On the doorstep of a new decad

On the doorstep of a new decade: Will South Africa really be okay?

‘Will South Africa Be Okay?’ is essential reading for every South African who cares about the burning issues the country faces.

On the doorstep of a new decad

Jan-Jan Joubert is a political commentator par excellence, having covered parliament since 2001 for various publications and journalistic platforms.

In a previous lifetime, he was political editor of Die Burger, Beeld and Rapport, and deputy political editor of the Sunday Times. In the here and now, however, Joubert traverses our treacherous political landscape as a “freelance media agent”.

Standing on the doorstep of a new decade, his latest book – Will South Africa be Okay? – raises 17 crucial questions about the way forward after the 2019 national elections.

So far so bad…

South Africans waited for almost a decade to be freed from the shackles of Jacob Zuma’s state capture-ridden era of looting and rife corruption. But after the initial period of “Ramaphoria” following the ANC’s victory at the polls, the question remains: Will President Cyril Ramaphosa deliver on his mandate?

And so far, it does not look as if South Africa will be okay – judging by unemployment skyrocketing, foreign investors losing confidence at a rapid rate in the stagnant economy amid political uncertainty, and of course, Eskom’s dark display of load shedding.

The poorly conceived National Health Insurance, racial tension, the volatile threat of land expropriation and rampant crime complete this bleak picture for the future.    

Joubert addresses some of these issues, as well as ask pertinent questions – “Why do people keep voting for the ANC?” and “Should people fear Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema?” – in Will South Africa be Okay? which hit the shelves on 1 November.

Unwavering passion for well-being of South Africa

One of my earliest recollections of Joubert is that of a Kafka-esque figure with his black coat flapping in the wind. He would be all fired up about some political injustice or the latest shenanigans in parliament. All marked by his unwavering pursuit of justice for all. 

His passion would ignite a spark in all of us, leaving animated discussions in his wake long after his coat tails disappeared around the corner.  

Now, almost two decades later, Joubert’s staunch passion for our country’s well-being has not diminished one bit. 

Sliver of hope: Be a peacemaker

In the last chapter of Will South Africa be Okay?, Joubert expresses a sliver of hope that we can emerge from our current political and economical quagmire. But it’s mostly up to us as, according to him, the government seems to have run out of ideas and the ability to follow through on difficult decisions.

To quote from his book: 

“Now keep in mind that you are not dependent on another person’s search for peace to be a peacemaker. Your role as peacemaker doesn’t depend on someone else’s behaviour. You can’t say, ‘I’ll be a peacemaker only if the other role-player wants peace’.

“You should in any case be a peacemaker, of your own free will, at all times. It depends on you – not on the other person.”

‘Everybody must just behave themselves’

During an interview with Joubert, he, however, expressed his dismay in the national discourse on social media. 

“People who are lashing out at each other, are not helping to improve the wellbeing of our nation. People should try to do the right thing. Things will already start to look up if everybody would just behave themselves. And, of course, this applies to the government as well.”

Beware of laissez-faire attitude

The Cape Town-based author and journalist reckons there is too much of a laissez-faire attitude among South Africans, especially the Afrikaner community. There is an overriding negative belief being that we have no real say in our own country’s matters and that we must just take government’s decisions on the chin and continue with our lives. 

Joubert attributes the exodus of many South Africans partially to this feeling of powerlessness and the lack of future economic prospects for their children.  

“There is definitely an increase in the outflow of experts in their respective fields, something which I also touch on in my book.

“If we say that South Africa needs all its ‘children’ – no matter what race – and we are in dire need of all the expertise we can lay our hands on, we should not make it difficult for experts to remain in our country.”

According to him, there is also the issue of so-called “white guilt” being perpetuated where people are fed-up with being blamed for the past and their children being victimised for something that they played no role in.

Cheap emotions that exact a high price

“Black people, on the other side of the coin, seem to face the brunt of white people’s disapproval on social media with the state of the economy. Statements, such as that they can’t get anything right and are running the country to the ground, do nothing to promote racial harmony.

“I think that in South Africa, rage, frustration and blame are cheap emotions which exact a high price. In the words of the Afrikaans industrial music band Battery 9: ‘Almal soek net altyd iets om te blameer’ (Everyone’s always just looking for something to blame),” Joubert said.

Never too late to make a difference

In Will South Africa be Okay? Joubert recalls his conversation in 1996 with his late grandmother Alida Moerdyk after her heart bypass surgery at the age of 73.

“She said it was important to her that I should know she hadn’t been supportive of apartheid, but she deeply regretted having been too focused on other matters like her job and raising a family; that she should have done more to oppose apartheid personally and actively. 

“My response was to remind her that her life wasn’t over yet. And then she stepped up her proactive, personal involvement in distress relief initiatives in Klerksdorp’s township, Jouberton, driving herself there in her little blue car to be physically present and of assistance.”

If only we followed his grandmother’s selfless journey in her little blue car – and government officials got into their service delivery and police vans – South Africa might, just might, be okay… 

Will South Africa Be Okay?’ follows hot on the heels of Joubert’s 2018 book, Who Will Rule in 2019?, and has also been published in Afrikaans by Tafelberg. It retails for R290.