We must take full responsibility for our own actions

If you were to hear that I had lived a lifestyle that had left me deep in debt so much that the banks had asked me to give my home and car back and nobody, including the most unscrupulous of mashonisas who were willing to lend me money, would you accuse Sowetan of being a bad employer?

If you were to hear that I had lived a lifestyle that had left me deep in debt so much that the banks had asked me to give my home and car back and nobody, including the most unscrupulous of mashonisas who were willing to lend me money, would you accuse Sowetan of being a bad employer?

Would you say that the rest of the Avusa Group to whom this newspaper belongs are terrible to their staff and are not interested in the wellbeing and the future of their staff?

I suspect not. And I would not blame you.

You see, nobody at Sowetan has taught me how to handle my salary. In fact, none of my previous employers ever made special arrangements to ensure that I handle my salary with care, or that I lead an exemplary lifestyle.

As with most South Africans, each time I have gotten myself into any kind of trouble, I have had to find ways of getting myself out of it.

So why is it that every time a Mbulelo Mabizela or a Jabu Mahlangu messes up, we have to blame it on their employers?

This is an absurdity that has grown into a national culture. Somebody else is always to blame for the bad decisions we make about ourselves.

Everybody, except those born into great wealth, knows that money is finite and that if you use it badly you might not have the bus or taxi fare you need come next Monday. Ordinary people who earn wages or salaries have come to know that they need to stretch their money as carefully as they can. We know that drinking and driving is bad and if we get bust, we pay (whatever that may mean in any particular situation). Never do we think about our employers being directly responsible for our situation.

This leads me to a more contemporary problem - the spreading of the cholera epidemic.

According to experts, the South African government - unlike their Zimbabwean counterparts - has done all that was expected of it. But the cholera continues to spread. These knowledgeable people are telling us what we have refused to accept: we need to learn to take personal responsibility for our actions.

As with many South Africans, I would have loved to lambaste the government for failing the people of South Africa again. But the experts say the solution is now in your hands, as it is in mine. It is disappointing.

Most certainly, government is responsible for providing access to clean water. But from what the experts have been saying, you and I take the ultimate responsibility for the little things in our control, such as washing our hands after a visit to the toilet and making sure that our food is clean.

We like blaming someone. Take the spread of Aids, for example. Instead of focusing on the decisions we take at the moment of our sexual encounter, we prefer to blame someone else for the decisions we make that end up spreading this dreaded disease.

It is either the church's absolute morality rules, Thabo Mbeki's academic gymnastics or Jacob Zuma's shower comments that we say caused us to lower our guard and partake in an encounter that had the potential of increasing our chances of contracting the virus. It is never our fault.

As recovering alcoholics know, it all starts with acknowledging that we have a problem. The next step is to confront it instead of blaming someone else for it.

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