When sitting comfortably in a place where polite people go alone to I scan the magazines my mom leaves for guests. It is the only place in the house where such magazines (and they are not pornographic, take my word) can be scanned without being seen and ridiculed at as you need the IQ of a succulent suffering from slow growth to want to read them in the first place. They are that bad. This quote by the way was what a teacher once said to me “You have the IQ of a succulent suffering from slow growth” and like my favourite minister Angus Buchan I am tempted to search for this fellow and ask him how many degrees he has, how many books did he write and let us take a walk behind the shed to sort our differences in opinion out like men (Uncle Angus never said the last part, I am more violent). Unfortunately, the teacher is already in hell where he belongs with the rest of his nasty colleagues. It is a pity, I often dream of nice short left hook in the face and then I calm down and remember forgiveness and all that.
Whilst scanning the magazines in a moment of great boredom I read excuses although I am sorely tempted to call it what it is, government propaganda, relating to the power cuts we are forced to endure here. For those who don’t get what I mean it is called “load shedding” which means the power grid is turned off without decent warning at any time blacking out suburbs for anything between an hour and four hours or even more. This is to prevent a total crash which is due to institutional incompetence, what else can you call it?
In twenty years no decent planning existed to upgrade the power grid and the maintenance of the once fully functional power grid was left to slip into typical “we don’t care as long as we are paid magnificent salaries” attitude. And guess what? As more and more people got onto the power grid (a good thing) the strain got too much and now we are forced to buy gas stoves and candles of all things if we cannot afford generators. You know, back in the eighties there was a joke “What did Zimbabwe had before candles? Electricity!” and now we are the same; we also once had a power grid we were proud off. It is all rather pathetic and interesting to me, able to read between the lines, how the load shedding is being spinned as something to be proud off.
Let me explain. When this first happened people joked, “I wonder how many babies are made because of it.” Fair enough, if you need to wait for a power cut to get cuddly with your missus you must have an extremely boring life but fair enough, we smiled and thought it will not happen again (the load shedding, not the cuddling, my word). And now I read, years later, people are playing cards, lying on the grass watching the stars or having a barbecue. This is to be admired, the “can do” spirit which made men and women move into Africa and conquering all before it (or as some would say, subjected the natives – it depends on your views and I don’t even want to debate it). But my question here is one of ethics. “Is it good that we take such insults to our national honour, and it is an insult based on incompetence, so mildly and joke about it?”
I get the stiff upper lip thing, I get the let us not moan all the time and I do get the well this is the way it is, if you don’t like it, you are welcome emigrate. What I don’t get is the acceptance of that what is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to pay for electricity and not receive the service and legally being unable to do anything about it. You may, under human rights I suppose make out a case, there was an instance where someone sued the Indian Government for potholes in the streets, but in general the system is such that you have no recourse except moaning in your blog about it. The horrible fact remains that we are getting used to that we should not get used to.
I wonder, what else are we joking about what we should really be angry about? The security situation forcing decent men to spend money on electric fences, guard dogs even if you are a cat person, CCTV and hoping you are not hacked and your cuddling with the missus seen on the internet, armed reaction which according to studies is useless as is an alarm system. Yet we do this and we accept that the police are apparently so pathetic that it is not even expected from them to solve the simplest of crimes let alone protect you. When we read of the latest scandal (there is no other word) surrounding the presidency or other elected officials we shrug as say, “Ah, this is Africa, what did you expect” and I also am on record in books to say such a statement angers me, it is racist. Let us look at it a bit deeper.
Why do we expect less from Africa than any other place? Because of the above circumstances we accept as normal, I suppose. It is hard to argue with the ones contemptuously pointing at what we accept as normal and joke about because we have no other choice. I believe we have a duty, an ethical compulsion if you wish, to complain and use the legal system to the maximum extend to force change back to normality and not what is happening now. Sometimes I really believe we forgot our great dreams of the 1990s when we had hope and the desire to change for the better. Now I only smell the bananas and it is a bitter smell. And that part so often said “If you don’t like it, you are welcome emigrate?” Yeah, I also believe that given half a chance most would emigrate if welcomed in another country and that is probably the worse mark of a failure country can get. Mediocrity is not something to strive for.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.