What's missing in SA (besides my laptop)

17 May 2016 - 10:17 By David Shapiro

This column was written on my desktop at work: My laptop, together with my brief case, wallet, credit cards, cellphone, white converse sneakers and an assortment of other items, was stolen on Friday night, by three armed criminals who broke into our house while my wife and I were out for dinner. We were visiting friends to meet their son's new wife. The young couple were recently married in the US and were back in South Africa seeing friends and relatives.Over dinner our host asked guests to share brief thoughts about South Africa's future, hoping to convince the newly marrieds to set up home here. I was in a tricky position. My outlook on the country's political and economic direction is especially downbeat, but not wishing to offend my friend, I merely concluded that South Africa was a country blessed with abundant opportunity. It had a lot of good things going for it, but also a lot of bad. If we wanted to make the country a favourable place in which the young could raise families and prosper, we couldn't just focus on the good and simply wish the bad and ugly away. To overcome our difficulties we had to compile a list of our problems and commit to eliminating these impediments, one by one.While I was addressing the table, three crooks, each carrying a firearm, were ransacking our home, our second armed robbery in less than two years.Last week two prominent businessmen, Brain Joffe, CEO of Bidvest, and Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery, announced their intention of creating a fund to help promote budding entrepreneurs.It's a noble project and one of many well-meaning initiatives being steered by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to help tackle the economy's dangerously high unemployment levels and pedestrian growth rate, areas of deep anxiety for the IMF, the credit-rating agencies and investors - internally and externally.We all acknowledge the importance of these programmes and are happy to put our hearts into any plan designed to raise the nation's spirits. But confidence, the bedrock of economic prosperity, can't be bought with a cheque book, cheap loans and imaginary promises. It's achieved by sticking to the rule book: the constitution.To get the best out of people you have to ensure they are safe and secure in their homes. You have to provide them with electricity, clean water and flushing toilets, as well as affordable schools and universities for their children's education and hygienic hospitals for their sick. They must be treated fairly in the workplace and have equal opportunity of progressing up the corporate ladder. The roads on which they travel should be well paved, brightly lit and free of litter. The people they elect to administer the country should be decent and honest, and understand that they were chosen to serve the country and to deliver the necessary services that will allow the nation to flourish.At present we are failing miserably on each one of these basic needs, and until our leaders earnestly pledge to remedy these fundamentals, one by one, whatever other grand schemes they might conjure up along the way to inspire growth and create jobs in the country will flounder, quickening the pace of our decline and condemning the majority of the population to a protracted life of hardship and poverty.

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