Yes, we really can

Written by Jonathan Erasmus – Project Manager – Community Action Network at Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse

I am going out on a limb here and I am going to make a few assumptions about you.

You are knowledgeable enough to understand that the country we live in is in deep trouble and that we are not facing one crisis, but many crises. You are also patently aware that unless something changes soon, regardless of who wins the 2024 General Election, we will all be much poorer for it, financially and emotionally.

And with practical lived experience as either a South African or foreign resident who lives in this country you also grasp the obvious fact that South Africa is not a homogenous country but rather a construction of various nations bundled together through historic misadventure, war, trade and compromise.

Our fractious construct, or what others may call diversity, is both our country’s greatest weakness and greatest strength – at the same time.

We cannot agree on just about everything.

Yet the fact that no nation in this country has the ability to dominate another, no matter how hard they try, is also our safety.

Something we do agree on is recognising real injustice. From ending colonial rule, Apartheid, the Bantustans, separate development and our joint disgust for criminality are examples of how we rise although not always successful at first, to right the wrongs.

It is the commonality of wanting justice and fairness that ultimately binds us together.

Most South Africans, and that is the majority of the now 60-odd million, simply try to live in the system created by a politically corrupt elite and at some point, we get rid of them and try again.

It is South Africans that have built a resilient economy, not any grand Apartheid or ANC plans.

If the railways break, we use trucks, if our electricity supply is poor, we invest in off-grid solutions and if the council does not clean the park, residents do it themselves.

I am often left gobsmacked by how the ANC-led government has squandered so much of its power. Despite their catastrophic inability to govern, somehow the economy has teetered on forward. I often wonder had the ANC remained the economic course of the early Thabo Mbeki era and continued to liberalise the economy their control of the country today would be insurmountable. Instead they chose the role of self-destruction. There is a saying that opposition parties never win elections, but rather incumbent parties lose elections.

We may witness this in a few months, or maybe not but what is absolutely necessary is that we as South Africans develop a  can do attitude.

If we do not, we are destined to fail.

And many civil society organisations throughout the country recognise this. In Johannesburg, the Joburg Crisis Committee, which includes some of the country’s most prominent civil society groups are actively building capacity to provide stringent oversight.

The non-profit OUTA has also launched a separate initiative called JoburgCAN which aims to create a shared platform for resident and ratepayer associations to unite, share resources and challenge the council on key issues such as property valuations, rates and tariffs, among others.

Conversations of such united activism have taken place from Msunduzi to Kimberley while the eThekwini rates boycott, while unsuccessful, has brought communities together and no doubt it has resulted in a new, united force not scared of challenging the status quo.

This is extremely exciting. We may be a nation of many nations but we are still living in one country and we all recognise that we need to make it work.

Keeping a positive attitude is what will drive us forward and then the future possibilities are endless. It may be hard to do this, but we need to try. If we do not, we will not have a country.

To read additional columns by Jonathan Erasmus visit his Substack channel.