But the state of our streets, our backyards, our towns and cities, children merrily playing on dump sites, villagers drawing water from polluted dams and rivers, are a metaphor for the condition of our soul, or the plight of our mindset.

When then US vice-president George HW Bush realised he was trailing badly in the polls against Michael Dukakis in the race for the White House in the 1988 presidential election, he hit on a novel idea that was to turn his fortunes for the better. He stood on Boston Harbor and proclaimed it “the dirtiest harbour in America”. For Dukakis, governor of Massachusetts and way ahead of his time on environmental issues, that was not just an embarrassment. It was like a blow to the solar plexus. The tide turned. Not only did Bush go on to win convincingly, Boston Harbor got a much-needed spruce-up. To drive the point home, one has to go to the scene of the crime, as it were. Which is probably why President Cyril Ramaphosa was seen last week in the North West, arguably the dirtiest region in the country — at least Mahikeng is — talking about some sort of cleaning-up campaign. I hesitate to use the word “launch” as in launching a campaign. We talk a good game. We shall believe it when we see i...

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