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									Ferial Haffajee
November 17 2009
Dullah Omar lecture

I try not to be a talking head editor but accepted this
invitation to deliver the annual PEACE, SAFETY AND
HUMAN RIGHTS MEMORIAL LECTURE in memory of
Dullah Omar because he embodied:

   Selflessness and humility
   Because he eschewed a life of comfort that was
    available to black lawyers in favour of a life of
    struggle
   Because he represented a Titanic generation of
    leaders now sadly a Tsotsi generation of what the
    Sunday Times calls Jelly Tsotsis.

A heartening factor is that our government is
encouraging long-term thinking to in a nation that loves
the short-term.

Now, President Jacob Zuma wants us to think long-term,
to envisage what we might be. Successful nations like
Singapore, Scandinavia’s better economies, Botswana
have planned themselves into being.

In 2020, I’d like to be…safe. Primarily safe. An absence
of basic safety impacts on many life choices. Where I
live. When I drive. Where I hang out. And this is from a
life of privilege. An absence of safety impacts acutely
on our well-being and how we live our lives.
In Eldo’s last week we read of two children drowning –
community safety and the absence thereof is acutely
impacted by poverty and growing joblessness.

So, in 2020, I’d like to be safe.

Living in a thriving region of Southern Africa where we
can cross borders without visas. We should be growing
at a romping five percent per annum and have moved
from being commodity-based economies into
manufacturing and services giants. Roaming costs are
free across the region and South Africa is now a thriving
shopping hub.

The most common South African asset is a mobile
phone and reducing communication costs can help
people to easier financial services, access to work, for
access to state services.

For example: imagine if we were able to pay grants via
mobile phone – savings on transport, easier, safer.

Young graduates are being absorbed into
telecommunications and financial services industries as
the banks have pioneered exciting new technologies
and methods of banking emerging economy
populations. They travel across the continent helping to
set up Africa-wide wireless networks.

By 2015, we access cheap broadband and we are now at
where India was five years ago. Cheap broadband
impels growth not only because we can Facebook for
days for almost free but by bringing down the costs of
banking, of transport, by enabling farmers to determine
prices before they set out to market.
Dividing education into basic and higher education
worked and finally, matric pass rates have edged up
higher.

I grew up in Bosmont, not too far from here. School was
a walk several kilometers away. It was hard and far, but
it was safe. Later, school was CJB High. Poor and not
terribly well-resourced, but it wracked up high matric
pass rates through the dedication of its teachers and the
fierce determination of its principles like Mr. Feldman.

Now, its matric pass rates are lower than they were in
those days – a microcosm of a national challenge. Last
week, City Press noted that only one in five members of
the class of 2009 will gain entry into university. Of the
rest, over half will end up on the street.

We are replicating inequality every year and this is
impacting on safety.

The national health insurance scheme is successfully
run through both the private and public school systems.
Initially envisioned as a state-run system, clever
footwork by the private sector ensured that pragmatism
prevailed. The levels of primary health-care have gone
up significantly and the horror stories of public system
have begun to abate.

We have bucked the African trend where the elite flies to
the US, Europe and Sunninghill to access top-class
healthcare while the devil teaching may care for the rest.

What does your 2020 society look like?
At several places where I have spoken about my dream
vision, I always ask, as I will try to here? What price are
you prepared to pay to enhance the dream of a national
health plan. That basic fundament. Good health. One
percent. Two percent. 10 percent on top of your tax bill.

I have met just one person, white, male, who is prepared
to pay more. Everyone else, tax-paying and middle-
class says Hell, no! The six million tax-payers already
subsidise by paying for education and/or health and/or
security.

Of course, you give of your time in selfless ways that
equate the spirit of Dullah Omar, a spirit of selflessness
and of sacrifice.

In a country like ours, those of us with some means
have no option but to build bridges across the worlds of
plenty and of nothing.

There is one index which we need to make an
acquaintance with much more intimately. We have the
highest Gini coefficient in the world – the most glaring
wealth gap. Access to opportunity has skewed more
rather than opened up since apartheid ended. The
reasons are many and manifest: a global economy that
needs high-end not blue-collar skills.

An education system in decline. HIV and Aids. A
generation dead. A generation growing up without the
love, support and improvement that parents usually
exemplify. And so we have two South Africa’s:

One tweeting; one not eating
One with access to Garden City clinic where the menu
offers six different meals.
The other lumped with Helen Joseph where my friend
queues from three in the morning for simple diabetic
medication.

One from Sakhile where residents are rioting because
they want toilets, water and houses. One in Sandhurst,
where there are houses within houses. Toilets with
flush options.

Since my awareness has grown of this Gini coefficient, I
realise its grotesqueness every day.

The Audi Q7 so common on our streets measures more
than the average-sized shack. That’s a car bigger than
many South Africans call a home.

I have stopped being surprised at our crime rate
because it seems almost obvious that such a system
will result in a Robin Hood mentality. King of Bling,
Willie Mbatha, lived in Mamelodi as a hero.

A hijacker and thief extraordinaire, he used the
proceeds of crime to buy patronage – he gave poor
people hand-outs and so bought his safety.

With his BMW’s, his club, his GTI, his designer clothes,
he became a local hero for young people with no other
role models. The horizon of hope in such an unequal
economy is non-existent for young, black South
Africans.

We need to construct bridges out of one world into the
other.
* Giving as you do and community-based skills transfer
is one way. Teaching the simple skills of safety is
another.

* Encouraging a culture of living simply and of
practicing ubuntu – I am because you are. If you do not
have, then neither do I. Instead we live with a world of
high consumerism next to a world of next to nothing.
Porsche’s dealership in SA is one of the busiest in the
world; Laudium has the highest number of Mercedes-
Benz in the world per square kilometer.

* Education is vital. A return to basics now on the
agenda is welcome as is a plan to rebuild artisanal and
practical skills training.

* A different kind of economy is essential without
getting stuck between the labels of left, centre and right.
Simply, the economy must become opportunity
creating. It must offer on-ramps into the national
economy for the excluded, either as workers or
entrepreneurs. The lock-out factor is huge – at an
expanded unemployment rate of over 40%.

* Different role models are needed and systems of
caring that go beyond the ad-hoc. South Africans, poor
South Africans, are among the biggest givers in the
country, according to the most recent survey of giving.

A set of government indicators out last month, which
revealed that our Gini co-efficent now beats Brazil’s,
also showed that the dominant family in South Africa is
now the single woman headed household, not the
nuclear family.
Many women looking for fewer men to put a ring on it.
Or maybe not. Social structures have changed with deep
and important challenges for our future.
The single-mother headed household is now the most
common form of family in South Africa. This is amazing
what it says about the power and strength of women,
but it also poses challenges to social security and for
community safety.

There is in government a sense that if it does not
quickly make good on the promises of freedom, it will be
in trouble.

Government’s blind-spot, of course, is the inefficiencies
and the decline of the state which is its responsibility.
So, while the national health plan may be a good one,
there is no acknowledgement in it that the public system
is battered not only because of the resource allocation
in the private system but because it lacks the people
and vision to make public good.

Protests in Diepsloot and in Riverlea this month reveal
that communities are getting impatient especially when
billboards reflecting a new golf development or a
massive football world cup on your doorstep is a
constant reminder of your exclusion.

More and more as I contemplate the popularity of
Malema, the structure of family in South Africa as I exist
in my bubble passing a beggar or three at every traffic
light, safe by private security and growing everyday
more insulated from my real country.
I contemplate: what shall we do? Opt out. Live in the
bubble. Or break it. Pay a little more tax. Put a kid
through school. Hold a hand. Complain a little louder.
Your awards this evening can teach us a thing or two
about what our role might be in making our country
prosperous and normal.

Ours is tough but beloved country. It sits at the bottom
of an exciting continent. Not easy but exciting. I firmly
believe that ours is a generation that will determine
whether we become an opt-out, divided post-colonial
state or whether this is the generation that will go down
as the one that tried and succeeded at doing it
differently. Or tried at least.

								
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