When FW De Klerk announced the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, he made the bold statement that all the people of the land could now become part of the ‘New South Africa’.
Political and economic changes over the next few years did herald several positive changes. During the rule of Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, financial discipline was maintained in government spending and the inflow of foreign investments resulted in general improvement in the living standards of the poorer segment of the population.
This progress was halted when Jacob Zuma took office in 2008. Over the next nine years, widespread corruption through the looting of state assets and numerous cases of cadre deployment resulted in the destruction and severe damage of key state institutions.
When Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Zuma in late 2017, he started with the process of addressing corruption through the setting up of a commission of enquiry into state capture, and the replacement of key management positions in several state institutions. The slow progress of economic recovery was dealt a devastating blow by the world-wide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The drastic reduction in international and national economic activities pushed our economic growth rate into a recession and the credit rating agencies downgraded our financial position to junk status.
The first 25 years of our new democracy has not resulted in a new South Africa, but rather in a broken old South Africa. For large numbers of the population, the achievement of political freedom has not been matched by economic freedom.
Within this dark outlook we are desperately looking for glimmers of hope. Several commentators are expecting positive changes after the pandemic in, for example, the expanding use of technology, an increase in the role of the private sector in the economy, improved education and health care, and a deepening of social responsibility. What possible changes could be envisaged for South Africans in the post COVID-19 period?
A new South Africa with focused and relevant teaching at schools to develop the specific talents of children to prepare them to fulfil their rightful future role in society;
A new South Africa with a comprehensive and efficient public service health system to meet the needs of all citizens not covered by private sector health schemes;
A new South Africa with a streamlined and effective civil service staffed by officials appointed on merit, with clear goals governed by responsible spending;
A new South Africa with focused state projects to develop and maintain strategic services with electricity, road, rail, harbour and airport services, to serve the needs of the economy and the people;
A new South Africa with a pact between government, business and labour, to ensure responsible labour union actions in the interests of the country;
A new South Africa with the replacement of the expropriation of land without compensation plan with land allocation with individual titles, to place poorer people in a position to access funding for housing;
A new South Africa with the effective provision of basic services by municipalities in towns and cities, unaffected by petty political squabbles.
Are the above just a pipe dream? Not if we consider the example of a bunch of young men from different racial and cultural backgrounds uniting around a common vision to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup. These dreams can indeed become reality in a new South Africa when citizens share a common vision.