Not good enough
Yes we left but we still care
We left South Africa 18 months ago to start a new life in Sydney, Australia.
If I listened to a whole bunch of South Africans, I would know that it is not my place to comment on South Africa. No comment on its politics, the Rand (the official currency), the crime statistics nor South African’s general behaviours. While I appreciate this position I do have an opinion and its an opinion I can’t keep to myself.
But I can’t hold it in because it makes me mad and I need to vent, I need to share my frustrations and disappointments. Some aspects of South Africa are just not good enough.
This is not a criticism it’s just a statement
My opinion and my free thoughts expressed here are not meant as a criticism. This is just a observation, an observation in the hope that something can change. It’s not a call to action because I no longer live in South Africa and have no right to call on people to do something I myself cannot do.
Having spent over a month in South Africa now, and having spent time in two very different provinces I feel that I have seen quite a lot and interacted with a number of different people from all walks of South African life.
From my time in South Africa I have become acutely aware of the following sad state of affairs.
What is is not good enough
1. The cost of living has increased exponentially.
The cost of living has increased exponentially in the last 18 months. From groceries to transport I do not know how people are surviving on what is deemed an acceptable income.
The highest minimum wage in South Africa for a domestic worker is currently R2,422.54 per month according to My Wage which is R121 a day – less than the equivalent of US$10 a day.
Given that a loaf of bread costs you R13, transport R40 a day for one person, R27 for 2l of milk you are left with R41 to buy meat, pay rent, electricity, water and your child’s expenses. That is the highest minimum wage in the country for a domestic worker, the lowest is R1,562.21 which is R78.11.
“Essentially, the latest statistics say that 21.7% of South Africans live in extreme poverty, not being able to pay for basic nutritional requirements; 37% of people don’t have enough money to purchase both adequate food items and non-food items so they have to sacrifice food to pay for things like transport and airtime; 53.8% of people can afford enough food and non-food items but fall under the widest definition of poverty in SA, surviving on under R779 per month”
2. There is a lack of medical attention.
In my previous life I worked to enforce the Constitution. In doing so I dealt with a number of cases in which people had been denied access to medical attention – from babies dying without explanation to bi-polar medication being denied. Throughout this I was acutely aware that there were problems in the national health system.
This has not changed there are constant reports of poor treatment in hospitals, insects growing in wounds, people collapsing in hospital corridors after being refused attention and emergency services being unavailable.
3. Hundreds of people are killed or seriously injured on South Africa Roads every few days.
According to Justice Project South Africa 207 people have been killed on South Africa Roads in the first three days of 2017, 93 have been paralysed and 2600 people injured. Those that are prosecuted are sometimes paroled early, even for the most serious offences.
Take a look at Jub-Jub, a South African celebrity who, together with his friend, killed 4 children and left 1 brain dead when they crashed into the children while raising their cars. Here is an excerpt from a South African Newspaper, The Herald.
4. There is litter everywhere.
Taking my children to the beach involves stepping over broken glass, litter and when actually in the water we had to be careful to avoid condoms. When did littering become acceptable?
Look at the picture below of what we drove past this week – a beautiful African sky coupled with litter.
5. An enormous disparity of wealth exists.
There is an enormous disparity of wealth. Right outside shopping centers with high end luxury goods you find people begging at street corners and traffic lights just to have enough for food. Right next door to one of South Africa’s wealthiest suburbs, Sandton, you get one of its oldest Townships (Informal Settlements), Alexandria.
Despite this backdrop huge salaries are paid to state employees – one of the top SABC guys had 3 salary increases in 1 year.
In South Africa there are “car guards” these are people paid to watch your car while you shop or eat out at a restaurant to ensure that no one breaks into it or steals it. I have watched people who have just spent hundreds of Rands on expensive meals climb into their Mercedes, Porsches or BMWs and hand these car guards who have stood in the boiling sun for hours R2 – that is less than 20 USD cents.
6. A child in South Africa is raped every 3 minutes
A child in South Africa is raped every 3 minutes according to Matla A Bana an organisation which is dedicated to helping children deal with this atrocity. This is just one of many many organisations who do this.
I have no words to discuss this further. I have been privileged to work with Matla A Bana to try stop this scourge but more is need from legal enforcers and prosecutors to stop this.
7. Protest is a huge part of South African history but the violence and damage caused in the latest protests has done some serious damage to the country.
I am all for protest and gatherings, I’ve enforced the enabling legislation countless times against the South African government but there has to be a line drawn between drawing attention to the issue and causing irreparable harm.
A long standing protest over the cost of tertiary education left the country R300 million poorer as a result of damages to various universities. News24 reported that one university had suffered R151 million in damages. The R300 million doesn’t include 4 universities who hadn’t yet submitted their list at the time of the news article. I understand the need to protest but to protest at the expense of others? Are we teaching our children to disrespect property of others or disrespect for others.
8. Houses have high walls, electric fences and security cameras and beams, if the residents are lucky enough.
Every house you pass has some form of security measure if the residents can afford it. Security comes in the form of any of the following: burglar bars to cover the windows, a security gate in front of the door, a high wall if not an electric fence, security cameras and beams. Even in enclosed communities where guards limit entry into the suburb there is still a need for such security measures apparently.
Household security is such a necessity in South Africa that when you read real estate advertisements for properties on sale the first feature on the advertisement is the level of security.
This type of security is a way of life that is completely taken for granted and accepted as normal.
Not only is it normal for security of this level to exist around homes and houses but there are also security guards employed for suburbs to monitor who enters into the area and security guards to guard private homes of private citizens.
9. The State of Government Schooling in South Africa is in shambles.
Aside from the pass rate and the fact that so many students drop out of school. The actual physical state of schools is shocking. There are 4,986 schools that have only pit toilets.
While there is a Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure these have not been adhered to by the Government and further the Government is actively trying to misrepresent the true state of affairs.
A good read on this is available from The Equal Education website.
No matter who you are or where you are from making children use pits as toilets is not acceptable and further lying about the state of affairs shows wilful neglect of duty.
10. Hate is rife
Between family members and friends South Africans are friendly and kind people but towards people of different classes, colours or cultures judgment and dislike is order of the day.
It is so sad to watch and hear but it’s evidenced in the fact that around 9 000 complaints were received by the South African Human Rights Commission in its 2015/2016 year.
The extent to which there is disharmony amongst the population is clear from the way all South Africans rave about it when people actually get along, like at the South African Soccer World Cup.
11. Concerns over the President
And no list could be complete without mentioning the fact that R246 million was spent on an upgrade to 1 of the President’s residences. One house. One house he doesn’t not generally live at.
This conduct in light of how many people are desperately hungry is not acceptable.
Not only was the amount spent a problem but the fact that the President wouldn’t accept any responsibility for it. I’d like to think that in most countries even the suggestion of impropriety would be enough for a President or Prime Minister to resign. Not in South Africa.
If you want to get annoyed you can read the full Constitutional Court decision on Nkandla below is just an excerpt of the decision.
The National Treasury must determine the reasonable costs of those measures implemented by the Department of Public Works at the President’s Nkandla homestead that do not relate to security, namely the visitors’ centre, the amphitheatre, the cattle kraal, the chicken run and the swimming pool only.
Constitutional Court of South Africa
This is what is happening to the people in South Africa, I haven’t even touched on the animal welfare issues in the country from the illegal killing of Big 5 animals – its not just Rhinos – to the export of all sorts of indigenous animals. This may happen in many countries around the world but it is another sphere in which basic maintenance of the law and enforcement could change the whole situation.
This really is depressing.
Looking at it every day, it can be desensitising but we have to remember that these things are not okay and they need to be seen and need to be acknowledged so that they can be fixed.
South African is a beautiful country filled with lovely people, we just need to get back to the heart of the people.
The solution has to be to keep law makers, law enforcers and public servants accountable. Accountable for public funds, accountable for health, safety and well-being of the public.