Failure to build a nation with a work ethic

Properly qualified and dedicated teachers have a crucial responsibility to set high educational standards and establish a strong work ethic. File picture

Properly qualified and dedicated teachers have a crucial responsibility to set high educational standards and establish a strong work ethic. File picture

Published Mar 2, 2024


I have had a reasonably long and pleasing association with the Cape Argus since that heady day in January 2017 when Aziz Hartley invited me to write a weekly column. I have learnt many things about the world in a micro- and macro-cosmic way. I have developed the art of political commentary devoid of partisanship and have tried to maintain an equitable position in terms of the opinions I had the privilege to express in public.

There have been those who sneered and asked: “What makes you think you are a columnist?” My answer has been that I was lucky to have been involved in language teaching for many decades, with an emphasis on the AngloSaxon arena. This helped me construe my opinion pieces over the past seven years based purely on the drive for literacy and the positing of notions that could improve the lives of people, myself included.

This long preamble is written under a cloud of despair. I read Lorenzo Davids’s exposition on the politics of hostage-taking and realised the truth of what he says. Voting for the ANC has reduced from the initial euphoria to a slavish loyalty to those who make promises and don’t deliver, adding insult to injury with generous handouts of T-shirts, caps and the odd R100 note. I used to see this as mere lobbying and short-lived joy for a free working day.

Then he chillingly recalled a meeting where a mindless accusation of impimpi was flung out, accompanied by finger-pointing. I quote: “Twelve minutes later there was a lifeless body on the ground.” The enslavement of the mendicants which Lorenzo called hostage-taking was firmly in place. The adage “Do not bite the hand that feeds you” seems to drive the frenzy.

Then, I listened to Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of former president Thabo Mbeki, who tabulated the five fatal mistakes the ANC perpetrated from that first day of voting. He includes a reluctance to privatise what became SOEs; horribly bloated salaries for cadres, family and friends and the indecent salaries paid in the visible absence of expertise. While his prognostications are close to the probable truth, he sets too much store on the statistical conceptualisation of the exercise of voting. He should have stressed the failure of the government to build a nation with a work ethic.

Our Constitution contains so much legislation in excising what existed during apartheid. But it has made beggars of nearly 20 million grantees, and easy come, easy go became a reality. The lie that your sustenance was dependent on the sitting rulers was entrenched as reification. Social welfare is not political-party specific. Just as the armed forces function for the country and not a silo ideology, we should be empowering our learners for lifesustaining employment. We should nurture free-thinkers and inventors, designers and providers.

I close with a question posed by my friend Gavin Benjamin.

“Alex, why did they close the teacher training colleges?”

I can’t answer, except to agree that it was a blaps of Old Testament proportions. That one, and other potential ones, like the NHI (National Health Insurance), the glorious silver city that will advertise our affluence and other such pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams.

I did not enjoy writing this article as there is no space for constructive discourse. At the bottom, we must trim a bloated government salary bill. We should not recycle the same old failures by reappointing people or moving them to other arenas. We must face the shameful truth that our president is firstly a party-man and then a leader of a country. There are too many dubious hats thrown into the arena that is the election. Are we going to be reduced to the “better the devil you know” flawed polemic?

The voices who make cracked promises must shut up. Those who raided the fiscus must pay up. The false-qualification dogs-in-the-manger must stand up. The unqualified and mealie-mouthed pretenders must own up. Generally speaking, the whole miserable lot must go away. It’s time for renewal through change.

* Alex Tabisher.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected].

All letters to be considered for publication, must contain full names, addresses and contact details (not for publication)