Wake up South Africa! Social cohesion just like job creation, will not come from government

Posted by Janice Scheckter on 29 March 2017 11:55 AM CAT

While channel hopping a couple of days ago, I caught a British diplomat referring to South Africa as the miracle nation. At the time the comment aggravated me to such an extent that I flipped right past and failed to get her name. But Mrs British Politician, on which damn planet are you living? The only miracle here is that a corrupt and damaging government has not been overthrown by angry citizens.


Twenty-three years after the advent of democracy and our ‘miracle’ plays out in the following ways; there is a wave of racial tension that at times plays out in the vilest ways. Places called ‘informal settlements’ are un-serviced and people live in the most undignified ways, while formal settlements are equally un-serviced often with no running water, no sanitation and no sense of security. Fellow Africans seeking refuge from their own countries’ insecurity arrive in South Africa, often more astute at business than our local population that have a low entrepreneurial motivation, set up shop, prosper to some minor extent and are the victims of local wrath. Our children are receiving an education which will play out the continued African tragedy that we know so well. And all this while our government headed by a corrupt leader, ensures that state coffers will be plundered until his last seconds in office and possibly thereafter. A social cohesion strategy was adopted by cabinet in 2012 – so five years later what became of it?

What is clear is that the government’s promises on job creation have as much chance of success as their strategy on social cohesion. Wake up South Africa – it’s up to you and I. We seem to have ‘checked out’ and for some bizarre, inconceivable reason, as South Africans, we’re waiting for social cohesion to resolve itself.

While there is a robust civil society around a variety of impact area, it remains up to us to get involved and make a difference. South Africans as seemingly diverse as we are, in my experience, have more in common than we think. As citizens, vulnerable to a corrupt government, rich and poor, black and white, South African and foreign, we are all exposed to crime, violence, and non-delivery.

Holding civil servants accountable is up to us. Creating an environment of social cohesion is up to us.  As soon as we start recognising our role and thinking about it in the most collaborative way, change has a chance.

One of my passions which I noted in a prior blog is safe pedestrian passage. I started a test group called Walk Safe Jozi where I plan to load road issues, some via the Joburg Roads Agency app. Last week, as I left my office, the neighbouring school’s day had ended and kids were heading home. I watched a driver completely ignore pedestrian rights as two young girls stood in the middle of the crossing. A traffic policeman simply observing traffic behaviour is as rare in Johannesburg as mangoes in winter. Why?! Is this not what our tax rand pays for.

My theory is that rage for many South Africans, on any given day starts when drivers don’t respect each other or pedestrians, where we all simply believe it’s each man for himself. It’s a day of millions of individual survivors who believe that their survival requires being the “first to the finish”.

We will never have social cohesion if we continue to view life through personal lenses. Respect, be more than one, #keepthemaccountable and collaborate!

Janice Scheckter loved the idea of a rainbow society, the miracle nation, and is among millions of saddened, despondent South Africans – maybe down, but not, out!

If you would like to start a group on the Joburg City Network around a topic that will make our city better for its citizens, just do it! Start a group, start important conversations and engage with people willing to make an impact.

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