Hola Hector: Things Are Not Looking Good

By K.C Monareng

It is with a bit of trepidation that I’m writing to you. Thankfully, there are people who haven’t forgotten about you and have challenged me as a South African to tell you how things have turned out in the country that you gallantly fought for and sadly, died for. Well, Hector, it is not looking good, for the majority of black people that is.

Since you died while still a scholar, I think it is befitting that we tackle the issue of education first. If I were to put it mildly and nicely, our education is a mess! Some learners are still schooling in mud schools and under trees. There’s too much somersaulting between one confused curricular to another with varying results but ‘improvement’ has been relatively elusive (unless if you consider 30% as a pass mark. I hope you will find it as offensive as some have hence I say improvement has been elusive. If we were to set a much higher threshold for a pass mark, the results will be disastrous as they should be, to shock us out of our slumber).

This is happening despite the fact that education gets the biggest slice of our national budget and also, in as far as spending in education is concerned, we spend more on education pro rata our budget when pitted against many nations that far outperform us. Our ranking does not make for pleasant reading when it comes to how we rate in Math and Science.

It gets more depressing in rural schools where some schools are still without electricity, water and proper sanitation. Recently, the non-delivery of textbooks in some Limpopo schools caused much consternation and amazingly, the Department of Education is still investigating although we are in the fourth month of the year.

It is not all gloom though. Stationery is received free and a fair percentage of the schools are no-fee schools and there’s an admirable feeding scheme at many schools ensuring that learners don’t attend classes on empty stomachs. There’s also a scholar transport programme that goes a long way in alleviating the burden that learners who stay far from school face, its challenges notwithstanding. Higher education is still not free though steps have been taken to ensure that funding is available to students who perform well in Matric. We don’t have enough universities and we still haven’t developed a smooth transition from matric to universities. Things become chaotic in January with parents and prospective students desperately queuing for days jostling for a space in almost all of the ‘prestigious’ institutions.

Looking at society as a whole, we are on the eve of our fifth election next year (if you count 1994) as a democratic country. While there is a small section of the black population that is enjoying the benefits of our hard fought democracy, the majority of the black people have not benefited much. Rampant corruption, crony(sm) (capitalism), nepotism, chronic skills shortage, ineptitude, etc has kept the majority of our people on the periphery of what promised to be a new South Africa. They’re still trapped in perpetual poverty, hopelessness, landlessness and their patience is wearing thin with each passing day. This impatience is manifested in the numerous service delivery protests that have become a vehicle to voice frustrations.

Our police service is still as brutal as in your time. They don’t hesitate to take a life of black man. This is most surprising when you have cadres who themselves might have been on the receiving end of police brutality actually endorsing the same tactics as applied in the apartheid era to be used today. Police personnel without adequate training are sent to handle complex situations that require specialized training and we have witnessed tragic results that we thought we will not ever see in our democratic country. Not when the government allows its officials to swindle money out of desperate people for land and demolish houses they have built with their hard-earned money. The scenes with bulldozers were reminiscent of the apartheid era.

Some might say I’m harsh as I have only highlighted the negatives without mentioning the positive strides that have been achieved. That is true but when political parties campaign, they make several promises that they will fulfill. I don’t see why all the commotion is being made with apologists trampling each other in an effort to pat the government on the proverbial back for the achievements made. Not when we have had so much reckless and fruitless spending amounting to billions as recently revealed by the Auditor General, not when there’s under spending with money eventually returned to treasury because institutions lack the requisite capacity to spend. If one is to give South Africa an appraisal, I’m afraid the scorecard shows some rather dismal results.

One can fill pages trying to discuss the dynamism of South Africa where opulence live comfortably with abject poverty but I will let others touch up on some of the issues I have not touched upon. And Hector, I need to point out that this is South Africa as viewed through my lenses and I surely know that there are plenty of people who might paint a far more optimistic picture if one were to juxtapose South Africa during apartheid and the New South Africa. We have a democratic government elected by people and the ANC is in power but as far as I’m concerned, that should not negate from the major failures that characterize the ANC’s government.

Let me end my incoherent rant right here.

I hope you’re resting in Peace

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