protest to please “be patriotic” or “be optimistic”.

We are a country which has become inured to outrageous levels of murder, of corruption, of unethical behaviour, of infrastructural collapse.

Faced with decay at every level, we build private schools, build even higher walls, buy generators, hire private security, and keep quiet in our own homes, where we know we are still not really safe.

The past two weeks have been surreal for me.

I am writing this column in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on a beautiful Sunday morning.

The area, one of the key hubs of our economy and a tourist magnet, has not had electricity for a full 48 hours — and counting.

I was in East London last week.

This once-beautiful town has collapsed.

Motorists don’t stop at traffic lights, there are piles of rubbish on street corners, and residents warn you of drugs and prostitution in the town centre.

Gqeberha is the same.

Durban? I had dinner with my nephew in the city, and casually he told me his boss said he must get his family to visit the place “before it totally collapses”.

He is not wrong.

An Uber driver told me he will not go to parts of the city centre for fear of crime.

Meanwhile, the politicians and civil servants in these cities are earning ever higher salaries and seemingly doing less and less by the day.

All this is normal now.

On Saturday, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Beauty Mkhaliphi, a 70-year-old resident of Meadowlands in Soweto as part of his campaign for people to register to vote and to garner support for the 2024 elections.

Mkhaliphi, I read on News24, intends to vote for the ANC again next year.

She took Ramaphosa through her yard.

We are often told that in Soweto there is a “community spirit” and neighbours trust each other and interact freely.

Her property, however, has high walls and several security doors.

“I told him [Ramaphosa] all the issues we suffer from in this area,” she said.

“Crime is very high and a big problem.

“We need things to be fixed. There are so many potholes and broken street lights.

“Look how high my walls are because we fear crime.

“These criminals jump fences no matter how high.

“Our houses are always locked with burglar doors during the day. We are not free,” Mkhaliphi said.

Read that heartbreaking last line again: “We are not free.”

That comes from the mouth of a long-standing ANC supporter who intends voting ANC again next year.

Last week, a report by the Institute for Security Studies said the murder rate in SA had reached its highest mark in 20 years.

The report illustrated a steady climb in the murder rate over the past decade to an apex of 45 per 100,000 in the last year.

More than 27,000 South Africans were killed between April 2022 and March 2023.

Anywhere else in the world, these kinds of numbers would lead to the fall of the current government.

In SA, we quietly accept these numbers

How much do we hate ourselves to accept our own dehumanisation with such docility?

Our current leaders have no plan.

This week, the Sunday Times reported that ships in the Durban port queue for an average of 457 hours or 19 days to offload their cargo.

The report said Maersk, one of the world’s biggest shipping lines, was so frustrated with delays at the Cape Town harbour that it had now decided to offload SA-bound container cargo in Mauritius, from where it will be moved to SA in smaller vessels.

There has been zero movement on the government’s part to fix this.

Worse, there has been no outrage from South Africans as this has continued.

We are inured to the incompetence, the sloth, the failure, the collapse.

I am reminded that on February 10 this year Ramaphosa declared a “national state of disaster” to respond to the electricity crisis.

Ten months later, here I am, sitting in darkness with food rotting in the fridge, without electricity.

It was all just words.

These things are not normal.

We, the people, should not let them become normal.

Shout and scream at them.

Go and vote next year.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.