“I have officially reached the end of my tolerance with being governed by ineptitude,” writes Lorenzo Davids. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
“I have officially reached the end of my tolerance with being governed by ineptitude,” writes Lorenzo Davids. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

#changethestory: Famine fuelled by oversupply of ineptitude

By Opinion Time of article published Aug 18, 2020

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by Lorenzo Davids

I am not sure how I arrived at this point. I am fed up with the ineptitude, lethargy and nepotism. I think the correct academic term for it is gatvol.

I have officially reached the end of my tolerance with being governed by ineptitude. The dictionary defines ineptitude as a “lack of skill or ability”. I have seen hunger up close in this country over the past four months, specifically and generally during the previous 50 years.

It is not just about human beings coming to my door to ask for food. It is the hovels, shacks, and street corners I have been to, the ash-filled sleeping spots and the soaking wet and ice-cold shop fronts that I have been to, to talk with people who suffer the effects of our arrogant ineptitude.

Two things confuse me: who put people who have no experience with hunger or food relief in charge of food relief, and why are people who historically know the pain of oppression and poverty stealing from and exploiting the poor when they come to power?

I think the answer to my two questions are the same: the doctrine of ineptitude is a management philosophy that allows one’s friends to be given jobs and make decisions they are wholly unqualified to make.

South Africa has about 31million people who live below the three poverty lines as defined by Stats SA.

We have a public service, with a few exceptions, governed by ineptitude, where the crisis of poverty and hunger sadly no longer causes alarm.

Sassa grants are a case in point. Given the chaos at Sassa, it is clear that the service must be made a provincial competency. In a recent phone call with a Sassa office, where I tried to make sense as to why an applicant was sent from office to office, the relevant official duly baptised me with the timeless wisdom of public service ineptitude.

When I tried to further explore why people must queue throughout the night, I was very professionally informed “if they want the service, they must come queue”. In the middle of the night.

Food security is another area of such tragic ineptitude. If you have 1million hungry people in a province, you must be able to do the sums as to how many food services you will need to prevent starvation. The fact that we have a hunger crisis of the current magnitude is evidence of the levels of ineptitude. Where are the public servants who had to predict and prevent this?

One thing we can learn from the philosophy of central planning: It hardly ever works. If we are going to succeed as a democracy, one of the necessary decisions we will need to make is to devolve as much power to the lowest levels of government and civil society.

Measure each local government by seven things: personal safety, infant mortality, food security, educational outcomes, land for housing, leadership by women and unemployment. Growth and investment will follow these seven indicators.

The national schizophrenia that manifests itself all over the country is cause for great concern: We have a Parliament, but a National Command Council makes all the decisions. We have a president, but his head of Co-operative Governance can overrule his decisions. We spend billions of rand to save people from dying from a virus but watch people dying from starvation and violence.

I recently told a friend: So what is the South Africa I want to live in? I want to see violent, corrupt men jailed for life, poor children educated for global leadership, hungry masses joyfully fed, violated women sensitively given space to heal and be restored, citizens trained to inspire the world and exhausted grandmothers once again telling home-grown stories.

In revisiting April 1994, and with my basic illusions exhausted, I now cast my ballot for a competent state, not just a free country.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest.

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

Cape Argus

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