On Wednesday 13 April 2011 in Fiksburg, the Free State, South Africa, a service delivery protest turned ugly and an unarmed man named Andries Tatane, a breadwinner and father, was allegedly beaten and then shot with rubber bullets by members of the South African Police Service. Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma‘s famous smile can be seen on huge billboards, mobile television screens and widespread banners across South Africa in preparation for the May 18 election.

Tatane’s death has evoked much reaction from both local and international media; and certainly from the South African people; and for me symbolizes a tragic irony considering one of the reasons for Zuma’s success in becoming President was his promises around service delivery in-particular.

But South Africa is full of tragic ironies.

Meanwhile on 14 April 2011 in China, as South Africa we celebrated our inclusion into the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, which collectively will make up the most powerful of the world’s economies. In what is known as the ‘Sanya Declaration’, named after the region in China where the meeting took place, the five BRIC countries have stated amongst other things that

It is the overarching objective and strong shared desire for peace, security, development and cooperation that brought together BRICS countries with a total population of nearly 3 billion from different continents. BRICS aims at contributing significantly to the development of humanity and establishing a more equitable and fair world

This is an achievement indeed worth celebrating. I just hope it serves South Africa; and our fellow BRIC nations well.

The government keeps talking about ‘creating jobs’. I am really beginning to loose sight of what they mean by that exactly. Their plan seems to be to pump billions of our tax paying rands in to ‘job creating’ projects without properly interrogating whether or not these projects are sustainable. Surely government’s focus should be in creating environments (though policy) for the private sector to create jobs and then of course focus on education, primary health care and sustainable living to allow for a healthy population to drive and take ownership of the economy.

This brings me to the last and most tragic of all South Africa’s ironies: our education system.

Education remains government’s largest single investment at R165 billion for 2010/11. Every South African citizen has a right to basic education; and in fact school is supposedly compulsory up until Grade 9 or learners under 15 years old. In 2010 there were 12.5 million learners between Grade R and Grade 12 (Matric) in the school system. 5.6 million learners are fed every day by the department of education’s nutrition programme and millions of our school children don’t have shoes or textbooks or access to electricity, never mind the Internet.  64% of our schools are what are known as ‘non-fee paying’ where learners pay nothing for books, lessons, extra murals and stationary. The social problems that affect academic learning are overwhelming in some areas and Jay Naidoo‘s shocking revelation that 12.5 million South African’s currently under the age of 24 will NEVER have a job due to lack of skills is frightening when one considers the burden this poses for the tax payer.

Compare this to the fact that every school child in Turkey has access to the Internet and the fact that both India and China have more graduate students than we have students.

Having highlight some of our ironies I still believe I live in one of the most magnificent, exciting and interesting countries in the world. I just invite critical thinking around how we can make it better for our nearly 50 million people, all our animals and of course the magical natural wonders.



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