Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL
Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL

The past week has been tough. We have been inundated with horrendous scenes of looting, rioting and wanton destruction across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. We are all sad and angry, fearful of what the future holds for our families, our dreams, our quality of life.

As a real estate agency whose clients are the homeowners and communities that are directly affected, we are hit by both the intense sadness of what this means for our communities, but so are our agents who work tirelessly to make a living for themselves and their families. Can we stay in a place like this? Can we really say we have confidence in the leaders of this country, that SA can stabilise and present opportunities to its people?

I recently saw a post on social media that resonated with me. It’s wrongly attributed to Sir David Attenborough, and though I can’t reference its true source, it says: 

“If you collect 100 black ants and 100 fire ants and put them in a glass jar nothing will happen. But if you take the jar, shake it violently and leave it on the table, the ants will start killing each other. The fire ants believe that the black ants are the enemy, while the black ants believe that the fire ants are the enemy, when the real enemy is the person who shook the jar. The same is true in society. Before we fight each other, we must ask ourselves: why was the jar rocked?”

I’m no biologist, but the sentiment is correct: look through what we see on the surface and try to understand why things are playing out the way they are. We are witnessing the last kicks of a dying horse — the good guys are winning.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa won the ANC elective conference in December 2017, SA has been crippled by the factional power struggle within the governing party. As we stand today this power battle is all but over. Ramaphosa has won, ridding the once morally upright movement of corrupt leaders who enriched themselves at the expense of their poor electorate under the guise of radical economic transformation.

The ANC is not a shadow of the party we once thought would lead us into a Rainbow Nation, but a first step in atoning for its sins is to clean it up. This has already begun and will only continue to accelerate.

The public entities tasked with providing basic human necessities — the SA Police Service, emergency services, hospitals, roadworks, traffic management and education — are in a state of disarray. It is hard to argue that they are even living up to a modicum of their constitutionally enshrined responsibility, and business has had to step in.

However, after more than a decade of unrestrained self-enrichment by the governing class, Ramaphosa has managed to start the rebuilding process in both the National Prosecuting Authority and the SA Revenue Service (Sars). They are finally holding to account the corrupt individuals who have been parading their bounty under the guise of “working for the people”.

Charges against Ace Magashule, extradition treaties issued for the Guptas, and testimony at the Zondo commission culminating in Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment two weeks ago set this all off. But one thing is clear: Sheriff Shamila Batohi is in town, and the rule of law will be upheld (even if it takes some time).

A week like this makes it almost impossible to keep perspective, especially if you, your family or community are affected by the senseless destruction or you are one of the thousands of honest, hardworking South Africans who have lost their income and ability to provide for their families as a result of stores closing down.

At the same time, we should not forget or discard all the good things that have happened over the past 12 months:

  • The fiscus has performed above expectations, with Sars exceeding tax collection expectations. After two decades of being out of fashion our mining companies have turned out to be the saviours of our economy, and the commodities boom means the rand is far stronger than we would have expected given our macroeconomic conditions.
  • After 15 years of being at the coalface of corruption Eskom — by far the biggest risk to the economy — has moral leadership with the singular goal of serving the people of SA. Governance is improving, tight supply chain and financial controls are being put in place, and the days of corrupt dealings are fast coming to an end. Even as the frequency of load-shedding is reducing, government has approved moves to allow 100MW of self-generation. We are finally making long overdue strides to strengthen our economy. 
  • SA business seems to have finally found its voice by coalescing around the impact of Covid-19, and the government has indicated its willingness to work with business. We have smart people in our private sector, and we would miss a trick by not pulling in one direction. 
  • Our vaccine rollout is happening to an eager citizenry. I received my first shot last week and can vouch for the camaraderie among people in queues, the professionalism of the health workers, and the sense of relief and gratitude. Our response has been slow and the impact of it immense, but we are finally getting on track. 
  • We have so many heroes to look up to on a daily basis who show us what it means to be South African. Our incredible journalists who put themselves in harm’s way to uncover the truth behind greed and corruption or provide the insights that keep us sane; whistle-blowers like Bianca Goodson, who stand up for what is right at incredible personal expense; sportsmen and women who lift us up every day and provide a source of pride and escape week after week; our constitutional watchdogs who do the work we don’t have the mental fortitude to do; the communities that over the past two weeks showed that they are willing to push back against the forces of destruction. The list goes on.

Waking up last Friday it felt like the aftermath of a veldfire that had ravaged the land. The week was traumatic and emotional, and it will take a long time before we fully recover. But the green shoots are already coming through the scorched earth. Though we are dazed and wobbly, like a boxer after taking a few punches, we are standing as a nation. Democracy will be strengthened, and we’ll look back in years to come to this week as a seminal moment in the life of our young democracy.

Let's be kind to each other and help each other back to our feet — physically and emotionally. 

• Du Toit is co-founder and CEO of Leadhome Properties.

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