*I wrote most of this post on Friday, but didn’t have a chance to finish it. My apologies for any timeline errors*
I heard the most intriguing and sensible thing on Friday morning while listening to the news report on 5fm.
Sadly, the excerpt below is from the only online source that I could find that made mention of South Africa’s Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane’s speech on Thursday night.
National Director of Public Prosecutions, Menzi Simelane says crime in South Africa is a mindset problem that cannot merely be blamed on poverty or other socio-economic or political factors. Mr. Simelane contributed to a symposium hosted by the Helen Suzman Foundation in Johannesburg last night.
He says South Africa was so successful in preventing crime during the World Cup, because everyone in the country had the same goal, that of making the soccer showpiece a success. There was unity of purpose, he says, anyone deemed incompetent at the moment was positive during the hosting of the World Cup because they had the right attitude. (Credit: SABCNews.com)
The actual soundclip that was played in the bulletin is more comprehensive, but this is the gist of it.
I know that there was some controversy about Mr. Simelane’s appointment as the Director of the NPA, but one can’t argue that he makes a very valid point here. So many people think back wistfully at the amazing atmosphere that reigned in South Africa while the World Cup was being hosted here. Many wondered why that atmosphere had to change back to how it was before the World Cup.
I fully agree that our attitude during the World Cup was different because of our unity of purpose, but also because we were so very proud of what our country had achieved. I think it is this pride in who we are and what we are capable of that is lacking in the aftermath.
I say this because we already have a purpose as a nation. We want to eradicate poverty. We want everyone to be equal and to have equal opportunities. We want to prosper. One merely has to look at the letters written on DearGovernment.co.za to see that the general sentiment is the same.
What lacks is pride in what we’ve already achieved. During the World Cup, we had the opportunity to show the world what we could do, and we delivered. We unveiled incredible new stadia, enjoyed driving on new roads, laughed and celebrated together and shared a sense of dignity in knowing that the world was watching and it approved.
But, after the world left and the cameras were turned away, the majority of our people returned to their dilapidated homes. They returned to a life where having running water is a luxury. How does one retain one’s dignity if you have to wash yourself in dirty water that was carried for miles? How do you take pride in your home if your home is a few pieces of corrugated iron?
I believe that South Africa as a country suffers form low self esteem. We’ve just never been good enough. There is always a doom-monger telling us that this country is going to the birds. Sadly it is most often our own countrymen that tell us that we’ll never survive. Those same countrymen then emphasize their point of view by leaving the country and looking for greener pastures, instead of staying and helping make our country the one we dream of.
For myself, I know that I try harder and give more if I know that what I’m doing is making a difference, but I need validation. I need to know that I’m doing a good job. I need to know that my boss or my family has faith in me and that they appreciate me. I realise that I will mess up and that messing up carries consequences, but I know that if I correct my mistakes I will be acknowledged and praised. I also know that if I don’t get the validation I need, I become depressed, unproductive and unpleasant. I don’t work as hard or give as much because I don’t see the point.
In light of this, I can see why our service delivery is in such a shambles. I’d also take my time and do as little as possible if I hear nothing but complaints all day. During the World Cup all the newspapers around the world kept reporting on how wonderfully friendly and helpful South Africans are; how we’d gone above and beyond what anyone expected and how we’d made a shining success of the biggest sports tournament in the world. The result was that everyone became even more unified and worked even harder.
Essentially this is once again a media problem. While I’m all understand that the media are merely writing about current affairs, I would love to see more positivity and hope instead of the constant doom and gloom. It is however not exclusively the press themselves that are to blame. The press generally try to be objective about the stories they report on, regardless of how depressing the subject matter is. The real culprits are the commentators. The average Joe and Jane who have nothing good to say. You recognise their comments by the prevalence of the words: banana republic, racist, monkeys and a plethora of other derogatory terms and expressions. They’re the ones who have no tolerance, the ones who refuse to believe in South Africa’s potential.
They are the ones who need an attitude adjustment. Who much better could South Africa be if all the pessimists could but learn to withhold their judgement? How much better could the service be if we could learn to say “please” and “thank you” and to smile like our mothers taught us. It costs nothing to be polite and I’m much more likely to go the extra mile if I know that you’re going to smile at me and say “thank you” in the end.
So yes, Mr. Simelane, we definitely need an attitude change. We need to learn tolerance and patience and to remember our manners. We need to acknowledge and reward a job well done. We need to remember that we’re all in this together and that we all want to have the South Africa that we’ve always dreamed about.
It starts with me.