SA needs to shake off pervading culture of patronage

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Funerals are harrowing to experience and witness. They are especially hard on the bereaved and their loved ones.

But at a black funeral if you are part of the family, there is a moment in that day that places you in a place of envy, the moment when the food is served.

Feelings towards you immediately transform from that of pity to envy as you are ushered past the hundreds of mourners queueing at food stations to a special family station where only the best food will be served.

If you are part of the "ordinary" mourners but happen to have an aunt who was helping with food you walk around with your neck elongated , waiting to spot her, so she can give you a signal to follow her for "under the table" stew or fried chicken. You need a connection at a funeral to have access to the best of the best, right down to the best scones that are usually stored in the bedroom where the chief mourner sleeps.

That is a basic example of the culture that reigns supreme in this country, SA, our land.

We have just gone through a taxing election. The conversations around that time were truly South African. "If daai man gets in, re tlo ba sharp."

And that is the nature of politics as we have come to accept it. Patronage reigns supreme.

My only issue is that because of how deeply political we are as a country, we've allowed our politics to inform our culture as a country.

I've been needing to renew my driver's licence for a while. Why have I not gone? I don't know anyone who works at a licensing department. I too, like part of a mourning party, want to be ushered past the queues synonymous with licensing departments.

So when I speak of our entrenched culture of patronage, I include myself. We live in a place that encourages and perhaps even demands that we seek it.

It is a terrible culture.

Someone close to me is currently having struggles with a car dealership. She was sold a car that has been malfunctioning since she bought it.

Her appeals for just recourse had been disregarded with the kind of arrogance that big corporates assume. I am not the most connected person in the country. But I do know a few people. True to South African nature, it took tapping into these connections I have that we began to get even the basic thing that had been denied my friend, a reply and an attempt at an explanation.

Only when they started receiving calls from certain people did their boss pick up the phone after countless ignored e-mails.

What bothers me about this is that we are comfortable living in a place where ordinary citizens who pay their taxes and pay their bills are not afforded the same opportunities as people who are connected and know a minister here or a cop there.

The inequality of our country really presents itself in many ways. It is disgusting. Service providers in private and public service need to challenge themselves to do better for the advancement of our society and heal this festering wound. Yes, politicians are mostly corrupt, but they are a product of us as a society.

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