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Incompetence cannot fix our injurious state: Bizarre that a powerful government can be so incompetent

A homeless man is washing himself next to his bed on an open piece of field in District Six. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency

A homeless man is washing himself next to his bed on an open piece of field in District Six. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency

Published Dec 21, 2021

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by Lorenzo A Davids

In December 1975, as a Grade 8 (Standard 6) pupil, I had a holiday job working as a postman’s assistant.

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For those old enough to remember, over December, the “Christmas mail” increased considerably so that, to get through the mail volumes, the Post Office employed casual labour who had access to a bicycle, and assigned them to a postman.

The two of you would set off with four leather bags of mail, two bags each hanging from the handlebars. My postman had the Boston, Oakdale and Stikland routes.

I loved delivering the mail. In the three weeks that I worked for the Post Office, I met people and memorised routes, addresses, and names. I was careful to ensure the correct mail went into the right bags during the morning sorting period. The Christmas Eve delivery was a huge load. We set out early and made good time.

At about 3pm it happened. I had an accident – an accident I was warned about by my experienced postman colleague. If you’re rushing, your leather bag can swing into the spokes of the front wheel and send you flying.

It happened to me. I went flying over the handlebars at full speed and smashed my face in the tar of a

Stikland residential road. The crash was so hard, I was out for a short while. With blood pouring from my face, I discovered my front tooth had snapped off entirely in the crash, my top lip gouged through, and my nose and cheek all messed up.

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With blood streaming from my face, the people who received my mail service each day just stood there. One resident brought out a near-finished toilet-roll, handed it to me, and told me to get home. I cycled home, bloodied, tearful and in incredible pain.

I tell this story because I was reminded of it again since it’s the week before Christmas. But also because I am so fearful that the ethical ethos of 1975 is still so dominant in our lives today.

It is shown in how careless the Minister of Transport is with our transport infrastructure. Under his leadership, the entire rail network is being destroyed while he is handing the country the proverbial half-used toilet-roll attitude to address a major injury.

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It is also shown in how the MEC and Mayco members for human settlements deal with housing the homeless. The homeless are given the proverbial half-used toilet-roll attitude in response to their housing needs.

Our political leaders in South Africa must understand that they stood for office to provide leadership to all 60 million people, not just the people who voted for them.

For too long, the legacy of the government has been one of gold-plated attention being given to the wealthier suburbs, with townships getting the proverbial half-used toilet-roll treatment while blood is flowing down its streets.

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My year-end assessment is that we have become a society with deepening divisions and a growing intolerance for diversity. With our political centre imploding, we are becoming a target for populist exploitation.

The following two years are going to test us deeply. With the president outsourcing several major decisions to commissions, we have developed an ideological vagueness.

Ministers are mouthing off, but their behaviour shows an incompetence and unwillingness to address an array of obvious things that must be fixed, changed and followed through on. It is bizarre that so powerful a government can be so incompetent.

With the breadbasket running empty in South Africa, we are becoming casual labour to the economic and political aspirations of the global North – both in South Africa and on the continent.

We have political leaders who see nothing wrong with this, lauding it as “important partnerships”, while it is clear to all that we are being handed half-used toilet-rolls to fix our injurious state.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

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

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