Ignorance is not bliss; it's a symptom of a leaderless government. Our country is facing numerous challenges that demand attention and action from our government leaders. In this month's newsletter, Wayne Duvenage sheds light on the pressing issues affecting our economy, healthcare, service delivery, and local government. His thought-provoking insights and calls for active citizenry will leave you questioning the status quo and inspire you to be part of the solution. Dive into the full story by clicking on the link below, as we work together to create a better South Africa.

As individuals, when we encounter financial or business decline, we instinctively analyse the root causes and take action to overcome the challenges. It's common sense. Yet, I am constantly astonished by how our government leaders choose to turn a blind eye to the issues plaguing our economy, whether at a national or local level. They carry on with a business-as-usual approach, pretending that the problems aren't severe enough to warrant attention.

Let's consider the recent Hammanskraal water crisis, which finally gained attention when the community faced a cholera outbreak and even garnered a Presidential visit. The local residents had been raising concerns about dire water quality for years, and OUTA became involved in 2019. However, it took the loss of lives to spur action. Sadly, this is a recurring pattern. We've witnessed it time and again, where temporary measures are implemented, but no lasting solutions are introduced to truly address the community's plight. 

Zooming out to the national level, we can point to countless issues that have contributed to a continuous decline in service delivery. Education, policing, healthcare, water, electricity, and housing have all experienced significant deterioration, disproportionately affecting the underprivileged and perpetuating poverty. 

A current issue that baffles many, is why government leadership believes that the National Health Insurance (NHI) will magically solve the growing healthcare crisis, despite experts, analysts, and healthcare professionals expressing reservations. Few if any have denounced the needs for an improved universal healthcare system, however there appears to be a stark difference of opinion between the government and civil society on critical matters? One possibility is that the government surrounds itself with advisors who tell them what they want to hear. We've seen this movie play out repeatedly, such as with the ill-fated eToll issue, where independent research and public understanding of the matter put paid to government's agenda for this scheme.

The impending decision on the NHI, if ever signed off and implemented, will undoubtedly face legal challenges from various sectors. The government is aware of this, yet it continues to plough ahead, assuming that its planned solution will work simply because it passed a law. This demonstrates a concerning disregard for constructive and meaningful engagement and a tendency to push ahead with flawed policies.

In this month's newsletter, I believe it's necessary to divert our attention from the dismal Ukraine peace talks and South Africa’s concerning alignment with Russia. Enough has been written and discussed on these topics, and it's increasingly evident that our government officials are excelling in the "Foot-shot Olympics," prioritizing their personal or political party interests over the nation's economic well-being. 

Of interest are recent discussions and debates on how developed nations should assist in addressing the just energy transition and economic development in Africa. This no doubt stems from greater acceptance of the need to address the continent’s energy poverty, whilst mitigating climate change impacts and promote sustainable development. There is sufficient complexity of this transition which requires tailored approaches, financing mechanisms, capacity building, and regional cooperation, however, adding to this challenge is the concern of investing these funds and resources in countries where governments are known to misuse, squander and even steal these resources. 

Turning my attention to the conundrum of local government, once again as it has been for many years in a row now, the Auditor General’s (AGSA) report on the continued financial mismanagement of many municipalities in 2022 reads like a recurring nightmare, and confirms a severe lack of progress in fixing the municipal mess that abounds. 

This begs the question: other than ongoing bailouts and debt write-offs to Eskom and waterboards, why is so little meaningful action being taken to address this critical issue of collapsing towns and cities in South Africa? It is nonsensical to suggest that nothing can be done, as we have successful municipalities and metros of comparable size and location that have thrived and continue to grow within a similar national economic environment. This invalidates the excuses attributing failure to geographical environment or scale. Instead, the deterioration of municipalities points to a lack of leadership and political will. This feeds into the underlying problems of political interference, corruption, and incompetence, ultimately leading to their downfall. Yet government ignores these underlying conditions that lie at their feet, skirting instead at the horizon for solutions and short term fixes that are unsustainable. 

South Africa has significant oversight mechanisms and powers vested in national and provincial governments to address the continuous demise of municipalities, which are woefully underutilized. Once again, political will is conspicuously absent at these higher levels, allowing interference, incompetence, and corrupt agendas to persist, in favour of those in power.

The consequences of this downward spiral in local government are severe. More water sources will become polluted, more lives will be lost to preventable diseases like cholera, and more people will lose their jobs and be sent to the unemployment ques, whilst raising the levels of poverty and inequality in South Africa. 

Much work is required of active citizenry, and here I include corporate citizenry, to participate in defending our democracy and challenging the status quo. And as I do every month, I thank those who support and contribute to OUTA to whatever extent they can, to enable us to do our work in holding Government to account.  

Yours in active citizenry and fighting to fix South Africa.

Wayne Duvenage

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