In a planet that has been habitual for as long as our own the alarming rate with which necessary and indeed scarce resource is depleting means that there are very few things in our world that are for free that we can assert entitlement upon them. In fact, the only things which are at our disposal for use without paying for them are the air we breathe and the sun which continues to be the greater source of our sustenance. Every other commodity which is by its natural existence part of our means of survival: food, shelter, clothes and many more come with a costly amount. It is those costs of production that negate the idea of ‘free-ness’ of the aforementioned commodities.
When the governing African National Congress was campaigning for the epoch that would be the 1994 general election it used the ‘free-ness’ of basic survival commodities as a means to garner votes and win political office. The ANC, under the leadership of former president Nelson Mandela, made ambitious promises to give people houses, electricity, health care and schooling for free. And the greater population subscribed to that theme of the ANC. It has to be acknowledged from the on set that the governing party inherited a country which was not equal in any manner and the task of redressing such inequalities, whose roots are steeped, wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. The governing party allowed people to get away with the ‘murder’ of non payment of things such as rates and levies that maintain the most critical sphere of government- municipalities. Water and electricity bills weren’t paid and still aren’t paid in many municipalities because people were told that in the event that their vote of confidence is entrusted to governing party everything will be ‘taken care of’.
The government then went on to introduce social grants schemes. A policy used by many welfare states such as USA and Australia amongst a plethora of them. The idea of introducing the social grants was meant to be an intervention from the state that would serve as a cushion from the brutal impact of unemployment and deepening poverty levels that were begin to envelope the country. But the opposite was achieved, whether this was the intention of the governing party or not can not be proven concretely. Presently more than 12 million people are dependant on social grants that flow from the state purse. And at times the government seems to be priding itself on ensuring that so many people are chained to such a dangerous means of living. Dangerous in a sense that recipients of the said grants, who it must be said are the most destitution of our societies, are more likely to keep any party in political office as long as it provides that ‘free’ monthly grant even if the party might be destroying the country in a fabianistic fashion. And the ‘third’ world is unfortunately littered with countries whose citizens have kept the grantor of ‘free’ commodities in political office.
Remaining as a governing party is the wish of every political party and any means that guarantees such a status quo would be exploited and milked completely because the perks and patronage that follows from being a party in office and knowing people in offices of influence are too enticing to ignore in pursuit of political morality it would seem. Once the inability to sustain the ‘free-ness’ lifestyle erodes and eventually evaporates, the people who were dependants on them will begin to demand that they be provided because they voted and the politicians must deliver on such promises, and it is such incidents that sometimes lead countries in turmoil of destructive proportions. The government has a very important role to play in ensuring that the basic needs of its citizens are met and must do so within the ambits of the national budget. Anything beyond the minimum implies privilege and there is no duty upon the state to aid such luxurious living habits of its citizenry.
There has to be a massive governance literacy campaign which must be undertaken by any party that comes into office. Such an exercise must communicate and teach the masses about the necessary role played by the money which is collected from the public’s payment of rates and levies. And a clear and crisp picture has to be chiselled into the collective psyche of populous about the impact non performance on their part has as far as service delivery is concerned. It does not aid anything for people to go on rampage demanding services when they know very well that they do not do their bit to ensure that the delivery which is sort materializes efficiently as promised. And this is not an indictment of everyone because there are those who pay their rates. It costs a lot of money to ensure that those South Africans privileged enough to source clean water from a tap do so with little effort.
It also costs money to fuel the trucks that move around picking up garbage in our communities. The medical and law enforcement officers we call upon when our lives are in danger have to been paid as they are offering a service to the public more especially to those citizens whose lives depend solely on public emergency services. We should ask ourselves where does the power to maintain the ‘free’ services come from. And the government must also be cautious in their use of words. Because words are powerful and create expectations and when such expectations are not met it leads to emotional reactions from those who were promised the said ‘free’ commodities. It has to be understood that desperate people will place their faith in any person or political party that will ameliorate their plight. Another concerning issue is that the commodities which are offered for ‘free’ aren’t very credible and their quality will always be suspect.
People should not depend on the government for their existence. The government make ensure that a conducive environment is provided for people to realize, through their own legal means, their own aspirations. Social grants are not a bad intervention from the state. It is the reliance on them by people who do not want to work for what’s theirs that renders social grants amputations of survival means of people. For as long as people go to bed with the knowledge that the government will provide for me, then they will not be in a rush to wake up and begin to construct a better tomorrow. It is these ideas of self reliance that should be fused into the national school curriculums so that at the out put of the national schooling machinery there comes out children taught to be self reliant and loath unnecessary state intervention. But were the state is of the view that the socio economic disparities of certain communities require its assistance then such aiding must be quickly dispatched. Bonginkosi Dlamini better known as Zola put it better than I when he says, “Izoziyela uma ifuna amanzi” loosely translated it means that “the one that thirsts will see to it that it is quenched”