THE FAT LADY HAS YET TO SING

It’s been a waiting game, these past few months, and the opera ain’t over yet. Most of the waiting has been for results that would largely be out of our control, both as individuals and as industries that rely on positive conditions in our economic environment so we can do our best work.

First we waited for the national and provincial elections, anticipated with great apprehension against a background of nine years of poor governance and collapsing infrastructure. Our hope was that when the country voted, it would choose to back regeneration. And in a way, many people that voted the ruling party back into power, did decide to support what they believed would be a changed, recharged, repentant environment under new leadership.

John Matthews, President, Master Builders South Africa

Whether that decision, albeit tentative, considering the lower percentages both in voting numbers and margins, will be rewarded with prompt, real, valuable change, remains to be seen. So we wait some more.

As responsible South Africans with the interests of our country paramount in our minds, most of us would be satisfied with an assurance of integrity and competence in the day-to-day business of the country. Most of us would be happy if South Africa was again seen by the foreign community as a place where investment was safe, where land could be bought without fear of loss, and immigrants could find a new haven, where their skills would be valued.

But most of all we crave a time when our citizens at all economic levels receive a fair deal in line with their efforts and entitlement. A time when hard work and acquired skills will result in real rewards and due respect.

This might sound idyllic - but South Africa is one of the countries of the world where such time-honoured ambitions are achievable. We have come through huge changes already, proving that willingness exists. That this odyssey reached a stumbling block was not surprising. In all societies, there will be factions whose goals are at odds with the grand plan for collective harmony. The real strength of a country’s backbone lies in its ability to recognise disruptive forces and mitigate their negative effect.

In looking for motivation in what seemed very dark times in the most recent past, I listened out for a voice of reason, with a positive message for our dilemma. I didn’t find it among the plethora of political analysts and forecasters, but in fact in the heart of media – itself now under siege from many quarters that would for particular reasons want to cause harm to journalists.

On May 14, Branko Brkic, founder, publisher and editor of The Daily Maverick, one of South Africa’s most reliable news and opinion platforms, wrote that the internal political divisions may soon slip into our daily lives and into the streets. He said South Africa was now a brutally divided country and its ruling party even more so and there would be no stability until this struggle had a measurable, clear outcome.

“If we are to stand a chance of making it to the other side, we must redefine the very idea of responsible citizenry and our duties to prevent another lost decade, or even a lost generation,” he wrote.

His words struck a chord. He was saying that the fate of South Africa lies in the hands of its citizenry and not in political figures. The unity of the country lies in alliances forged with mutual understanding between thoughtful individuals – in homes and business, on the streets and in the communities, not in fiery political rhetoric and rallies that stir up people’s negative responses.

I think he’s right. But still we wait.

John

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