Addiction to bling culture is destroying the soul of SA

SOCIALITE Khanyi Mbau is not an oddball. She represents the new "bling" culture that has now become thoroughly part of the new South Africa.

SOCIALITE Khanyi Mbau is not an oddball. She represents the new "bling" culture that has now become thoroughly part of the new South Africa.

Even our political leadership has become a bling leadership.

There is no difference, really, between Mbau's actions and that of our ruling political, business and public administration elite.

Their actions are aimed at getting rich quickly, using short cuts. Once one has made it you feel entitled to live lavishly - the bling lifestyle.

This lifestyle has now become the new standard of achievement - a sign that one has made it.

These short cuts could mean attaching oneself to a sugar daddy or, in politics, to a political party boss or in crime, to a crime boss.

The less fortunate, who don't have the connections or looks, try their luck tata ma chance-style by addictively playing the Lotto.

Nobody has to work or study hard any more. Everyone is looking for that short cut.

The downside of black economic empowerment as it is practised at present is that one does not have to build a business from scratch - which demands entrepreneurial acumen.

One can secure a contract through political connections - even if you don't have a clue about what you are promising to deliver.

The ANC's policy of deployment also unintentionally helps this bling culture along. Cosying up to the local ANC leadership can secure lucrative "deployment" to the government, business or party, a ticket to the bling lifestyle.

Praising the leadership, even when they are wrong, and supporting actions that clearly go against prudent values and self-censorship have now become the norm.

The bling lifestyle means throwing lavish parties at exclusive venues. Leaders drive cars worth millions. They wear watches costing R250000 and clothes worth as much as ordinary cars, They live in Beverly Hill- style mansions and drink expensive whiskies.

The bonuses, perks and dizzy salaries state-owned companies pay their executives are part of this bling culture.

The blue-light brigades, huge entourages and being treated as VIPs is an integral part of this bling culture.

Ministers living in the most expensive hotels and holding conferences there and going on meaningless foreign junkets show exactly what this bling culture is about.

This exorbitant lifestyle, though, proves devastating for the state, society and ordinary individuals.

Scarce finances and resources are being plundered. State capacity is being eroded - which means the ability to deliver basic services is declining.

There is no room for entrepreneurship, innovation and new ideas - which are absolutely necessary for economic prosperity.

This bling culture will break down South Africa's productive capacity. We are "eating" but not building any new factories or plants that will create jobs.

This bling culture encourages corruption, dishonesty, and builds a society based mostly on patronage. It corrupts our souls.

In fact, it undermines all the values that underpinned the struggle for liberation.

Moreover, the idea of service is now a distant dream. Talent, skills and hard work are no longer valued.

As a society we are losing our bearings. We are on a downward spiral. No caring society was built on bling.

Only ridding ourselves of this destructive bling culture will put our country back on the winning track. We need a new kind of leadership - not a bling leadership.

lThe writer is co-editor (with Leslie Dikeni) of the recently released The Poverty of Ideas.