We face a number of obvious “giants” in our country – poverty, inequality, unemployment, lack of education, land reform and crime are the big ones. They are monsters and will not go gently into the night. However, two silent giants also stand in our way, namely the lack of non-political leadership and the hopelessness with which many in our country appear to be faced.

It has taken our students, in their unified stand to oppose fees, to remind us that we can make a difference. That by raising our voice, by taking responsibility in confronting the giants, change can happen. The students did not stop to ask if they were allowed to say “enough is enough” – they simply went out and acted on what they believed. As a result government has backed off on fee increases for this year and is considering ways of reducing fees into the future.

In its hurried response, government has resorted to an old strategy – blame others, tax the rich and hope that political rhetoric will stay the tide. They, like the hotheads on the periphery who fan the flames of racial division and anarchy, have no real ideas on how to tackle these giants we face. There are other ways in which we can address the fee crisis – supposedly 94% of the Department of Education and Training’s budget is spent on salaries. Is this in line with best practice elsewhere? Corruption continues to bleed our institutions: it is reported that 36,000 ghost workers earn R19 billion in the North West Province! What would that money have done for education?

Why is this political rhetoric so dominant? What has happened to the voice of the ordinary South African; to the voice of those who love this country dearly – those whose talents and skills can play a critical and constructive role in building our country? Where are our “statesmen” – men and women who can rise above the political hot air and blame game, and focus on addressing our giants in innovative and meaningful ways?

Politicians have a key role – their focus should be on infrastructure development and service delivery. Playing the “race” card when out of ideas should not be their measure.

It is our fault. We, as ordinary citizens have allowed politicians to overstep their mandate. Our students have reminded us that we all need to own these challenges. Every single individual, every business, every church needs to find a way to become involved in slaying these giants. This is our country.

To my white friends I want to say that “packing for Perth” should not be the label we are known by. We need to become more visible, more vocal – not in apportioning blame, but in getting our hands dirty in solving these problems.

To my church friends, a gentle challenge – where is the church in all of this? How are you leading the change instead of following in its wake? Should we not be leading the revolution, rather than staying one step ahead? We are the voice of hope, we need to speak up – it is time to lead.

Let’s step up to the plate. Let’s create an active citizenry. Let’s develop an involved church. The country does not belong to the politicians – this is our country and we need to own our giants.

Trevor Jennings

Transformation Christian Network (TCN)

 

2015/11