/ 27 August 2010

Governance begins at home

Last Saturday, while having lunch at Nambitha’s on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, I was immersed in the rare but miraculous atmosphere of the Tri-Nations in which blacks and whites were in each other’s faces (for the right reasons).

Everyone was relaxed, laughing, drinking and eating. There seemed to be none of the curiosity seen in the initial sports-induced interaction between blacks and whites in Soweto, except perhaps that shown by children and a few locals who were breaking out their best English accents to show visitors around.

I imagine that somewhere a visitor was phoning a friend to say how brilliant “Sowetu” was. But there was something undeniably special in the air.

On the most symbolic street in South Africa, the circle was complete. The apparent unity was a far cry from the events that occurred on the same street decades ago.

In town last week, as public servants went on strike, I was reminded of the many strikes that led us to what is now being dubbed our “democrazy”.

Ten years ago the ANC achieved the feat of interracial dialogue and many believed we had achieved harmony in a divided country. Instead, it appears the organisation has outgrown that honourable legacy and is now a party of fat cats “led” by a blind mouse.

I may not be a political analyst, but I am a citizen of this country and I am witness to a growing group of people who believe we don’t deserve the kind of ­government we have.

Perhaps this is an appeal to President Jacob Zuma to keep his eye on the pertinent and basic issues that face millions of South Africans on a daily basis.

On Monday, just as some public servants were going back to work, the residents of KwaMashu in his native KwaZulu-Natal woke up to a service delivery protest that included burning tyres blockading highways circa 1985.

Of course, he is not solely responsible for this, but I’ve heard one too many black people say that services were better under the apartheid government not to direct my frustration at our leaders.

Complaining is ineffective without action. What do we do? Do we take to the streets as the nurses, teachers and residents have done, risking lives and futures? Or do we join the national and provincial ministers who have got their hands dirty in an effort to save lives?

Initially, the cynic in me wasn’t so sure about the success of the Lead SA initiative pioneered and undertaken by Primedia’s radio stations, but after considering heeding the call to volunteer at hospitals last week, I know that the change we want to see in our country must begin with us, the citizens.

It’s a difficult and almost unfair privilege that we have to parent ourselves, but I think that we can solve our own problems by being as responsible and considerate as we expect the government to be.