The Sowetan, in partnership with Brand South Africa, held the second of its six-part Sowetan Dialogues series aimed at promoting civic pride and the pillars of the National Development Plan.
The dialogue was held at the Ngoako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex in Seshego in Limpopo on 6 March 2014.
It focused on whether President Jacob Zuma’s 13 February State of the Nation address’s (SONA) reflection on the past 20 years of freedom was “fact or fiction” to the public. In the State of the Nation address Zuma did not mention the state’s intentions for this fiscal year, but spoke of previous achievements.
Radio personality, Ntsieni Ramabulana, also known as Big Daddy at Polokwane’s Capricorn FM, facilitated the discussion.
The panel included Limpopo Province premier, Stanley Mathabatha; political analyst, Elvis Masoga; and Percy Mongalo, president of the Polokwane Chamber of Business.
PLAYING HER PART
Mercy Senyatsi, a Play Your Part Ambassador and a teacher with more than 30 years’ experience, addressed the gathering on the importance of civic participation in a democracy.
“I’m a teacher but I’ve learned that the greatest lessons are those learned outside the classroom,” she said.
Senyatsi cares for vulnerable, destitute and orphaned children in Seshego. She advised people at the dialogue to not look down on others and to not see children described as problematic as failures.
“I took in a girl who was described as problematic because of her drug use six years ago. She came from a family of misfits but she had potential. This year she has registered for a degree in engineering at the local university. This shows how we should never give up on people,” she said.
She added that as a community, especially the black community, people had to work together to see their children become people who would make South Africa a better place to live.
BUSINESS EXPECTED MORE
Mongalo said the business community in Limpopo accepted the SONA but had expected more from it.
“We welcomed that the SONA spoke about the challenge to eradicate poverty, unemployment and inequality.”
He added that he believed centralising tender procurement offices would not end the rise in corruption in tenders but would leave those businesses outside Gauteng at a disadvantage.
“By having the tender offices in Gauteng, this renders those outside the province at a disadvantage as those in Gauteng will have an advantage of handing in their papers timely, while others would have to travel hundreds of kilometres before they could submit them.”
Mongalo also believes the address should have mentioned measures to relax some business regulations.
“There should be tax leniencies for SMMEs and other businesses,” he said.
“As business, we bemoan the low survival rate of SMMEs in SA. We recommend more tax breaks and less regulation to encourage [the growth of] SMMEs.”
Mongalo also said violent service delivery protests crippled businesses, and that often hawkers and shopkeepers were most affected.
A NEED FOR MORE ACADEMICS
Masoga believes the country needs more academics and expressed disappointment that youngsters now see business as a better option and school as not that important.
“If you look at all the professors in academia, most of them are ageing and it doesn’t look like there are youngsters who will replace them in the near future,” he said.
He added that in the future the country needed solutions from South Africa and not “some professor in Germany who doesn’t know the life of a South African”.
“We need to quote the Professor Mathabathas of South Africa in the near future and forget about the Karl Marxes and Lenins of this world.”
He believes the address should have placed more importance on education as that would ensure the survival of future generations.
“We must not just invest in basic education; we need a stronger production of supreme knowledge,” he said.
GLASS HALF-FULL OR HALF-EMPTY
Premier Mathabatha said that if South Africans look at the past 20 years from a pessimistic perspective they will disregard achievements in many fields.
He defended the address, saying: “The president couldn’t really at the time give … a detailed account of the ruling party’s plan for the country … as elections are soon and this will be the job of the elected government at the time.”
Mathabatha said this 20-year-old democracy was a participatory one; that “every citizen was supposed to do their part in seeing it become better”.
“In 1994 when the late Nelson Mandela was inaugurated he said ‘Amandla’ and we said ‘Awethu’. This was the day we undertook to be active participants in this democracy, so civilians need to sometimes do things for themselves first and ask help from government later as government will never really know the plight of everyone at the same time in the country.”
The audience at the dialogue also had suggestions for the government.
Mofenyi Senyatsi said that for a graduate, job opportunities in his hometown were scarce and that funding for ideas was minimal.
“I’m a qualified industrial engineer and now I’m doing civil engineering; I once asked to see the previous premier of Limpopo to talk about my research into geothermal energy but was never given the time of day; but when we get funding from somewhere else and they help me fulfil my dreams to help the community with energy, Limpopo will want to take credit of me,” he said.
Other audience members gave their input, with one saying that post-graduates also needed help with landing jobs in provincial government, to strengthen academic experience in the province rather than taking their skills to other provinces.