Ed’s letter: Dear Mr President

Posted by Justin Fox on 17 December 2019

I’d rather not be writing this letter to you, Mr Ramaphosa. I’m a travel editor, not a politician. But I’ve been driven to write because of the things I see around me, both in the travel industry and society at large. We are a broken country and you are one of our best, and last, hopes. It’s a new year, and boy do we need hope.

Image: Getty Images/Gallo Images

At Getaway, it’s our job and privilege to celebrate South Africa, to show off the best our country has to offer. But we’re finding it harder and harder to recommend places in this violent land. Where are we truly safe? Where can visitors avoid armed robbery (not even in the finest hotels)? Where can they avoid the pervading rape and murder (no longer on Table Mountain or in a game park or on a quiet beach).

In compiling this issue, we wracked our brains to come up with Cape Town hikes and mountain-bike trails that we consider safe: outside Cape Point the answer is none. The criminals and the corrupt rule. The law-abiding citizen has effectively lost.

My advice to foreign tourists is that if you’re not certain about security arrangements, rethink your plans. If you’re a young woman travelling alone, don’t even consider visiting. In fact, South Africa has been rated the most dangerous country in the world for lone female tourists. If you’re a black African from elsewhere on the continent, the risks are probably higher.

South Africans who travel abroad often remark on their sense of relief at not having to watch their backs, the liberation of being able to walk alone in cities at night. The privilege of not having to set burglar alarms or worry about being hijacked. Most South Africans, it’s been suggested, suffer from low-grade PTSD. It’s in the air we breathe.

Violence in South Africa is at levels most countries consider to be war. The most basic task of any responsible government is ensuring law and order. And yet most departments and town councils have their corrupt officials, their mini-Guptas and pocket-Zumas. Tenders are squandered, bills aren’t paid, cops ignore crime, sewage runs in the streets. Just try to make a booking at a government-run park in the Eastern Cape.

According to the Medical Research Council, one in three South African women will be raped during their lifetimes. Nearly one in five South African men are rapists. The statistics are catastrophic. Conviction rates for crimes are dismal and jails overflowing; criminals are soon back on the street. Millions of South African men should be in jail. We need a society of consequences.

There are many places to begin changing this dire situation. Top of the list should be turning the economy around, reforming education and creating an effective criminal justice system. The first two might take decades to show meaningful results, the latter needs speedy implementation. Most importantly, we need the best and the brightest to do the work – even if they’re white or brown or old or female or foreign.

Where are you in all this, Mr President? You seem to be missing in action. South Africa is paralysed by ANC infighting and policy indecision. But we don’t have any more time for consultation and consensus. Rome is burning!

We want bold action from you. Even if many eggs get broken. You need to go on the offensive against those destroying our country, even those within your government bent on sabotage. The likes of Ace Magashule and his merry thugs should be behind bars. National interest must trump party interest.

May I humbly offer a few suggestions for your next NEC meeting? Put soldiers on the streets everywhere tourists go (Egypt does it). Depoliticise the civil service – deploy the right people, not cadres. Reign in the trade unions and retrench the thousands of inept officials (start with incompetent teachers). Decriminalise drugs. Reform the prison system. Forget nuclear, go green. Sell off non-performing SOEs (start with a few Eskom power stations and SAA). Pause or reform BEE: we need all experienced hands on deck. Import skilled foreigner workers. Listen to Tito; give Shamila everything she wants; keep Pravin on speed-dial. Meritocracy good, kleptocracy bad.

Mr President, South Africa is hanging on by its fingernails. You must lead us in hauling it back from the brink.

Yours faithfully

Justin






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