by Gillian Hugo
For the last few days, I have been pondering the adaptability of the South African nation. The way that people take a situation and turn it around to be profitable or in their favour is inspiring, on the one hand, but when we look at the reason and need for being adaptable, it is also sad.
South Africa is a country of many resources. We have supplied gold, diamonds and other minerals to kings and queens of different nations; we feed those further afield with crops and livestock. We provide electricity and water to our neighbours. And yet, the people of South Africa are suffering due to poverty, starvation, power cuts and water shortages.
On the drive home from school recently, my children and I passed two borehole drilling rigs in the same street. Water tanks and filtration systems are the latest garden features, and solar geysers and panels adorn many roofs. A friend told me he has installed solar-powered lighting in his community for those increasing load-shedding periods. South Africans are making plans to become self-sufficient.
But what about those that can’t afford to change their power and water providers? What about those solely relying on the practically non-existent municipal services, those that dutifully pay their rates and taxes every month expecting reliable service delivery and receiving the opposite?
I am well aware that there are areas in South Africa where there has never been running water or electricity. Perhaps the people in those places find our anger and scurrying to make alternative arrangements amusing. But, on the other hand, I know that there are people that walk far every day to fetch water and carry those heavy containers back to their homes. I know, too, that paraffin stoves and candles are effective.
What saddens me is how a once flourishing country is quickly becoming run down and derelict. The state of our roads is atrocious; there is enough litter lying around to sink a large ship, and the long grass and weeds could provide grazing for half of the animals in the Serengeti. This morning I drove behind a vehicle with occupants flinging their rubbish out of the window. They laughed and swore at me when I hooted to show my disgust. What happened to taking pride in our country, cleaning up after yourself, to common decency?
My children have never experienced walking along a pavement without dodging cracks and missing manhole covers. They have lived in a house for over ten years where the street lights have worked intermittently, never experiencing the symbolism of saying goodbye to friends and going home when the streetlights come on. They have not been able to run barefoot in our local park for fear of being cut by broken glass or other foreign items. On a recent holiday to Kwa-Zulu Natal, they could only swim in the resort swimming pool as the E.coli levels at Umhlanga main beach were “critical”; not even a toe in the sand!
Surely the average South African is fed up with our country’s demise? A visitor from England recently asked about what could be done to stamp out corruption and get us back on track. My response is that we must take matters into our own hands and adapt or die. What else is there to do?