Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Is New Dawn bus too late?

By Opinion Time of article published May 9, 2021

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By Pali Lehohla

SCHOOL trips for sports and music competitions brought a lot of joy. Not so for my father who was a teacher in the school. His gripe was about the failure to keep time.

What irritated him most were the ululations and song that welcomed the bus that had arrived hours late.

Then the trip began under a shower of song with no accountability for coming late. The post-mortem of the competition invariably focused on the sporting or music event. The possible impact of the late arrival of the bus and having not enough time for preparation was forgotten.

Finally, after almost a decade of repeated oaths for renewal, and three years from adopting the step-aside rule, the ANC bus has arrived, much to the relief of the public who waited with bated breaths, the implementation of its policies.

Ace Magashule has finally been suspended. Or has he? This major event could be received in song and ululations in one part of a divided ANC that the buffalo has finally arrived to take us to the New Dawn.

However, the delays, including the devastating effects of Covid-19 might have cast a deadly spell on the muchneeded warmth of a New Dawn.

As the director of statistics in what became the North West Statistics Office from Bop Stats, among the most rewarding programmes I had were the public engagements in 1994 and 1995.

Under the leadership of the then director-general of North West, Professor Job Mokgoro, Professor Herman Geyer, of the Potchefstroom University, Professor Akiiki Kahimbaara and I moved from district to district in the North West. We moved to seven of the nine provinces discussing the prerequisites and implications of the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

One aspect had to address the construct of the transitional local governments from a point of view of spatial justice and reconstituting spatial entities reflective of the space economy and move away from homogenous regions. A corollary was about naming the regions and the underlying science – toponymy. The associated contents derived from Census 1996 constituted a crucial component for developmental statistics. Finally, was the plan for the RDP and its implementation, recognising it as a revolution, that although bloodless, would be long and just as painful.

Two major tasks were carved out. One was how spatial justice for economic development would be possible. Our research pointed to what would be an ideal spatial reconfiguration that would accord with a space economy-based demarcation. This received little attention from policymakers.

The second was deriving a vision and plan for developmental statistics for South Africa and the transformation of the Central Statistical Services, starting with Census 1996. This was well delivered in the three decades.

The major question that remains for the New Dawn is whether the team is ready to tackle the make-or-break game awaiting us in the morning after a long, tiring overnight trip from a bus that arrived too late. That game will not be won by song and dance,.

It requires digging deep, asking the right questions and exacting accountability. As many tough games are in the pipeline, the post-mortem on this one just past has to tackle the cost of a delayed bus and what we need to do to compensate lost time. A fight over a local government election is yet another flooded river with a potential to delay the bus.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at www.pie.org.za and @Palilj01

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites

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