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Maudi Obed Maphutha

The Road Ahead is Uneven

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I must say that I am pleased with this year’s January 08th statement delivered by the President of the country in Kimberly over the past weekend. It appears ANC has set down, and analyzed some of the key areas that they needed to strengthen and re-realign with what society wants. The President mentioned some key aspects affecting the community directly, although he did not elaborate on what measures have been put in place to tackle such challenges. But on a lighter note, I must say that, the matter which has most been on my mind regarding the ANC was how it is aiming to improve the quality of education, especially in the Public Schools. The president said that the government had worked hard in the past 16years since its taking over to ensure that education is accessible at a reasonable cost to everyone who participated in attempting to acquire skills. I have to really congratulate our current government for establishing financial organizations such as the National Student Financial Aid Schemes to provide finance and assistance to many South Africans who cannot afford the cost of higher education system.

One aspect that he mentioned was the fact that, since the current government took over, for the first time in the history of our politics, the ANC has initiated a convening of last year’s Principals to discuss the critical issues that affect them on a day to day basis.  Judging from the lack of improvement since the convening of that meeting (especially in public schools where teachers are allowed to get away with lazy behaviour), it is safe to affirm that talk is truly cheap.  On the 07th of January 2010, the country awoke to a shocking report of the 2009/2010 matric results which, to me, were not acceptable given the overall percentage of performance of learners at schools. Many questions were left unanswered given the report, of which being that if the matric pass rate was that low, how much more of the younger grades? Unfortunately that report could not answer these questions and our education system was praised for its great achievements.

Secondly, the president also addressed the issue of government’s social responsibility over its people, saying that there were almost 420 000 children registered, this year alone, to receive social grants; for which the maximum age group will be increased to 18yrs per child. Although I am partially aggrieved by this, I still remain unsure of what possible actions government is aiming to put in place to control the high birth rate, especially in recessionary periods. Because, this statement indirectly means that, for the next eighteen years from now, if I remain employed, I will still be eligible to support my own family and then still be responsible for someone else, through my taxes. On the other hand, the un-cleared part of the story is how much of the individual tax rate is going to go towards combating such social responsibility. I have to be clear on this; I am not saying that, the employed do not bear any direct responsibility towards the unemployed.  All that I am wondering is how long the government going to make this our responsibility. The possible impact is, in the next one or two budget speeches, it is possible that eligible qualifying age to access this might be increased from 18yrs to a maximum age of 21yr.  I was maybe looking forward to the statement on how the government, through its extended public work programmes is going to assist the unemployed in supporting their families, without it being an imposition on me via increased tax rates.

Thirdly, the combating of crime and corruption has always dominated the agenda of the ANC and so it too was addressed. It was said that the number of detectives has increased by 19% (effective as from the end of 2009), but it was not clear which ethnic groups were set to dominate the increase. I am saying this because, the same government has always put the phrase “transformation” as part of its agenda and this is read together with the affirmative action policies. It is a known fact that this country has a history of white working class dominance in the high positions, so it would be appreciated if the president could enlighten us on the transformation in the policing services.  Furthermore, it was said that the government was going to attempt to pull the plug on crime by involving broader society. This ever-present item on government’s agenda, is in my honest belief, going to remain an issue unless the systems that are in place to pull a stop on crime begin to be functional right from the top to the shop floor level; because currently, it would appear that the justice system serves only to punish the poor members of society.  Corrupt politicians seem to remain immune.

Fourthly, the access to Health care system was touched upon. The president said that, access to health care system would be improved through a ten point plan.  But if one looks carefully at our health care, one will realize that not everyone has equal access to the system. A symbolic reference could be made to the unemployed people living in rural areas.  Clinics are hard to come by and a large number of people in these areas are living with chronic health conditions such as HIV/AIDS and hypertension.  One remains curious as to how is this system going to be improved and how long is it going to take for government to bring services to the people at this areas?  Maybe it will be addressed through the rural development plan which governments aim to make it a priority.

Finally, is the matter of the strength of the alliance, which I feel was misleading.  It was said that the alliance is healthier than ever, but, personally I don’t believe that.  Recently, there has been an exchange of ugly statements among the alliance members; with some calling others “white political massacres”, others demanding deployment into the powerful positions, and others saying that the president must serve for the second term.  I am of the opinion that such matters should be discussed within the National Working Committee of the alliance, not in the public eye, because that really is damaging the reputation of our movement.

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