Pali Lehohla

JOHANNESBURG – Nelson Mandela once remarked, upon receiving the 1996 census results, that the country at least had something to work on and numbers that count for the nation.

Mandela was seized by the painful evidence before him. He said the national portrait strengthened our commitment to building a democracy worthy of the name. 

Twenty years on we have the exact opposite of what Madiba thought we could deliver, especially to the poor. This week’s findings on the VBS Mutual Bank stand in stark contrast with his dream. 

In Ayanda Mabulu’s controversial painting, Mandela looks across the table and discovers that he is dining with the devil. 

We are the devil. We have tried to remember him on his 100th anniversary and the world put us on a high pedestal at the UN. But our actions are shameful. 

On the day the census results were released some entertaining errors of omission occurred and the attentive Mandela responded to them in a way that only he could do. 

The then head of Statistics SA, Mark Orkin, introduced himself as the head of South Africa while finance minister Trevor Manuel kept the census report which was Madiba’s. 

In response to this, the elderly statesman said: “I had assumed that I would disappear under a cloud of glory but it is quite clear from everything that has happened recently that many people that I would expect to appreciate what I have done as an old man now regard me as a has-been.”  

The obnoxious revelations reflecting economic mismanagement on a grand scale are disappointing. 

What is even more disturbing is that we make excuses and blame the drought, global factors and a litany of others for our under-performance when the heart of our problem is party- and state-inspired corruption. 

In 2003, former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration developed a scenario approach to development with different outcomes. 

The outcomes were discussed at Cabinet level and the directors-general would be fully engaged. In the last lekgotla that Mbeki presided over, the Skedonk scenario we are in was predicted with an amazing level of precision. 

This scenario approach to development was abolished under the administration of former president Jacob Zuma and the Skedonk, Shosholoza, Dudisanang and Mvango outcomes were never revisited.  

Here we are now in Skedonk. The end game of Skedonk, however, is yet to come. Under Skedonk the end game is when the ANC comes out to the public openly revealing all the misdemeanours, not through the party secretary-general commission, not through the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture or through any duress, but voluntarily as a party responding to what Mandela said: 

“May the publication of this portrait of our nation strengthen our commitment to building a democracy that is worthy of the name: a society in which the needs of all South Africans, and especially the poor, are at the heart of the nation’s efforts.” 

May that day come.

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

The views and expressions are not necessarily that of Independent Media.