Sunel's Blog | What headlines can tell us about our country

Sunél Veldtman, | 30 September 2022

A few headlines grabbed my attention this week:

R4,3bn fraud Covid aid fraud scheme.

Currency falls to 37-year low against US Dollar.

Energy prices five times recorded last year.

It is not difficult to believe that these headlines are about South Africa. Yet, they’re not.

The fraud case happened in the USA, where perpetrators diverted pandemic funds - meant for nutrition support for needy children - to their own pockets.

It is the British Pound that has fallen by x22% over the last six months to a 37-year low against the US Dollar.

And the headline about energy prices is about Germany:  there has been a concerning rise in energy prices due to the Ukrainian war, severe droughts, and other factors.

The most ludicrous story in the FT this month was that the UK parliament advised officials to stock carbon copy paper to keep government departments communicating with each other in the event of  an energy blackout crisis. It puts South Africa’s generators and solar power as loadshedding alternatives in a positively cutting-edge light. And honestly, it baffles me that carbon paper was the solution they chose to focus on!
The point is that South Africans easily believe that we are uniquely endowed with corrupt people, inept government, or disasters.  #onlyinSouthAfrica is a hashtag often used for stuff that in fact happens all over the world. Strikes. Currency volatility. Financial market declines. Price increases in housing and electricity.  Poor service delivery. Water shortages. Rising violence and crime. These are concerns experienced all over the world.

If we want to thrive in this country, we must get perspective. It is not perfect elsewhere. Our problems are not absolute, they are relative to the same problems elsewhere or different problems in other parts of the world. To gain perspective, I highly recommend that everyone should consume a variety of credible global news sources to understand what is happening outside South Africa before judging what is happening inside this country.

However, I must qualify this perspective. We are facing unique challenges of our own making. One that is a serious cause for concern, is the lack of justice. Our failing police force and overwhelmed prosecuting authorities are unable to book people at the speed required to stem the temptation for continued corruption and crime. Increasing lawlessness is the result.  It is a major reason for our potential grey listing, ongoing extortion in the transport sector, and Eskom’s ongoing woes.

For justice to be served, or service delivery to improve, or indeed for most problems to resolve, we need these systems to work.

It is not that nothing has been done. Arrests have been made and sentences imposed but it is not nearly enough to effectively deter those who benefit from crime. What the struggling systems do deter, unfortunately, is investment into South Africa.  They also deter good press, perspective and dare I say it, a certain apathy toward civil solution.  The onslaught of bad press is draining and often results in just watching, gauging the political risk in our country.  But perhaps we can do, and should do, more than watch.  Perhaps we can contribute by supporting the many civil organisations working actively towards capturing our country back from crime.

I am taking a break from blogging for a while. I’ll be walking on a beach or a mountain to gain perspective. See you back soon.

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Kind regards,