I spotted a one-paragraph announcement in Britain’s Spectator magazine recently, saying Britain’s unemployment rate had dropped to 3.8% for the past quarter of 2019.
I looked up South Africa’s unemployment rate for the same period. It was 39%. That’s more that 10 times as high as Britain’s.
Of course, our Honourable leaders will be quick to spout out excuses and explanations for this embarrassing state of affairs. We do not have the advanced technological infrastructure that Britain has, for example, and we’re a relatively young country. You can’t expect us to keep up with old established countries like Britain.
Bollocks! South Africa has more potential wealth that Britain could dream of. We have vast mineral resources - gold, coal, iron and diamonds. We have the potential to become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world - game reserves, golden beaches, world-class golf courses and water sports all year round, perfect sport flying conditions, spectacular hiking trails, riding, sailing, you name it, and in a climate Britons would die for. We have the agricultural potential to produce enough food for several countries - fruit, beef, wool, internationally acclaimed wines and fine leather. The lot! Why are a third of our potential workers unemployed? We can’t continue to use the worn excuse: “It’s the legacy of apartheid.”
The simple truth is we had it all and we broke it. Eskom is broken, SAA is broken, Prasa is broken, and our factories have closed because we sold out to China and India.
I remember being taken to visit factories as a schoolchild. We stared in awe as we watched fine woollen fabric being woven, clothing being made, shoe factories in full production, furniture factories making elegant tables and chairs, motor assembly lines building cars and trucks. We were proud to wear clothes labelled “Proudly South African”, and “Pure New Wool”.
South Africans had a reputation for being hard workers.
When my sister married and moved to England she found employment as a secretary. There were five secretaries in the office when she joined and as the others moved on, my sister took over their workloads. Eventually she was doing the work of all the original five and not finding herself particularly overworked.
She was once complimented and told: “You South Africans really do know how to work. We always like hiring you.”
What happened? Somewhere along the line we lost our pride. We forgot the pleasure of good work well done and replaced it with the greed of marching and striking for more pay. We replaced “we are proud” with “we demand”.
Unemployed? Of course we’re unemployed. We’ve broken the places where people used to be employed and we’ve replaced them with offices where people queue for handouts. But we do have all the potential for greatness we always had. Maybe we can regain it if we ever get back our national pride.
A man went to the national archives and asked them to research his family history. Afterwards he was given a dossier and asked for a fee of R4000.
“That’s a lot if money to look up my family story,” he complained.
“Well, it’s R2000 to look it up and R2000 to hush it up.”
* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.