OPINION: Realise the hope

Siya Kolisi and his magnificent Springboks gave us a renewed sense of hope on Saturday, when he lifted the Webb Ellis Cup on high.

In a moment reminiscent of the Springboks’ 1995 World Cup, win when Francois Pienaar raised the cup triumphantly above his head, mirrored by our beloved Madiba clad in his No 6 Springbok jersey, President Cyril Ramaphosa, also clad in a No 6 Springbok jersey, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the first black Springbok captain to lead the team to a world cup victory.

In the lead-up to the final, John Carlin, author of Playing the enemy – Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, made into the movie, Invictus, which told the story of the 1995 triumph and the unifying energy it brought to a deeply divided nation, said: “…there’s a kind of Invictus II to it. It’s another opportunity to bring the country together around sport at a time when the country is very divided.”

Despite the euphoria that gripped a grateful nation when that final whistle blew, despite the reborn sense of unity, despite the unfettered joy that played itself out across the nation, this nascent hope is fragile, ephemeral.

It is more a shadow of what may come to be, than a sea change in our fortunes as a nation.

As the hope that sprung in 1995 gradually dwindled and died, so too will this new hope, if our leaders do not grasp the nettle, and do what must be done to address the enormous problems which beset our society.

During his mid-term budget policy statement last week, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, after spelling out the parlous state of our economy, and the gloomy state of the fiscus, said: “Hope is good but it is not a strategy. Now is the time. We cannot wait any longer … we must act today,” he said.

And to whom was he speaking when he said: “Rock the boat! Shake the baobab tree! Do the unusual, disrupt the comfort zones. Get things moving!” if not his cabinet colleagues and the grand panjandrums in his ruling party?

Who else is able to do the politically unpalatable, by implementing the structural reform measures without which our sovereign debt rating will be downgraded to junk status by Moody’s, after the rating agency on Friday changed our outlook to negative?

We have 18 months to dig ourselves out of the swamp into which the country has sunk in the past decade.

The bloated public service needs to be pruned radically, along with its wage bill. Twenty-nine thousand millionaire public servants is a slap in the face of the poor and marginalised.

A scalpel must be taken to Eskom’s wage bill and the workforce needs to be cut by at least 15 000.

Every other public enterprise must face similar pruning, and those that cannot survive without taxpayer-funded bailouts must be shut down or privatised.

And all of this must happen, despite the inevitable union fury.

The thieves who perpetrated state capture must be diligently prosecuted, as must be those who perpetrate the massive corruption that still bedevils our public administration.

The days of cadre deployment must come to an end, and only people who have the competencies required for any position in public administration, must be employed.

There is more to be done, but these few bold steps will at least signal to the nation that our new-found hope will not be stillborn.