Lack of social vision and swindlers keep us stuck in past

THREE of the most severe issues afflicting the country are race, corruption and poverty.

Over time they have become so inseparable that it appears unlikely we can extricate ourselves from the mire. Our inability to successfully deal with all three can be said to form part of the reflection on the state of leadership in our politics.

Corruption is endemic, much of it involving political patronage, but also instances where companies engage in anti-competitive practices where poor consumers pay unfair, exorbitant prices.

Meanwhile public sector corruption means taxpayers pay almost directly into the pockets of political opportunists and unethical civil servants who collude with private business people to complete the swindle.

Because rampant public sector corruption is happening under a democratically elected government led largely by black people, it has unfortunately led to insinuations that blacks are corrupt.

Corruption also means the ability to deliver crucial services is compromised not only by theft, but the appointment of cronies without the ability to carry out tasks assigned to them. In turn, this has led the racially mischievous to insinuate that blacks can't rule.

Meanwhile, poverty remains largely black and is becoming more offensive by the day. While a large number of South Africans have successfully escaped economic marginalisation since 1994, the tragedy is that the majority are still trapped in poverty, living in squalid conditions no human being should have to endure.

Despite generous budget allocations from successive finance ministers, we have abjectly failed to make a dent in poverty.

Despite the reconciliation miracle of 1994 South Africa is racially polarised.

While some blame the emergence of expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema for increased racial tensions, the truth runs deeper.

Malema's position is a symptom of the state of the nation rather than its cause. Even before his meteoric rise there were already symptoms that all was not well.

An increasing number of blacks feel that the "1994 solution" failed to sufficiently redress the historical injustices they suffered. Black economic empowerment appears to have failed . On the other hand the same policies appear to have driven scores of young whites from these shores, while some of those that remain are in the hands of right-wing hate groups.

If racial polarisation has worried those who hoped to continue Madiba's euphoria, corruption has alarmed even the most disinterested of citizens. Corruption reflects a society characterised by a lack of concern for the less fortunate. If there is agreement that there was a time when South Africans were excited about the future, we have to ask what went so wrong.

Solutions proposed often fall prey to screaming matches about race, or are rendered meaningless by those who abuse the public's trust by stealing. It is clear we are not winning.

So what has been our biggest political failure? An utter lack of vision once the goal of a non-racial constitutional order was attained. Revelling in the attention of the world, South Africa believed it could do no wrong, and that all it had to do to succeed was simply show up. How wrong we were!

Today we are stuck without a clear narrative of the future we want to build. Political manifestos are nothing more than recycled five-year promises meant to convince voters to remain hoping while all the other problems mentioned earlier take root.

While measures to address material problems are necessary and form the backbone of plans outlined by both the DA and the ANC in their respective roles in government, both have abjectly failed to get South Africans excited behind a new social vision.

Their lack of credibility among different sections of our population is making the nation weaker in the face of global competitors who are more united and have few squabbles about what the national interest is. South Africa deserves a leadership that will achieve the same.

lMthimkhulu is a member of the Midrand Group