South Africa has been through so much as a country that we sometimes don’t realise when we are faced with a major tragedy or something about which we should be outraged.

We have been smacked so hard by bad news we have somehow become immune to much that is wrong in our society. We accept without questioning when people refer to cities in South Africa - either Johannesburg or Cape Town - as the murder capital of the world, and we do not flinch when we learn that there are more babies born with foetal alcohol syndrome in South Africa than anywhere else.

In the past week, for instance, we have had at least two incidents which, in a normal society, would have seen repercussions for senior people.

The one incident was the explosion on Monday at the Denel facility at Macassar where eight people were killed. There seems to be no rush to find out what was behind this explosion and who should take responsibility.

The people who died deserve to be more than statistics. They deserve to be remembered as people who sacrificed their lives in an incident that could have been avoided.

The same can be said for the fire at the Bank of Lisbon building, in the Johannesburg central business district, which houses a provincial government department. Three firefighters died in the blaze which started on Wednesday at a building the government knew was only 21% compliant in terms of safety regulations. Buildings are supposed to be at least 85% compliant.

In both cases, there should be a thorough investigation and heads should roll. In my experience of interacting with government officials over the years, I have seen that officials lower down are often prepared to take risks because they have seen people much higher up do the same.

If top officials can get away with doing illegal things and taking short cuts, what’s to stop people lower down the pecking order following suit?

One of the areas where no one seems to want to take responsibility - and to which our response as a nation has been remarkably muted - is the technical economic recession we find ourselves in. Some cynics say poor people are not affected by recessions, but, inevitably, poor people are the ones who suffer when the government and big business make stupid decisions.

The amazing thing about the recession is that it has taken everyone in the government by surprise. The response has been to call for a stimulus package to revive the economy.

The government has a plan to revive the economy - and they have had it for five years already. It is called the National Development Plan, but because of politics, no one is really paying any attention to it. If we implement half of the proposals in the NDP, South Africa would be a significantly better place to live in.

Now is the time for business to put their money where their mouth is and show how much they are committed to making a success of South Africa. Business are always putting pressure on government to make conditions more conducive for business, but the government’s responsibility is much broader. It has to make our society better for everyone who lives here.

South Africans need to learn how to become outraged, not only at politicians, but also when things happen that would be unacceptable in most other societies.

Fisher is an independent media professional.