[notice]In this guest column, Johannesburg engineer and blogger Niel Knoblauch says that an identity crisis is at the heart of greed and hopelessness that is gripping many people as our nation faces tough times.[/notice]
After a year of not really thinking too much about it, the current state of South Africa has re-entered my thoughts over recent weeks through a number of sources. I guess it was started by news reports that Lonmin and Anglo-American will be cutting more than 10 000 jobs
, with other large players in the resources industry looking to follow suit. This is not a good sign for South Africa, which is already struggling with unemployment.
Then I read an article in which Gwede Mantashe, ANC secretary-general, emphasised a realisation that a colleague of mine and I came to yesterday: that – while the government has the aim and perhaps the responsibility to increase jobs — they are limited by the private sector that, in turn, has to keep their stakeholders happy and optimistic. In good economic times, their aims and objectives align beautifully, but when the tide turns (as is currently the case), their objectives clash, people are laid off as companies go into survival mode and more men and women are sent home. This does not happen peacefully, with worker unions giving a voice to the frustrated masses — disrupting an industry that tries to remain competitive in the global market. It’s not a pretty thing.
It’s in times like these that discussions on nationalisation opens up — aims and objectives will not clash if the mining company and the government are the same people. But then we look at South Africa’s track record with state-owned enterprises (think Telkom, Eskom, SAA, SANRAL, etc.) and it doesn’t really inspire confidence in the government’s ability to run top-class, cutting edge, globally competitive and long-term profitable mines. While I’m mentioning the government: it’s important to admit that in the current administration we are experiencing the symptoms of what people call state failure. In terms of services our power system is constantly under pressure and our water system is vulnerable. In terms of policy-making a number of recent bad or at least questionable moves is hurting our tourism industries (visa rules) and private businesses (BEE changes), to name only two. Not only our president, but also a wider circle of “powerful people” in government, seem to be hovering above the law — and, as was the case with Omar al-Bashir
, now even directly disregard court orders.
These are tough issues. There’s no easy, step-wise if-only-we-would
. The size of our population is increasing, while jobs are being automated at the speed of electrons. It would seem that the world is changing faster than many societies can adjust peacefully. It would seem that we are living in adapt-or-die times, or more accurately: adapt-or-become-a-charity-case. How do we make sense of this?
I suspect that, if we were to follow the string that goes through all these issues, we would find that it leads right to the hearts of the men and women, the “ordinary people”, the sons and daughters of South Africa. And with this I want to make a 90° turn from the news highway and talk about South Africa on a deeper level…
When I look at the self-enrichment in the government and the hopelessness among the poor and unemployed, and how at both ends of the spectrum immorality (sorry, not a popular word these days!) engulfs people like sinking sand, I see a people in an identity crisis. On the one hand I see insecure guys trying to make something of themselves by making lots of money, driving the BMW and wearing the suit, while on the other hand I see insecure guys destructing and disrupting, impregnating women and abandoning them, attacking foreigners, burning and looting. Guys — yes, especially the men of South Africa — we don’t know who we are.
We can come up with more policies and do whatever we want to externally — but if we don’t know who we are, we are playing games in the mud and it’s just a matter of time before our internal brokenness surfaces in some form or another. And if we don’t know who we are, we won’t know why we are here and what the purpose of our lives are. Who am I, and why am I here? That is the crux of the matter. As a Kenyan guy called Shad raps: the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.
Imagine a country or even a world where every single person is secure in him — and herself, knowing that they are unconditionally loved and intimately called closer by the Creator of the cosmos. Imagine a country where people spend their time actively loving others as they are loved, having no regard for the amount on their payslips, the title on their door or the car in the garage. I am because He loves me. Imagine a country where men and women are só rooted in the Truth of their identities in Christ and the fellowship with the Holy Spirit, that they seek His Kingdom on Earth — and not their own little kingdoms. Imagine a country where all men and women (God’s sons and daughters) ignite Hope and inspire others with their words and their actions and where every child grows up in a loving, whole family. Where faith, love and hope triumphs over fear, pride and insecurity. Where every South African knows who (Who’s) they are and what they are to do on Earth. In this broken world, this is God’s heart for us. This isn’t bringing religion into it. It’s about seeking and living Truth.
Kingdom of God
So in the tough times South Africa is in and is currently entering, especially with challenges in terms of unemployment, may we pray together and intercede for the people that live in, work in, do not work in and govern our land. May we seek the Kingdom of God every day, looking where He is moving — whether it be through the lady feeding homeless people on a daily basis, the first year arts student that is pursuing beauty in spite of an abusive childhood, the builder pouring his energy into every brick he lays — even when nobody is looking, the mother who works long hours to pay for her little boy’s school fees, etc etc. He is within us, among us, calling us to love and bring eternal hope wherever He plants us as seeds of His Kingdom. Because in the midst of lay-offs, strikes, maladministration, etc — THIS is what South Africa needs.
Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika | God bless Africa
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo, | Let its horn be raised,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, | Listen also to our prayers,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo. | Lord bless us, we are Africa’s family.
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, | Lord bless our nation,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, | Stop wars and sufferings,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, | Save it, save our nation,
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika. | The nation of South Africa.
Engineer in Training: Process Control Group
Measurement & Control Division | www.mintek.co.za
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