The ANC does not get the credit it deserves

Sometime last week I wrote what I believed to be an innocuous tweet. What one quickly learns on social networks is that nothing is innocuous and there is no shortage of people waiting for the next thing to offend them.

Let’s take my tweet as an example. I was talking about people who announce that they are leaving Twitter only for them to come back later. They always do. Here is the tweet:

I could never have predicted what happened next.

Bronwyn Hale (@bonnyhale) said that many ­people left the country because of corruption and an incompetent government. These were my responses to her below. I concluded my rant to her by saying: “The apartheid gov only served 10% of the population. The ANC serves 100%. It’s easy to be efficient when you’re only serving 10%.”

The mistake some people made about my response was that I was making excuses for the ANC. It is clear that the government is not as efficient as it should be.

There are many who see being part of the organisation as an opportunity to enrich themselves rather than building a nation.

These are people that @bonnyhale hopes will implode. Since this has not happened, people watch with a keen and bitter eye the events that unfold and see only the negative about this country; the negatives that will continue to reinforce their decision to leave South Africa.

There is no question that the ANC needs to pull up its socks and appoint people who want to, and can, do the work that needs to be done. It is pointless to deploy a cadre simply because of their struggle credentials and that person’s incompetence being the reason people receive basic services.

In November last year I went to an interesting lecture at the South African Institute for Race Relations. The main point of the lecture was that the ANC government is actually delivering – at a better pace than its peers. The big problem is that, contrary to what @bonnyhale thinks, the ANC government is delivering too efficiently and that’s why we have service delivery protests.

Yes, I was as shocked as you are and I thought wool was being pulled over my eyes.

According to the institute’s presentation, service delivery protests are symptoms of raised expectations as opposed to the lack of service delivery. This is to say that if the government builds five houses this year, it can’t build five again the following year, it is expected to build 10. It is these heightened expectations that have resulted in service delivery protests.

In truth, the people are being reasonable. We have seen what the ANC can do and expect it to do that – and better as time moves on.

For example, in 1994, 17% of the population lived in shacks; today that has been reduced to 12%. In 1994, only 58% of South African households had electricity; today 84% have it. Housing and roads have improved. But, because we expect more, we think not enough is being done.

I think it is a good thing that South Africans have high expectations, but I also think it would be good for us to admit when things are working well.

Let’s not act like @bonnyhale, who does not talk about the old government she was so happy to live under. A government that was not only financially corrupt, but morally bankrupt and one that she saw no reason to condemn until she lived under a black government that forgave the most unforgivable sins of the apartheid government. It makes you realise that some people who should be grateful for continuing to live as normal, are the least grateful.

There are many South Africans who left because of better work opportunities elsewhere. The brain drain in the 1990s and the early 2000s was something experienced throughout the developing world, as developed markets were experiencing ­shortages in skills. It was not an exclusively South African phenomenon. After the global economy collapsed, the world experienced a new trend, where people were going home because they saw opportunities to better their countries and not bash them.

I was at Sydney Airport in November last year returning to South Africa. I saw a family that looked like they had seen some really tough times. I spoke to the man who told me that he had left South Africa in 1997 because he firmly believed that things would get worse. What he did not count on was that things would get worse for him. He told me that it was really difficult to admit that his life had gone backward in Australia. The most painful thing, he said, was watching how the lives of the friends and family he left in South Africa just got better and better.

He told me he wanted to bring his family home, but also knew it would be hard and he blamed himself for all this. He told me that he was ashamed to admit that he had believed things would get worse under the ANC government. “Now I am going back with my tail between my legs.”

I told him not to be ashamed of himself nor of coming back. “There is no shame in coming home, regardless of how you left.”

I hope that @bonnyhale will one day realise that she left because she didn’t want to live under a black government, and stops making thinly veiled racist excuses.

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