Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General for Statistics South Africa
JOHANNESBURG - On March 8, 2014, a hitherto yet-to-be-unravelled tragedy occurred. Air Malaysia MH370 en route to Beijing vanished from the radar and headed into the deep waters of the ocean. The world mobilised sea-goers and expertise to secure the black box of the plane and the fuselage.

Experts went to sea and a ping was reported here and there. Bayesian probability theory went into overdrive, based on the belief and analysis of the pings suggesting thus where the remains of MH370 could be.

Frequentists would need more disasters to create enough samples that could help them calculate the probability of locating where MH370 disappeared into taking with human suffering of unmatched proportions.

A frenzy of research descended on the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean.

In March 2016, hope was raised as flotsam presented itself on the shores of Mauritius and Mozambique. But the debris that was statistically associated with MH370 was in fact conclusively proven to be that of a Boeing 777.

And so despite technological advancement and detection through satellite devices, the mysterious disappearance of MH370 remains undiscovered to this day.

Similarly, the self-inflicted economic and social tragedy caused by apartheid has left debris and flotsam.

However, through struggle, South Africans gained tools to enable them to begin the long walk of dealing with post-apartheid challenges.

The past 10 years have revealed even more flotsam and debris, with the explosion coming out of the exposure of the Gupta e-mail leaks, which showed how the Indian migrant family spun webs across key institutions of power in South Africa.

The complicated web of command and control that hitherto suggested a parallel state was made, sealed and delivered, leaving most of South Africa appalled. 

This happened amid protracted denial and protectionist strategies and tactics by the ruling party itself, only to admit lately, but with surprising denial of knowledge of what was happening.

Decorum was demanded in the house of honourable members as the red berets aggressively led the charge reacting to the “signal” of flotsam and debris. Opposition parties and civil society joined in.

The public protector at the time, Thuli Madonsela, was castigated as she responded to the signal.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng had to adjudge both the executive and Parliament as derelict and yet the ruling party continued to have its thumbs in its retinas and elbows in its ears, while the flotsam and debris floated for over eight years.

Today it's a ping here, a ping there, a flotsam here, a flotsam there, a flurry of debris all over portending a message of difficult times ahead.

Like Air Malaysia MH370, signals are clear that it perished in the ocean, but without the black box and the fuselage there will never be closure.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new dawn should be about getting the black box and the fuselage. Without it, the development challenge will remain illusive.

Electioneering seems to have become a typical response to a ping here, a ping there, a flotsam and debris here and there.

The key lesson from former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure is this: South Africa is in need of a serious and deep cut understanding and response into its economic, social and political soul.

This is a tragedy that can only be addressed and mitigated through a fact-based and focused endeavour and not by a five-year interval of survivalist electioneering fever and frenzy. We have our MH370 to find.

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

 The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.