In Hollywood Chuck Norris would romp in to save us all, but things in South Africa are not so easily solved, says the writer. Picture:  AP Photo/Lionsgate-Millennium Films, Frank Masi
In Hollywood Chuck Norris would romp in to save us all, but things in South Africa are not so easily solved, says the writer. Picture: AP Photo/Lionsgate-Millennium Films, Frank Masi

SA looking out for a hero

By Time of article published Sep 26, 2014

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In Hollywood Chuck Norris would romp in to save us all, but things in SA are not so easily solved, writes Murray Williams.

Cape Town - Every now and then, a Hollywood blockbuster hits the big screen with a fresh new way of telling us we’re all going to die. The doomsday threats are myriad – meteorites, aliens, ice ages, famines, mutant viruses, tidal waves, nuclear war, the sun exploding.

They scare the hell out of us, until a knight on a white horse, a retired NYPD detective, Steven Seagal, Bruce Willis or – please, God, yes – Chuck Norris romps in to save us all. But things in South Africa are not so easily solved, and this isn’t a movie, nor some “external threat”.

Yet it’s just as dire. The threat is “hopelessness”. The manifestations take many forms – but three in particular: crime, protest and land invasion.

Now let’s state clearly at the outset: all three can have various motivations and catalysts. Yes, some are driven by personal greed. Some are strategically and cynically co-ordinated for narrow political gain. Some are opportunistic – people getting “caught up in the action”. But some, too, are authentic – crime driven by need, protest driven by exasperation, land invasion motivated by desperation.

Generations of South Africans are growing up without hope – hope of their lives improving, of finding work, of providing for their families.

Either way, rampant crime, protest and land invasion pose a collective threat difficult to exaggerate.

One could call the situation a “conflagration of despair”. And collectively South African society has yet to fully appreciate the full danger of what large numbers of disaffected people will do when they lose their last threads of hope.

The remedies? Most are obvious: improving service delivery, nuking corruption, maximising education and training, engineering innovative opportunities for school-leavers. Placing South Africa at the forefront of global economic relevance – the attractiveness of our investment environment, the quality of our exports and the innovation of our global partnerships. But there’s a fourth remedy: it’s called leadership.

A fortnight ago, we saw a nation united behind Jacob Zuma – in grief over deaths in Nigeria. It was a rare sight.

Politics elevates politicians into government. And once there, they serve all – as presidents, cabinet ministers, premiers, MECs, mayors, councillors – and need to place politics second.

Most famously, when President Barack Obama visited New Jersey in 2012, he was smothered in an appreciative bear-hug by governor Chris “Big Boy” Christie.

Christie gave his fellow-Republican Mitt Romney the cold shoulder. Why? Because Hurricane Sandy had just struck, and there was no time for playing games.

In South Africa, a far greater threat is upon us than a mere hurricane – despair. Leadership is in urgent demand. Leadership that inspires, that takes the nation into its confidence, that details the plan, that comforts. That fosters even just a glimmer of authentic hope.

* Murray Williams’ weekly column Shooting from the Lip appears in the Cape Argus every Friday.

Cape Argus

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