Living with High Hopes

In the years preceding the resignation of Jacob Zuma, we were experiencing a living nightmare. As I think back on the mayhem that surrounded us each and every day, I wonder how we survived: every morning waking up to a new, brain-slamming headline. High hopes, I guess, high hopes that common sense, justice and sanity would eventually prevail and pull us out of the mess. Enter Cyril Ramaphosa. Just in the nick of time, supposedly. I remember having a celebratory glass with my wife on the evening Cyril took office. We all shared a new optimism, shared new hope for the first time in a very long while.

Fast forward 18 months. Here we are, and what’s the state of our nation? I’ve spent the last few weeks attending numerous industry events and trade shows. Despite the busy-ness, this time has opened my eyes to a glaring reality. All indications show that things are truly not looking up.

The optimist in me has nearly been deflated, brought back down to reality with a crash landing – and that reality is that we as South Africans, and especially business-minded South Africans, have been and continue to live in ‘’limbo’’. It’s like someone has lost the remote and we are frozen on ‘pause’. It doesn’t matter what we do as a business in this country, it appears that our attempts at growing our economy, decreasing our unemployment rate or contributing to the new dawn are incessantly sabotaged by politicians.

If you think I’m sounding unusually pessimistic at the moment, you’d be 100% right. Where is the civil actions? Why is nothing being done? Why are we forced to accept VAT increases and increases in business tax? Why has no one been locked up and thrown in jail for the pillage of our country? What in the world are we waiting for?

Let me mix a few metaphors to make my point. This has been a far-too-long game of chess. Ramaphosa is making only cautious moves, making certain not to rock too many boats, keeping the wolves at bay, keeping the worms from oozing out as he carries the Jekyll and Hyde of an ANC to the election polls.

The worrying thing is that the real ‘new dawn’ that we ALL as South Africans deserve is, in my opinion, still very far in the distance. We will remain in a state of post-election ‘pause’ as policies, coalitions and government ostensibly get their act together, even if coalition politics takes place.

Meanwhile, Business South Africa flounders in an unenviable position, with little to negative growth. We can no longer be criticised for casting our business nets wider and looking past our borders for progressive business opportunities. I read this week that the ‘Scramble for Africa’ has become an internal one, as many international firms surrender and bow out. Africa by Africans is what we have always believed. 

Let me end positively. Our waiting will not be in vain, and I do believe that South Africa will rise above. And one benefit will be that our businesses have been forced to stretch themselves, to look far afield to keep afloat. And in doing so, we are making our mark in Africa.

I still live with high hope.

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