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Mon Jul 25 08:19:15 CAT 2016

National dialogue needed to deal with challenges of 2016

The Times Editorial | 22 January, 2016 00:16

South Africa needs to urgently hold a national dialogue on matters draining the country of much-needed energy to face the future.

The continuing impact of the drought, the downward spiral of the rand, and threats of protest action from all quarters are some of the challenges of 2016 that may force us to think out of the box.

Yesterday the National Student Financial Aid Scheme threatened to blacklist those who had failed to pay back their student loans despite enjoying their salaries.

We are told that more than half-a-million former students are gainfully employed and have been identified by SARS as not paying back their student loans, which are estimated to amount to R6-billion.

In total, students owe the scheme R21-billion.

It should be a matter of national pride to pay back your student loan once you are employed.

The state should use all available resources to name and shame those who are refusing to repay theloans.

We need a national dialogue to infuse in all citizens the pride to put the interests of the country before their own selfish needs.

A sum as vast as R21-billion could cushion the country from poverty.

The threat by workers across the country to take to the streets over changes made to tax and pension fund laws poses another challenge to the government.

If not handled with care we might find ourselves in the middle of a storm that could have been avoided.

Though the government has tried to explain its decision to amend these laws, it needs to do more to assure us that every step has been taken to safeguard our interests.

Workers' anger cannot just be overlooked and dismissed without proper engagement.

We need the national dialogue to begin a discussion of what is truly important for the country. We cannot just fold our arms and hope for miracles when some of our problems are man-made.

The choice is clear - sink or swim.

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