The government has not simply lost the plot; it seems to have lost the will to govern. SA has become a lawless jungle. Maybe the ANC has been in power for much too long.

Recently, 11 railway coaches were set alight at Cape Town station on a fine Saturday afternoon. Nobody has been arrested and nobody is saying anything in this regard. It's doubtful anybody will ever be brought to book for damage estimated at more than R30m. Destruction on such a scale is not even an isolated incident. Some 118 coaches were reportedly burnt between 2015 and 2017. The figure is now obviously far higher, given what's been happening this year.

This is a national emergency which requires the personal attention of the president himself. But then there are probably more votes to be won in holding symbolic tête-à-têtes in swish hotels to talk about pit latrines in rural schools than bothering about burning trains. We could do both, I guess, but that's assuming we're able to chew gum and walk at the same time.

Higher education & training minister Naledi Pandor, prodded by the opposition, told parliament last week the total cost of the orgy of burning and looting and indiscriminate destruction that had been the hallmark of life in many of the country's institutions of higher learning in the past three years was close to R800m. It's a humongous figure, but it's an underestimation. It was delivered matter-of-factly. She didn't linger on the subject, and I can't blame her. There doesn't seem to have been any intention to take the country into her confidence, to explain the enormity of this crisis; its implications for the institutions and the delivery of education; what is being done, by the police or the institutions themselves, to bring the perpetrators to book; and what measures, if any, were being taken to ensure such acts are not repeated.No politician is ever keen to be the bearer of bad tidings. The figure was simply plonked in our midst. No explanation, no condemnation of these sensel...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, Morningstar financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.