19 March 2008

To all South African Pessimists

Below you will find a speech from the headmaster of St Stithians, Dave Knowles which he recently delivered to his boys.

Happy reading!

"I wanted to spend some time with you today reflecting on the last two or three months we have experienced as a nation. Some commentators have called this the "post-Polokwane Syndrome", after the events at the ANC National Conference in December, the outcome of which many have seen as negative.

Added to this negative feeling, has been the electricity crisis, now seen as a result of poor planning by the state and acknowledged as such by President Mbeki in his State of the Nation address in Parliament, where he apologised to the nation.

Also knocking us have been higher world oil prices; higher interest rates in SA and the start of a world wide recession, particularly in the UK and the US with their major housing crisis. Added to these have been the on-going crime situation and negative press articles.

So, it is quite easy to fall into the trap of feeling and thinking negatively about our country.

I have never regretted that decision.

Why not? Not just because South Africa is such a beautiful country – it was because I believed in the people of this country and I believed that God had a plan for us. This was proved right for me when the miracle of 1994 happened. And it was a miracle.

All of you sitting here, matrics and younger, were born either in the year Madiba was released, in 1990, or afterwards. And most of our Grade 8s are "born-frees" – born in 1994 or afterwards and what a privilege that is!

As a passionate South African, here's what gets me mad:

· The levels of violence and crime that have touched many of us – and many of you sitting here.
· As an adult, on behalf of all adults, I believe that we need to apologise to our youth for not doing more to protect you.
· I get mad when I visit black schools and see how little they have and how poor some of the teaching is.
· I get mad that there is still massive poverty in our country and an Aids pandemic.
· I get mad that there are some instances of incompetence when it comes to areas of social and service delivery.

But being mad about these issues doesn't make me any less passionate about South Africa.

I especially get mad that some of our leaders lack moral standing – whether they be a judge, the top policeman or the top politicians.

In 1998, interest rates hit 25%.

Are we better off now? – in a lot of ways we are.

· 1980s – 1% growth
· Early 1990s – SA was technically bankrupt – defined as when national debt is more than 3% of GDP – in 1994, it was 9%.
· During the Mandela years, we had 2% economic growth
· For the last seven years – 5%!
· Next year – 4% - despite world wide recession, oil prices, electricity crisis.
· JSE – 2001 – 8000 points and everyone was pleased; 2007 – 30 000 points (although it has lost some growth now)
· Platinum – up R5000/ounce since January
· Here's a thought – with cuts of electricity, less platinum comes out of ground but what's left is not going anywhere and while it stays in the ground, the price goes up!

What else is up?

· Business confidence (until January)
· Employment is up
· Number of houses built – up
· Tourists visiting – up
· Car sales:

20 000 per month in 2001 – everyone was pleased!
30 000 per month in 2007

Look at our budget, announced by Trevor Manuel on Wednesday. Tax income has gone from R188bn in 2000, to R660bn in 2007!

At the same time, he has cut personal tax and has not borrowed any money. The Americans are so envious of us.

Individual tax cuts - i.e. money given back to tax payers
2006 R12bn given back to individuals
2007 R8.4bn given back to individuals
2008 R7.2bn – in a supposed-to-be recession
This is a major achievement, particularly as in 2000, there was a R25bn deficit on the budget and for the last three years we have not had a deficit on the budget.

Money for housing for the poor has gone up
2000 R9bn
2007 R51bn
And we have built 2.6 million houses since 1996.

Yes, we have challenges:

Eskom is one of them and there is now a 2c levy on every kilowatt hour. But think about this

· Electricity was cheap, now we are paying more
· We had electricity cuts before. In 1981, there was no power in the whole country for 18 hours
· We are not the only country to have power cuts – New York; China – over Chinese New Year this year – 12 million people were left stranded.

There are other challenges

· The world oil price has gone from $60 per barrel in 2007 to $90 now and it is not coming down.
· We may be heading for a situation like the UK where they pay R15 per litre.
· HIV/Aids is another major concern, as we see fit to spend R17bn on the World Cup but less on handling this pandemic.

So what am I saying?

Yes there are concerns and challenges BUT there are also many positives.
There are no easy answers or solutions and 2008 will be tough.
However, we have had it tough before and we handled it and boom years will come again – such as in 2010.

Finally, here is my resolve and my truth:-

· To be positive
· To stop whingeing
· To stop blaming
· To ignore the doomsday jokes sent out by people who want you to feel as bad as they do.
· To read the Good News website regularly
· To join the "stop crime, say hello" campaign
· To find goodness in people
· To commit, regularly, to this beautiful country of ours
· To believe in God's plan for us

I know this – that if I do not work to create the life I want, I will have to endure the life I get.

One final thought:

Matthew Lester writes a column in the Sunday Times Business Times Money. He is Professor of Tax Education at Rhodes University and an advisor to Trevor Manuel.

Yesterday he had this to say:

"South Africa is my life, it always has been and it always will be."


Some interesting thoughts. Have any opinions on this? Share them


Bilal said...

some of the responses I’ve received already. What are your thoughts?

things must be real, real bad if we need mails like these
I don't whinge, I try to be positive. but it gets difficult when you hear of a woman who was raped in her home, whose body was burnt with an iron, whose nails were pulled out, whose face was mutilated, before she was finally put out of her misery.


All of this means nothing to father who's forced to watch 5 men take turns to rape his daughter. And all the growth in gdp is bull if So many ppl go hungry. So screw that. And screw this population

HandyTechnoBlogger said...

Thanks for posting this article..... we all need to make South Africa a better place to live in.

You highlight a major problem: crime in South Africa.

I have come across a site that is trying to kill the *illegal* second hand goods market:

I describe the benefits in more detail in my blog: http://handytechtips.blogspot.com/2008/02/update-anti-theftanti-crime-web-site.html

http://tagga.co.za/ is an attempt to provide an up-to-date system where people can immediately broadcast what's been stolen, and for the purchasers to check before purchasing stolen goods and so, hopefully, stop fuelling this vicious cycle of the stolen second hand goods market.

Zak P said...

Im always optimistic.
In SA The rich are getting richer, poor getting poorer. More unemployment, more desperation, more crime. SA is booming, but whose benefiting? Multinationals? established business people? things really need to change in SA. ie the crime. Its high time the govt gets serious about it. we can keep watching from the outside, but when crimes hits us 1st hand thats when we realize. Change needs to come now. The laws are protecting the criminals.
Theres a small town near Zeerust (SA) called Otterschall. 2 weeks ago 6 men broke into a 60 year old ladies house. They raped here, burnt her chest and legs with a hot iron, chopped off 2 of her fingers, then killed here. They stole a cooler bag with frozen chickens and a cell fone!!!

Thats reality....
Im still optimistic....

Bilal said...

This incident is hectic- I assume its the same one someone else mentioned first in that earlier comment..

And I'm also optimistic.. But things need to change!

Work in Progress said...

The article highlights much of the progress South Africa has made over the last decade or so... yes, some of the country's achievements are worth mentioning. But as a South African taxpayer, I don't c the country doing anything for me... The roads are in a state, going to a state hospital is a nightmare and u can't count on the police for anything. The crime rate, which is supoosedly down, seems to me to only be getting worse.. the crimes are so much more violent and I honestly don't feel safe in my own home! Personally, I'd like to leave the first chance I get!