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SA needs a game plan that will avoid scoring own goals

As has so often been the case, it was disheartening to see Bafana Bafana crash out of Africa’s soccer spectacle early on. They failed to progress as they succumbed to Mali in the quarter finals via penalties in Durban a week ago.

The optimism that had followed the team breaking their long goalless spell just could not carry them any further.

So, it is back to the drawing board for the national coach and the team.

But before there was any bit of a positive spark we saw plenty of acrimony and recriminations about the sorry state of our national team. Maybe the team will still redeem itself, who knows.

That Bafana Bafana had to face so much angst from the fans was not necessarily as a result of them not trying.

It is easy to criticise from the sidelines, and South Africans are very adept at such a practice. So I will spare Bafana Bafana from fresh criticism.

However, it is worth reflecting on the fact that even though Bafana Bafana had made South Africans miserable for many months, the team stood its ground in one small but important respect. They scored very little in the way of own goals.

Here is how Wikipedia defines an own goal: “An own goal occurs in goal-scoring games when a player scores a goal that is registered against his or her own team. It is usually accidental, and may be a result of an attempt at defensive play that failed or was spoiled by opponents. It is considered one of the most embarrassing and humorous blunders in sports.

“The term has become a metaphor for any action that backfires upon a person.”

Pause for a moment, and think about South Africa, the country, instead of Bafana Bafana, the national team. After that, ask yourself how many “own goals” South Africa, the country, keeps scoring against itself.

For an answer, you probably don’t have to look far. The reckless statements by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu are a case in point. A classic own goal.

It was rather troubling to hear threats of mining licence seizures at a time when the country needs to secure and grow investment to take mining, which is still the bedrock for so many jobs, to the next level.

The upheaval that descended on the Western Cape farms is another own goal, just as Marikana was an own goal.

As South Africans we need to strike a fine balance between short-term and long-term goals, and none of these must be own goals. Our goal should be ensuring that as the country nears its 20th anniversary as a democracy next year, South Africans, of all hues, feel positive about what the next 20 years will bring.

Eradicating poverty, inequality and unemployment is an urgent necessity that must now see politicians desist from turning these ills into a mere slogan.

The dismal state of our education is another own goal. How do we hope to compete in a fast-changing global economy when we are not providing today’s and tomorrow’s generation learning experiences that will make them productive citizens?

This coming week, President Jacob Zuma has another chance to make bold pronouncements – that must be followed by action – on how he intends to move the country forward when he delivers his State of the Nation address on Thursday.

Mr President, empty promises and no definitive plans around the questions of how your government will go about implementing the National Development Plan and a youth wage subsidy, fight corruption, develop entrepreneurship, cut wastage in government, fix education and health and fight crime will amount to nothing more than another own goal for the country.

The JSE may be hitting numerous records but one thing is certain – ordinary South Africans do not feel any perkier as the cost of living continues to skyrocket and desperation grows.

I have mentioned in this column before that South Africa currently holds an unenviable position in the world’s misery index rankings. We are number one, followed by Spain, and that must help explain some of the ructions that have raised concerns about what the credit rating agencies called “rising social tensions”.

Next month South Africa will host the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in Durban. It is a huge event but whose spin-offs the country does not fully comprehend, if the prevailing indifference or apathy is anything to go by.

Let us hope the president in his speech summons his cabinet to rise up to the stature of Itumeleng Khune’s goalkeeping prowess or else there will surely be plenty of own goals to ruminate about in the months and years ahead.

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