Wednesday, April 27, 2011

17 years after our freedom - what are the achievements and negatives?

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

April 27 is one of the most historical days in South African history. It's a day, 17 years ago, when all South Africans for the first time in more than 300 years went to the polls after a negotiated settlement was reached at Codesa between the then ruling National Party, the ANC, and other parties.
The ANC won the first democratic elections by an overwhelming majority and went onto form the first Government of National Unity, headed by the country's iconic leader, Mr Nelson Mandela.
But Mr Mandela immediately adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the former oppressors and outlined a programme that would not only promote South Africa as a country for all citizens, but also to improve the quality of life for all South Africans, irrespective of race, colour, creed or religion.
Delivering his inauguration address as the country's first democratic president in Cape Town, Mr Mandela was clear that the new South Africa would promote the interests of all South Africans.
"Today," he said, "we are entering a new era for our country and its people".
"Today we celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of South Africa."
He added: "The struggle for democracy has never been a matter pursued by one race, class, religious community or gender among South Africans. In honouring those who fought to see this day arrive, we honour the best sons and daughters of all our people. We can count among them Africans, Coloured people, Whites, Indians, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews - all of them united by a common vision of a better life for the people of this country."
Mr Mandela then went onto promise the people that the new South Africa would be protected by a constitution and Bill of Rights that would not only promote the well-being of the majority who had been marginalised during the apartheid era, but would also protect the rights of minorities.
He said: "Democracy is based on the majority principle. This is especially true in a country such as ours where the vast majority has been systematically denied their rights. At the same time, democracy also requires that the rights of political and other minorities be safeguarded.
"The people of South Africa have spoken in these elections. They want change! And change is what they will get. Our plan is to create jobs, promote peace and reconciliation, and to guarantee freedom for all South Africans.
"We will tackle the widespread poverty so pervasive among the majority of our people. By encouraging investors and the democratic state to support job creating projects in which manufacturing will play a central role we will try to change our country from a net exporter of raw material to one that exports finished products through beneficiation.
"The government will devise policies that encourage and reward productive enterprise among the disadvantaged communities - African, Coloured and Indian.
"While we are and shall remain fully committed to the spirit of a government of national unity, we are determined to initiate and bring about the change that our mandate from the people demands.
"We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.
"This is the challenge that faces all South Africans today, and it is one to which I am certain we will all rise."
Seventeen years after the first democratic elections, the establishment of a new democratic government and the installation of Mandela as the first democratic president, one needs to reflect on what has been achieved and the negatives.
There's no doubt whatsoever, the ANC Government has gone a long way in promoting the vision of a country for all citizens - irrespective of race or colour; it has done a great deal to open up opportunities for the majority in the educational and health fields; it has built more than a million RDP houses for the poor and disenfranchised; and has opened up opportunities for the creation of a powerful and strong black middle class.
It has also ensured that the different sporting codes were transformed to represent all the people of the country.
However, at the same time the ANC has failed miserably to control and stem the ever increasing violent crime wave that affects all citizens; it has failed hopelessly to curb the spread of fraud and corruption that have become endemic in almost all areas - especially in government departments, provincial governments and in almost all municipalities and town councils; and has failed to stem the deterioration of the educational and health sectors.
It has also failed to stimulate the police force to tackle drug lords, illegal shebeen operators and other liquor lords; and contributed to the disintegration and break-up of families through the establishment of casinos in the urban centres of our country.
The ruling ANC has failed to create a climate where business people can create jobs for the millions who are finding it extremely difficult to find employment. This failure is one of the main reasons for the daily increase in violent crime in almost all areas of the country.
Another major failure on the part of the ruling ANC has been refusal to bring to order elements such as Julius Malemas and other "johnny come latelies" and promote fully the vision of the Mandelas, Walter Sisulus and Govan Mbekis that "the struggle for democracy has never been a matter pursued by one race, class, religious community or gender among South Africans."
What has become tragic that instead of bringing to order the Malemas, we have veteran leaders like Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela "singing, dancing and sharing the stage" with a "too big for his boots" Malema.
South Africa is not only one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but also a country rich in material terms where all citizens could be provided opportunities to "better their lives".
One hopes that on this 17th year of our democracy that the ruling ANC will go back to its founding values, principles and ethics while at the same time it creates an environment where the former marginalised majority will be able to work to better their lives.
We must continue to re-iterate that "today we celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of South Africa".
Mr Mandela must not be made to feel that the sacrifices made by him and thousands of others were meant to "benefit the powerful few" rather than the majority, irrespective of race, colour, creed or religion. - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Alcohol abuse - a concern for all

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

Alcohol abuse has become a growing problem in our different communities. The situation has reached such serious proportions that teenagers, including school children, have now also become caught up in the world of "binge" drinking. The spread of alcohol abuse to young persons, teenagers, in schools and colleges is primarily due to a lax in regulation and enforcement and the emergence of illegal taverns(shebeens) in almost all our residential suburbs.
For instance, in Belvedere in Tongaat there are reported to be at least four legal taverns, one bottle store and a number of illegal shebeens. In Hambanathi, there are reported to be at least four legal taverns and a number of illegal shebeens. In the Tongaat CBD, there are reported to be at least a dozen taverns and drinking houses, numerous bottle stores and one bar at a central hotel.
In the Verulam CBD, there are numerous taverns and bottle stores. More or less the same situation prevails in residential suburbs such as Mount View, Trenance Park, Ottawa, Waterloo and Amaotana.
The same situation also prevails in Shakaskraal and its suburbs.
The proliferation of these taverns (both legal and illegal), drinking houses and bottle stores should be the concern of child and social welfare organisations, community groups, political parties and their representatives in the different areas. They should show their concern for obvious reasons.
Alcohol abuse also leads to drug abuse.
Alcohol abuse does not only affect the health and welfare of the alcoholics, their families, friends and colleagues but also leads to all kinds of social and economic problems. According to a research conducted by the Medical Research Council(MRC), alcohol abuse is directly linked to 67 percent of all domestic violence; more than 50 percent of all murders; just under half of all male prisoners had consumed alcohol or drugs at the time, or before committing, their most recent crime; and approximately 40 percent of firearm and 58 percent of blunt instrument homicide victims have consumed alcohol prior to their fatal injuries.
Research has also shown that alcohol abuse has been directly linked to the high mortality rate on South African roads and the incidence of women and child abuse within homes. Alcohol misuse is also a significant contributing factor to those participating in unprotected sex and other dangerous sexual practices that may contribute to the spread of Hiv-Aids.
It's estimated that at least 50 percent motor accidents are alcohol related and this costs the country about R7,5-billion a year. The MRC estimates that alcohol related costs associated with pedestrian trauma alone are in excess of R686-million a year.
Alcohol also has a negative effect on the business community due to absenteeism, poor productivity, high job turnover, interpersonal conflicts, injuries and damage to property. The economic costs in the work place, according to the MRC, are in excess of R7- billion and overall, alcohol abuse costs the country at least R9-billion.
The Government and its social welfare agencies are now worried about the alcohol abuse toll on families, communities and in businesses. The Government intends to introduce legislation to protect teenagers from alcohol abuse by restricting sale of liquor to persons only above 21. Currently the age limit is 18.
The Government also, among other regulations, wants to ensure that non-profit organisations, community groups, religious institutions and social welfare organisations do not use the sale of liquor in their fund-raising programmes.
While the Government's latest moves are certain to be strongly welcomed by child and social welfare and other community organisations, one has to ask, at this time of electioneering for the May 18 municipal elections, what are political parties and their representatives doing or intend doing to help overcome alcohol abuse in our communities in areas such as Shakaskraal, Tongaat, Brake Village, Mithanagar, Hambanathi, Belvedere, Verulam, Waterloo, Mountview, Redcliffe and Cottonlands? Pretty little or nothing! The more poor, ignorant and uninformed the people are, the better it's for political candidates to hoodwink, dupe and deceive them.
One also has to ask child and social welfare organisations whether it's morally acceptable or justifiable to sell liquor during charity fairs to raise funds? Surely this is hypocritical, especially when the main function of child and social organisations is to ensure the social upliftment of marginalised families and people? Take a moment and think about it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We need our own "Anna Hazare" to lead the campaign against corruption

By Marimuthu Subramoney
aka Subry Govender

"So many sacrifices were made for this country. But everything is being destroyed. You (Gandhiji) gave direction to this country but these people are destroying it.''
These were the anguished sentiments of a veteran anti-corruption crusader in India, 73-year-old Anna Hazare, when he embarked on a "fast-unto-death" campaign in the Indian capital, New Delhi, last Tuesday. Mr Hazare wanted to highlight the rampant corruption that is plaguing India and also to get the Indian Government to negotiate with civil society groups about framing an anti-corruption law, the Lokball Bill.
Shri Hazare, who was an associate of Mahatma Gandhi in the non-violent freedom struggle against the former British colonial power, made it clear to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and his government that civil society must be involved in tightening the Bill, which has been on the drawing boards of various governments for the past 42 years.
Shri Hazare's campaign captured the imagination of all sectors of Indian society and people in more than 400 cities and towns came out in droves to support him and also to join in hunger strikes. The people carried placards that read, "Join India's second freedom struggle" and "Rid corruption now".
One of the prominent people who came out in support of Shri Hazare was popular socially-conscience actor, Amir Khan.
In a letter to Prime Minister Singh, Khan said: "I am one of over a billion citizens of this country who is affected by, and most concerned about, corruption in our country. The last few months have witnessed shocking exposes. I am one of the many who feel that strong steps need to be taken as corrective measures…It is, therefore, with great hope and humility that I request you to pay heed to the voice of Mr. Anna Hazare."
The massive anti-corruption campaign around the country woke the Manmohan Singh Government from its "slumber" because there were fears of the "new revolution" becoming bigger than first anticipated. The Government conceded to the demands of the Hazare movement and now both parties will draft stringent regulations to crack down on politicians, officials, and other government office bearers who indulge in corruption.
Moving from India to our country, we find that fraud and corruption is just as all pervasive. But the crucial question is that what has happened to our veteran freedom fighters? Why are they not speaking out openly and loudly against the corruption that seems to have become deeply ingrained in government departments, provincial governments and local authorities?
This rot was highlighted this past weekend when the Minister of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sicelo Shiceka, was reported to have wasted millions of rand of taxpayers' money on himself, his friends and family on luxury trips overseas and for accommodation in super five star hotels in Switzerland and Cape Town.
In the eThekwini Municipality alone, allegations are rife of widescale fraud and corruption. There are allegations that the wife and son of a senior official had been awarded muncipal tenders; another senior official's wife was also rewarded with a contract; municipal officials and several councillors have obtained contracts for various jobs despite the fact that this is illegal to do so; the children of a council big wig enjoyed special privilege when being awarded tenders; and one senior official even entering into an illegal relationship.
Locally, it has also been alleged that a councillor's wife had been granted a contract for some municipal work.
While many former struggle stalwarts speak out against this evil in private, not many of them have the courage of an "Anna Hazare" to launch an open campaign.
One or two voices have, however, been heard against the corruption that is sweeping the country.
Cosatu secretary general, Mr Zwelinzima Vavi, who previously had spoken of vultures in Government, last week recalled the life of the late former ANC president, Oliver Tambo, when he spoke of the "feeding frenzy" that has gripped the ANC.
Vavi, by no means a "Anna Hazare" of South Africa, expressed the view that Tambo "must be turning in his grave about the rot the ANC is tolerating" when addressing a trade union conference in Johannesburg.
He warned: "Unfortunately, despite us prioritising corruption, in reality corruption is getting out of hand. We must avoid the kind of feeding frenzy that has gripped countries such as Angola and Kenya, where corruption is the order of the day.
"The social order in such states allow the first family to feed first, followed by cabinet ministers and provincial leaders, while the poor are left with nothing. If we are not careful and don't turn the bus, making it face a different direction, we will find ourselves there like Angola and Kenya."
Only a few days later, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, who is also the secretary general of the South African Communist Party, also warned about the evils of corruption when he addressed students at the University of Zululand this past weekend. He acknowledged there might be some within the Communist Party who were also involved in corruption and called for a "clean up".
It appears from all accounts that corruption is becoming the order of the day and we too must unearth a "Anna Hazare" before it's too late. We fought for freedom so that the new South African Government will create opportunities for all citizens to enjoy a better quality of life. We did not fight to create opportunities for a few to enrich themselves through fraud and corruption at the expense of the vast majority.
We should not, as Vavi says, allow our beautiful South Africa to go the same route as Angola, Kenya and other countries. There must be a "Anna Hazare" out there who is prepared to emerge from retirement to lead an anti-corruption campaign in South Africa as well! - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What are municipal election candidates and their political parties doing to tackle the problem of drug lords and drugs?

By Marimuthu Subramoney
aka Subry Govender

While the different political parties and their candidates go about their merry ways to woo voters for the forthcoming local government elections, one of the key questions being asked is how many of them are raising and tackling the issue of drugs and drug lords?
Almost all densely-populated areas such as Belvedere, Belgate, Hambanathi, Brake Village and Watsonia in Tongaat; Trenance Park, Mountview and Waterloo in Verulam; Phoenix, Chatsworth, Umlazi, KwaMashu, and Merebank in Durban are infested with drug lords, dealers and their agents.
They operate with almost total impunity despite the fact that they are well-known in the different communities.
These parasitic worms have been sucking the blood of our people for decades and in the process have succeeded in destroying thousands of families.
The police, with some exceptions, appear to be indifferent or just don't feel that the drug lords are a danger to the social fabric of our society.
It's against this background that one would have expected the ANC, DA, IFP and other parties to prioritise the fight against drugs and drug lords in their manifestos.
But sadly not one of them or their candidates appear to see this issue as a serious problem.
In fact, in a latest development, the ANC-controlled eThekweni Municipality's Metro Police has withdrawn a unit of its Crime Prevention Division that has been reportedly doing excellent work in targeting drug lords in Chatsworth.
The unit members have been reportedly re-deployed to Umlazi to write traffic fines.
Questions are being asked why the unit members are being removed when they are doing a fantastic piece of work in curbing the drug lords and their illegal and nefarious business?
While one can only speculate as to the real reasons for the withdrawal of a police unit that is targeting drug lords, there are fears that maybe certain people would like to see communities like Belvedere, Watsonia, Trenance Park, Mountview, Phoenix, Chatsworth and Merebank become embroiled in drugs and other anti-social activities instead of concentrating on a better life for their families and children!
The ANC, DA, IFP, the other parties and their candidates must be taken to task for what appears to be their total silence on this crucial social issue. What are they doing to dispel allegations that the drug lords are being allowed to operate with impunity because some members of the police are on the take?
The residents in the communities concerned expect the political parties and their candidates to inform them of what actions they intend to take to root out this menace.
If they are unable to respond positively, then they should not expect the already disenchanted ratepayers and others to take them seriously. - Subry Govender