Welcome to 2019, the year in which we South Africans get yet another chance to decide our futures. Yes, folks, that’s what your vote means – by your cross on that ballot paper in the privacy of your little voting booth you get to tell the politicians what you, as an ordinary citizen, want out of your country.
Do you want good state healthcare? Of course you do.
Do you want an end to corruption? Of course you do.
Do you want free housing? Of course you do.
Do you want free education? Of course you do.
Do you want an end to unemployment? Of course you do.
Do you want to be given free land to farm on? Of cour… Hmmm, well, maybe not, as it turns out, but that’s another story.
These, then, are the obvious issues, the low-hanging fruit, that all the political parties will latch on to in their manifestoes and which they will try to convince you are the core outcomes which, if favoured with your vote, they will give you.
Likely to happen? Nope. Not in five years, anyway. Let’s look at why.
Q Healthcare. Quite apart from health minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s half-baked National Health Insurance scheme (which any actuarial student will tell you is dead in the water it’s so impossible to fund), the problem with the public health system is largely one of logistics. There are hospitals (maybe not enough, but they’re there, anyway), but they are poorly maintained, poorly resourced, and understaffed. Wards need cleaning and painting, lifts need fixing, medical equipment needs repairing and they need more nurses. Meanwhile, sitting at home is a significant cohort of newly trained nurses unable to work because they have not been allocated to hospitals. Solving those problems is called logistics, and the reason those problems can’t be quickly solved is because of disastrous cadre deployment and consequent corruption.
Q Housing. While the rollout of RDP housing over the past quarter of a century has been impressive, there’s a long way to go yet before poor South Africans all have a decent roof over their heads. It could have gone much faster, but corrupt awarding of tenders to poorly qualified and resourced building contractors has bedevilled the progress.
Q Education. This is the real elephant in the room. South Africa’s public education system sucks. It’s dreadful. Many of the schools are bad and broken, many of the teachers are awful, lazy and poorly trained, and the curriculum has been changed far too often, with the result that many pupils leaving the system are functionally illiterate and innumerate and practically unemployable. And nobody is fooled, apart from the politicians themselves, by the annual hyped-up announcement of improving matric results.
The solution is long-term and complex, but a good place to start would be to train up a whole new class of teachers while simultaneously breaking the political strength of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), in the same way that Margaret Thatcher did to the UK’s coal miners in the 1970s.
Q Corruption. All political parties are “hard” on corruption. When politicians say they’ll stamp out corruption and jail the offenders it will come out in the same way and at the same time that they tell you that they abhor racism, wife-beating, child rape and murder. Bleh.
And so on. So if you ask questions about these issues expect pretty standard answers, which depending on the level of intelligence of the person answering may be more, or less, well articulated.
So here are two questions which I will be asking candidates in the election who come knocking on my door:
Q What is your party’s policy on the total banning of fireworks in the whole of South Africa?
Q What practical policies will you party implement to reduce the use and wasteful disposal of recyclable packaging such as plastics, to prevent it from polluting the environment, our watercourses and, ultimately, the oceans?
Hmmm… thinking about it now, it looks like I might be making my cross for the Greens on Election Day.