This is a story about cowboys and crooks, about happiness and hope, and how if all we’ve got is the power of good over evil then we need to take a leap of faith, writes Greg Ardé.
This quote is attributed to author Paulo Coelho and it gave me heart when I heard it while attending the Hammersdale-Cato Ridge Development Association AGM: If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal. I was mightily heartened by the work that John White and his colleagues are doing to advance their region as a place of growth and job creation. The organisation is three years old and boasts 58 member companies that employ 9 000 people and collaborate on issues of mutual interest, including an enviable outreach programme to small businesses in the area.
White assembled a stellar line-up of speakers: Zondo Commission evidence leader Paul Pretorius; Rivonia Circle founder Songezo Zibi; and Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman.
At first blush everything the speakers said reinforced in depressing detail what we all well know – we feel like the country is being run largely by a criminal enterprise masquerading as a political party. Not long after this august gathering was the disgraceful spectacle we call the State of the Nation address where charlatans dressed in designer red overalls tried their best to overrun parliament.
I was reminded of Paul Pretorius quoting Coelho. Most people would kill for a spot of routine – a regular supply of electricity and water complemented by smooth roads, an effective criminal justice system, and a reliable, non-partisan state bureaucracy.
Pretorius explained how rotters in the ruling party made structural changes to the state to facilitate state capture. It involved money laundering and all manner of villainy enabled by an ineffectual police force, a gutted prosecutorial service and a bunch of parliamentarians unable to perform critical oversight because they were party lickspittles more concerned about their privilege than the country.
Don’t let this happen again, Pretorius warned. Be vigilant about the sabotage of state-owned enterprises, construction mafias and the rising number of assassinations.
The shooting of rapper AKA in Florida Road brought home the horror of rising killings in KZN. There is an alarming increase of private security cowboys in the province who seem to be a law unto themselves.
Mindful of what Pretorius said, Zibi said it was difficult to find hope for recovery when the state machine is diverted to benefit private pockets. Municipalities are collapsing and businesses are distracted with buying generators and fixing potholes. Get involved, somehow, Zibi urged.
“Now is not the time to get despondent and afraid. If you think you are too small to be effective then you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito,” Pretorius said.
Inimitable and utterly inspiring, Sooliman reminded the crowd that South Africa belongs to us, not them. Violent agitators want hopelessness and chaos. They want to rob us of compassion, kindness and dignity.
I clung to these words watching SONA. Our affable but ineffectual president is beholden to a corrupt mob (his own party). He is hamstrung and every day his compromised government digs a hole deeper into debt. ANC failure means he is increasingly held ransom to renegades determined to dictate the national discourse.
The ANC is so compromised it is the junior party in a coalition with the very party that stormed the president at SONA.
At times like this you search desperately for a silver lining and, I dare say, it is there if you have a mind to see it. For this edition, I took a helicopter flip from Virginia to Ballito to see the developments at Zimbali Lakes with IFA’s Wayne Krambeck. It was a pearler of a day to get a bird’s eye view of our splendid coast and it proved a perfect antidote to the grim sense of foreboding that was starting to weigh heavily.
Then I caught up with property entrepreneur Gavin Strydom who is developing R6-billion worth of real estate around the King Shaka International Airport – evidence that KZN’s Cinderella status means there’s lots of work and opportunity here.
It reminded me of a classic line in the movie The Third Man, starring Orson Welles.
In it he says: “Holly, old man … don’t be so gloomy. In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
We live in trying times but each of us has some power to see opportunities where there is challenge and to connect with good against evil. Sorry, that sounds lofty. Financial Mail, an august rag, ran a great feature a short while back about service delivery challenges. Inside The Municipal Death Spiral described how: small-town South Africa was crumbling, stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of water and power cuts, in streets piled high with refuse and with no jobs available to offer a way out.
It firmed my resolve to do exactly what Pretorius, Zibi and Sooliman advised: hold the government to account and reclaim your space.
In this edition, we carry an interview with Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Prasheen Maharaj who promises to carry on the good work of his predecessor by doing exactly that. Platitudinous president Cyril will navigate his messy ANC or he won’t. At the end of the day, we need the lights to stay on so businesses can grow the economy.
Our crises are a timely reminder that we need less government, and less opportunity for corruption and rent-seekers. We’re becoming increasingly self-sufficient. But, as columnist Bruce Whitfield wrote in a beautiful piece in the Financial Mail, you can’t be a South African and not worry about the future and what it holds for the next generation. Being a diligent citizen is not enough. Each of has to do more. We can each help one other person. South Africa is not the most miserable place on earth, but it’s far worse than it should be. It carries the curse of not being as bad as it could be but never being as good as it should be, writes Whitfield.
So, if you’re lucky enough to have an education, he behooves you to share your gift with others.