SOUTH AFRICA IS truly an amazing country. There is so much going for it, so many reasons for us to hope for a bright future. That said, it is vital for us to guard against complacency. Self-satisfaction is a very dangerous space to inhabit. Why? Because your guard drops. You become a passive receptor, numbed to issues which can and do affect not only you but South Africa as a whole.
Many middleclass people live in a bubble insulated from the harsh reality so many millions of South Africans face. I can understand their oblivion, having been in Gauteng this week where unprecedented levels of economic growth are so apparent. The airport is being expanded. Sandton is humming. The obvious affluence – the swanky cars, the glamorous people, the gleaming head offices – is so overwhelming that it is tempting to think that this is the norm in South Africa.
It isn’t. 47% of South Africans live in poverty. And what is poverty? It is a hungry stomach. An interminable walk to the hospital. Classes under a tree. A family living in a rickety one-roomed shack. No job.
Those fortunate enough not to experience this often end up politically apathetic. For example, they couldn’t care less about the way BEE has been implemented (benefiting only a selected few when so many are in need).
Be optimistic but have perspective. Sometimes “good news” projects seem to be a whitewash of the issues we face. Although it is important to be aware of South African success stories, they must be a part of a greater picture. There is no use in dismissing problems such as poverty, crime, corruption, shocking education, our government’s stance on Zimbabwe and an imploding healthcare system as insignificant.
Start caring now about the issues we face as a nation. It is the only way we can solve them. Wishing them away – or ignoring them – is not going to work.