Posted by: darrenbergman | February 9, 2015

Zuma and the nerves of Steal


Yesterday President Zuma hosted some of the Countries top editors for lunch. This was an open question and answer session and apparently no holds barred. One may be suspicious that it was being hosted so close to the state of the nation address, but lets give the President the benefit of the doubt.

The topics ranged from state of the nation, Nkandla, electricity and service delivery. Some answers were fresh and some were expected. Based on reports in the media, it seems that some editors felt charmed and comforted at this rare occasion.

However I heard a clip that has left me cold. So cold that I think I have finally cracked the code of President Zuma. President Zuma states (in response to a question about the EFF threat),”I am not nervous. I have never been nervous in my life”.

He then gives a chilling laugh. The signature laugh.

Lets understand what it means to be nervous. A person gets nervous when they are worried about something or they have an apprehensive anxiety about something they about to do. This could be a bomb disposal expert being nervous about cutting wire red or wire black. This could be an employee giving a company presentation feeling nervous because they just want it to go well. Most people in this world have been nervous before. You could be almost thought of as heartless or soulless if you have never been nervous in your life.

On the other hand, people would say that the best person to lead a movement out of the mud is a leader that has nerves of steel. Sure that would be a comfort but I would assume that a person that has no nerves in this case probably has a lower level of empathy. In my own opinion, within a current South-African context, we need a leader of empathy more than a leader with nerves of steel.

The only animal in the animal kingdom that I can personally identify with this characteristic would be a jellyfish. You can poke and prod a jellyfish and you can try and trap a jelly fish but the jelly fish will give a cold and instinctive reaction. I don’t think a jellyfish has ever been nervous in its existence. I know plants have. I know all animals have. However a jellyfish is soulless and heartless. It cannot feel and it cannot get nervous but it can deliver a deadly sting.

The problem with the sting of a jelly fish is that the jelly fish is not even aware it is delivering this painful sting. Without empathy and without nerves you are almost rendered heartless and emotionless. Therefore, in certain chilling situations, you would not be able to “feel” or even empathise with the normal reasonable man.

Our President has been through many occasions where one would assume that a reasonable man would be nervous.
When you are charged with rape, regardless of innocence, would you not be nervous?
When are have a R204m scandal hanging over your head, would you not be nervous?
When the electricity supply becomes unstable, would you not be nervous?
When the biggest response to your input for the state of the nation is – please resign. Would you not be nervous?

In this case, Mr President, I plead to you – start being nervous. Not because you have done wrong but because it could show empathy, heart and soul. It could show you care and worry.

Leave a legacy of a President and not a legacy of jellyfish. This Country deserves it.

Posted by: darrenbergman | January 28, 2015

Who will give who the finger at the State of the Nation


The State of the Nation addres is just around the corner. This will be the most interesting state of the nation yet and will have a far broader audience then ever before. The “new” audience will not be interested in what the President has to say. They will be perversely watching the red party ask the question to the President of when he will pay back the money.

The Democratic Alliance has stated that they will treat this event in a dignified manner out of respect to all citizens of South-Africa but will use every avenue available to them to ensure that the President accounts for a lot of questions that seem to have gone unanswered.

Although in full support of my party and the leadership line drawn, I will secretly hope that the EFF disrupt the state of the Nation address because I believe our President should account for his actions and that his account should be the foundation of the state of our nation.

For far too long, President Zuma has ridden on a ticket of sympathy and the questionable underdog. President Zuma has proven to the world that a man with limited education and many allegations can lead a Country and furthermore can stumble and fall during his leadership but always have overwhelming support.

The question that needs to be asked here, is whether the followers are loyal supporters and believers or whether any person or institution that has dared to question, investigate or enquire about actions or dealings of the President has been shifted, shut down or redeployed before loyalty and support could ever be brought into question.

Like my party, I have respect for the office of the Presidency but I do not have respect for the man we call President Jacob Zuma. I can say this because I have, in my own mind, given this person every opportunity to make right and do right by his people but everytime the opportunity arises, there always seems to be an excuse as to why that opportunity was not taken.

Any political commentator that dares to question the President’s motives is shut down in a series of frantic attacks and labelled racist or counter-revolutionary. The odds as a commentator are highly against you and you are the underdog when you dare demand answers from the President.

The State of the Nation is all about where we are and where we are going. The Commander in Chief is the man to lead us in that direction and the man to inspire confidence in his people. People that live in this Country; people that pay taxes; people that live on hope (and nothing else) and people that have invested blood, sweat and tears – are all deserving of this respect and inspiration. However they are cheated before they get to hear the first word because the man tasked with inspiring us and giving us our hope, has not given his nation any reason to be inspired by him. As he takes to the podium with an air of confidence and entitlement I will be thinking to myself and silently praying that he makes right on one promise, the promise of his forefathers, the promise to account.

I deserve it, we deserve it and South-Africa deserves it. If Government cannot understand what it means to account to its people than they shouldn’t be a Government at all.

Posted by: darrenbergman | January 18, 2015

The RACE Card the most valuable card in the deck


This week saw the attack, by social media, on two high profiled citizens and contributors to South-Africa. Max Du Preez and Zelda Le Grange were both insulted, to such an extent, that if you did not know them and you had only read twitter-feeds, you would come to an unrealistic conclusion, that both were irrational racists that do not belong here.

Their biggest crime was questioning whether whites belong in South-Africa and whether we are welcome in South-Africa.

These questions are both fair and pertinant given the current Government and the rhetorics that are uttered from the President every other day.

It is completely normal and unquestionable for the President to use Apartheid as an excuse for everything regardless of their being no proof or benchmark to make such an accurate assumption. However, banished is the one that dares to challenge the utterances of the President. Racist and unwelcome are they made to feel the moment pen has left the paper.

The President owes his people an explanation. Those who believe that no-one has a right to question the President or hold him accountable has no understanding of our Constitution. You are not racist if you want to know why this is built or why this has not been maintained or why certain people are placed in certain jobs, you are being a model democratic citizen holding your Government to account. You are not racist it is your right.

The problem is Zuma Inc has made people believe that if you dare question the ANC in any shape or form, you are being racist. Post 1994 our Country had come along way in trying to reconcile through the awesome example set by President Mandela. In 2010, one caught glimpse of a resiliant nation again, united through sports it felt like we were heading in the right direction but it is clear that reconcilliation is further away from us then we care to admit.

It is vital that if we want to get this Country on its best and most productive footing we need to ensure that reconcilliation is true and long lasting. No one must ever forget Apartheid because it must never again be repeated in any form. The only way we can achieve true reconcilliation is through understanding each other; accepting each other and then trying to earn real trust from each other. This requires more interaction; more debate and more effort.

The President should be leading by example and not being the divisive one. When citizens of the Country question whether they belong or not people should be explaining why they find the comments or opinion pieces to be racist or insulting rather than being racist and insulting themselves.

Our Country will not ever heal properly unless we truly reconcile. We will never truly reconcile whilst there is a mistrust and the race card holds the highest value. It starts with you making a conscious decision to start within and then challenge those around you.

Lets follow the examples of our real heroes and leaders like President Nelson Mandela and stay away from those that take self interest over group interest. In fact if you were a true democratic citizen you would use the power of your vote to sanction those that wish to keep us divided.

South-Africa belongs to all that love it, live it and contribute to it without fear, favour or prejudice. After all wasn’t that what our new Constitution was all about?


When people get married they sometimes make the mistake of putting all their effort into the wedding and forget about the lifetime of marriage ahead. This is similar to sprinting to the starting line when you have a marathon ahead of you. Many people treat New Years the same way.

Who has not had a new years resolution?
Who has stuck to their new years resolutions weeks onwards?

A good new years celebration includes lots of people; lots of company and if successful, a party well into the early hours of the next morning. This would mean that the 1st of the 1st starts off tired;a few extra kilos and a major hangover.

I have been fortunate enough to have experienced enough blue new years to not give the day too much prominence. I can, off the top of my head, recall the time my travel agent convinced me to return from a Cape-Town trip and that she would make it worth my while. We clearly had two different ideas of “worth my while” and by 21:45 I was watching CNN. My friends in Cape-Town of course were kindly and generously giving me a running commentary on how awesome their night was going.

Another memory was in Cape-Town after going through a trying break-up, my ex deemed it fine to come and sit with me on a rock stifling any chance I had of actually having any party. Friends of mine carted me off to the one place I would never feel at home and that was a rave. Not because of the drugs mind you but more because I cannot dance normally so the thought of being stuck on a dance floor for hours on end whilst everyone was happy was not the ingredients for welcoming in a new year.

I learnt to appreciate that a successful New-Years would be drinking enough alcohol to be really happy; eating enough braai meat to feed a small Country and socialising face to face, electronically and physically. The resolutions would be a cherry on the top. My no-smoking resolutions usually lasted a little longer than my diet resolutions but the truth is no resolution ever made it past 6 weeks. I was honoured to have a few of these wonderful new years parties but when I look back now my better New Year celebrations took place when I spent it quietly with people I enjoy. If I do not make it to midnight even better.

However the true spirit of the day captures me when I wake up on the 1st of the 1st and I then celebrate the start of a new year. A traditional braai with friends and family a few visits here and there and the catching up with people that message you that one time a year make the 1st of the 1st the real party for me and not being drunk and not feeling over indulged gives me the right spring board to kick off from the starting gates and start what is the 365 day marathon. Ups and downs; wrongs and rights; loves and hates characterise the path ahead for all the participants running the marathon called LIFE.

I have also found it productive to use the last day of the year as a reflection board and time for introspection. It seems to bring perspective and allows for a benchmark going into the next year. Resolutions are short term but when you reflect and bench mark, you seem to have a better chance of improving whatever it is you want improving year on year.

Facebook, sms, whatsapp and all other forms of social media can influence the type of new years you have and therefore for me it is a good time to have downtime from all these value-adds. Considering I switched on my computer today to see an ex-colleague of mine, who still owes me well over $1000-00 for lending my mobile, living it up on holiday in Australia – yet cries to me that he cannot pay me even $50-00 to show some form of intent. Another ex-friend of mine is quoting the good Lord and all messages of kindness and giving yet she forgets to add on her page how she has taken me for a ride this year that took a major chunk of my turnover. When it comes to messages, that is even worse, because ultimately you end up leaving out one person who takes it highly personally or you have the text police that make a whole new years eve night out of figuring out if all is okay because you sign it with your name and maybe not with you and your wife. The whole spirit of the messages become redundant and you end up being better off quiet and appreciative rather than the instigator.

Hoping not to sound like the New Year grinch, I merely offer that we give closure to the previous year through reflection and that on the first day of the new year we are fresh enough to welcome it in and celebrate it with the ones we love.

Start the marathon on the start off line, fresh and ready to go, rather then starting your year drunk, full and sleep deprived. The side effects of this approach could lead to less fire-crackers; less drunk drivers on the road and more positive people entering the year ahead. What better way to start a marathon then to be fresh and alive.

I take all the bad that happened to me in 2014, as listed above, and choose to close the accounts and start off fresh. I take all the good that happened and remain grateful and appreciative for those moments. With the finish line passed and the next start off gun having just gone off, I would like to take this opportunity of thanking you for reading my blog as always and to wish you and your loved ones everything of the best for 2015!

Posted by: darrenbergman | December 26, 2014

Tis the season to be jolly but?


My FACEBOOK post sparked abit of a debate the other day when I suggested that on Christmas a certain airline had given more than substandard service.

It started at the check-in counter which is meant to be your first point of contact and a good start to the journey. Inexperienced staff is anticipated but unfriendly staff suggests more than just people being forced to work on their holy day.

Once on the aeroplane (in all my hundreds of flights) I would say that this had to be one of the top three ranked in unfriendliness and lack of accommodation. I was not upset that the airline ran out of a meal, that happens all the time. I was upset that the airline knowing it was a day that would cater more for certain sections of our community would have at least enough culturally-friendly meals to last more than the 7th row. This would give the consumer the scant satisfaction that their business was somewhat appreciated on that day. In a world of low-cost airlines and premier service the choice of a ticket can run down to the meal offered on the plane.

A regular commentator on my facebook page suggested that it was anti-spirit of Christmas to have staff working on such a holy day. I agree 100% with this. However I also believe that if the company opens on the day a consumer can and should expect a product or service in line with the company standard.

The rest of the comments seemed to highlight a major triangle in customer service, on holy days, around consumer, employer and employee.
1. Should employers open on a Christmas day if they don’t have enough non-celebratory staff manning the deck?
2. Should a consumer expect a fair service or shopping experience on the day?
3. Should employees have the protected right to decline working on a holy day?

Having come from the emergency services sector, I respectfully omit them from this debate and salute every man and woman that sacrifices their religion on these days to protect and serve others.

The third question is the easiest to answer. I believe strongly that an employee who practices a certain religion should be protected in their right not to have to work where it is a high holy day provided it is a non-essential service. If there was a worldwide boycott to fight for the rights of these individuals, I would participate and not buy items on that day. However whilst it is the norm and an acceptable practice I am free to indulge in the services and products offered on those days.

I believe that in our quest to focus on maximing productivity and profitabilaty for the corporate world we have sacrificed from the employee in favour of consumer. In my opinion, a more stable balance between the two would yield even better productivty and profitability. Imagine a world where you were forced to close shop for 2 hours during the day and were forced to have one day off a week. I gaurantee that people would be less stressed, more motivated and more productive. Families would be more intact due to more family interaction and trading peaks and troughs would become naturally more congruent. This would be a win for all three areas of the triangle. Show me a satisfied customer and an enthusiastic employee and I will show you a company that cares.

The fact that employees do not have a right to chose on these days is sad and does not just effect them but also families and friends around them.

The second question of whether a company should open on high holy days is then partially covered by the above if introduced. However in the current climate it is clear that a company that does not operate on that day will lose out to companies that do. You are at an advantage if you can ensure enough staff that do not celebrate the high holy days but at a disadvantage if you cannot and you cannot afford to outsource that position on those days. Where it becomes a sin of a company is when the company cannot offer at least fair service on the day and yet they remain open giving the consumer the expectation that they can. This is when corners are cut and possibly safety compromised. This is a blatant lose-lose situation to both company, employee and consumer. In airlines, restuarants and entertainment venues this could not only lead to loss of revenue, retention and long term customers but can risk injury or life in severe circumstances. The employer has the responsibility to both consumer and employee not to compromise on this and one should question their loyalty to a company that has not proven their loyalty to consumers and employees.

My flight yesterday was one of many flights I have undertaken on a public holiday or religious holiday. I know what to expect but when employees are down and broken and the experience is more frustrating than tolerated, I question the empathy that company has to both employee and customer. This was in direct constrast to another facebook commentator that stated how his loca grocer remains open and the service is great because both employer and employee are present and the company cares about its consumers and employees and the morale and loyalty shines through.

Am I wrong as a consumer to complain on such a day about such service?

I personally think consumers need to be consistent and fair in their approach. They provide the revenue and in return deserve a service or a product. Be empathetic and understand by all means but do not be scared to complain where a service could compromise comfort and/or safety. My finger pointing exercise yesterday was at the company because if they do not have staff that can display some form of respect to the consumer (who had nothing to do with their employer getting them to work that day) and takes the frustration out on the consumer rather than the employer then it is high time that company considers suspending its service on high holy days and that the company introspects as to the low levels of morale within their staff compliment. However whilst the company is open and employees are there to offer the service or product, I as a consumer on that day, should be more tolerating and empathetic towards the staffs predicament but I should not have to suffer a loss because that company stayed open as a service provider and I gave custom to it as a consumer.

Posted by: darrenbergman | December 14, 2014

INEPTOCRACY


The Farlex community dictionary defines the word ineptocracy as a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Following on my last blog about our broken Country, this definition was sent to me by a friend. I read the definition and thought if I wrote about this, I would be called racist from people without an understanding of who I was. Especially in a season whereby white racism seems to be hitting headlines daily. I then thought that surely I cannot be called racist because there are members of all races and most religions in the executive of Government at the moment and the class of voter I refer to have no racial barrier attached to it. However the word confiscated wealth could be seen as problematic and in the end I decided to dedicate a whole blog to the definition and understanding of a definition that might sum up the current Government of our Country.

The question, which will remain a question, is can South-Africa be defined as an ineptocracy?

LEAST CAPABLE TO LEAD

Leadership is defined my too many variables to bring it down to one sentence. However when you lead in Government in a democracy, one requires leadership to be open, transparent and accountable. The penalty for non-performance in this regard is being voted out. We have had too few Presidents in our new democracy to be able to actively gauge but we can look at the parties and the various stakeholder sectors to understand where we have had the right people in leadership and where we do not.

Under Madiba’s leadership, Minister’s were not only just chosen on merit, the cabinet was also inclusive of other parties and people who were from various factions within the ANC. In fairness to the current Government there were fewer factions then, in fact, it seemed to be limited to ethnicity and even then it was not polarised groupings, they were just used more as voting blocks. President Mbeki was also credited with appointing specialists in their fields to run within his cabinet. There were some blaring wrong choices or choices that once their term had been served should have been redeployed. President Mbeki remained loyal to most at the expense of public opinion. In most cases, public opinion, based on future performance and investigation, called it correct. In the first Zuma term, I think people were willing to give some of the Minister’s the benefit of the doubt. Mostly, because a lot of people had not heard of some of the Ministers. It was a definitive departure from the status quo in the previous terms – post Apartheid. Obvious choices were side-lined or redeployed to other portfolios and worst of all more portfolios were introduced at a time when South-Africa would do better to have less portfolios but more productivity. In the second term of the Zuma administration, one cannot help but suggest that President Zuma and the power’s that be made choices in their Ministers on loyalty in many cases over the specialisation that these portfolios require. I for one, respect many ministers in the cabinet, yet I find that they have been promoted to a level of inefficiency given the portfolio that they head. I also know of some glaring omissions that could have done well to stabilise a ship on rough seas. Therefore whilst I do not paint every Minister with the same brush and I do not say we have the least capable team in town, I do suggest that we have a team that could easily been improved by placement of other individuals that exist within the ANC and even inside the National Assembly. Furthermore we have many portfolios that could be cut down to one department saving this Country much-needed waste and expenditure. In terms of the definition of being voted in, our current cabinet is appointed by the President which means that people who had already bore witness to President Zuma’s first term of office were instrumental as an electorate in voting for them a second time around.

LEAST CAPABLE OF PRODUCING

I believe that in our current climate there are voters that are still not free to vote. I still get stories of how people were told they better vote otherwise they will lose their house, water or electricity. Worse people get told if they vote for other parties the other party will bring back Apartheid. Some get educated that the only party to be able to deliver grants to the elderly are the current Government. Lots of people cannot afford to take the risk of voting elsewhere and end up voting for a party on fear and not on merit. If one looks at voter turnout in the last few elections we are also seeing a mass number of voter’s that are rather staying away from the polls then voting. In the voting district of Greenstone, Johannesburg, the DA polled over 80%. If you walked the polling station queues you would have to admit that nearly half of the voters there were not white. This is a far greater percentage than any traditional “township” or the rural areas of our Country. This translates into an idea that a high number of poor and unemployed people still vote and yet continue to vote for a party or Government that has not managed to transform their fortunes. Least capable of producing is a harsh line but if it is understood in the context that people who have yet to have a lucky break and yet remain loyal to a party that has not been successful in improving their lot under their watch, then it can be understood that if the majority of SA is unemployed or make up the lower LSM groups and that the current major party receive over 60% of the votes, then we can assume that a lot of our poor and unemployed population are still voting for the ANC. It is a comment of fact and not meant to be offensive or derogatory to any race, gender or religion and therefore it is meant that people that are currently in an unfortunate position of not being able to or the least abled to contribute or produce.

MEMBERS OF SOCIETY LEAST LIKELY TO SUSTAIN THEMSELVES OR SUCCEED, ARE REWARDED WITH GOODS AND SERVICES PAID FOR BY THE CONFISCATED WEALTH OF A DIMINISHING NUMBER OF PRODUCERS

In terms of the above elaboration I think it is fair to say that a good equation for success is to keep people rewarded for their loyalty to you at all costs. I would argue based on some of the wasteful expenditure I have been witness to that Government tends to want to try to claim easy victories and tap into a vault of obscene taxation and accounting. However I would argue given the current climate of load shedding; water outages; housing backlogs; hospital traumas, crime and unemployment that not many rewards are being passed around except for those closely investing in keeping its current leaders in their positions for personal gain. It is through no lack of trying to abuse the current tax base into more and more sacrifice that our Government has failed to make these credible inroads it has been more around maladministration, bloated departments, lack of expertise, failing infrastructure and corruption that a lot of the rewards to the voters have been unrealised. E-tolls, service rate hikes and other introduced taxes across the current tax base has still not been met with the same respect from officials and politicians in trying to curb wasteful expenditure and stop corruption. The net effect is that whilst more and more money is being paid into the large Government pipeline the bigger the drain at the bottom is steering the sewerage into the wrong channels and the rightful recipients are not only not benefiting in entirety but they are also contributing to the pipe line themselves. I think it is fair to state that not many people are seeing a return on their rates and taxes at this stage. In the crux of the question of whether our Country can be described as an ineptocracy or not, we need to ask ourselves is it members of our society least likely to succeed that are currently being rewarded? I would suggest not. I think people with the correct surnames and the correct family ties are the ones that are benefiting and the voters that currently vote under loyal practice have been successfully led into believing that they are indeed rewarded recipients. Confiscated wealth sounds like theft and in no way do I believe in the harshness of these terms but if you take the mentioned logic above and the fact that it is not just our tax base that is diminishing but there is also a brain drain, we could argue that this constitutes a diminishing number of producers.

VERDICT

I would say that, in loose terms, our current situation in South-Africa could be considered bordering ineptocracy. However this is not to say there is no hope. This is to say that we need to take cognisance of the signs and make changes, not just active changes but rather productive changes. We move forward by empowering those around us; we move forward by educating voters within and around on how best to use their vote and we move forward by holding Government accountable to the voters. Government should be working for its people and not our people working for Government.

Posted by: darrenbergman | December 4, 2014

Our Country is broken – Madiba’s legacy


When people of high standing dare make public comments about the state of our Country, they are shouted down, called into meetings and if not retracted they are publicly humiliated. These stunts in itself point to a Country that is broken. However I think South-African’s are at a point where they know South-Africa is broken but they dare not say that South-Africa is broken because this could cause social distancing.

The best thing South-Africa has going for it is that it is a Country populated with resilient people. The cliché “South-Africa is not for sissies” comes to mind on a continual basis. Therefore this blog is actually optimistic in approach but also honest.

The ANC is a party that can be credited as the liberation party. Bringing the people of South-Africa through trying times and depositing us in unknown territory known as Post-Apartheid. I have often said before that this Country could have been a totally different place had the national government of unity lasted more than one term. I think South-Africa needed it. President Nelson Mandela spent considerable time putting South-Africa back on a world stage and making us a desirable proposition. President’s to follow spent considerable time trying to make sure they could fill big shoes in their own right and set about creating their own legacy. President Mbeki would go down as one of the most loyal people of the struggle in his leading of South-Africa. Minister Tshabalala Msimang and President Mugabe were great benefactors of his loyalty. A clever man and a man with good taste he would go down in history as the under-rated President. President Mbeki chose to lead an organisation publicly rather than a Country outside his organisation and for that he paid the ultimate price.

Kgalema Motlanthe was the one most people were hoping would lead us post the Mbeki age but that was to be a short duration of long disappointment. A man that took instruction far better than giving instruction found himself sliding down the organogram for not taking a stand. He showed weak leadership when he sailed on automatic pilot through the ANC presidential elections and even weaker leadership when he chose to allow others to bid for him rather than take the bull by the horns. This is a mistake that I think the population regret more than he does sitting in his back office as the dean of ANC political school.

To speak about our current President is just too easy and one can go to town with insults ridicule and very little praise however that is not the point of this blog. In my opinion the problem is not just the President in our current scenario but rather the other beneficiaries in line to make either political or corporate gains. If truth be told we could refer to the Zuma administration as one big pyramid scheme. Some Ministers would never make it past the tier of lower management in a corporate model but because of their loyalty to one man and his friends, they occupy one of the most important executive positions of our land. We hear of daughters and sons; brothers and sisters; uncles and aunts and any other groupings occupying vital positions in both the public and private sector to such an extent that fake CV’s, under qualification and lack of experience are no longer headlines they are now criteria.

Our brain drain has become more tolerable as we accept that where we cannot perform we just lower the quality or the standard. Bandages and band aids make up the bulk of our daily operations rather than maintenance, upgrading and new capital projects. Tenders are not necessarily won on price and delivery time frames are not a necessity. Based on just one sentence of this paragraph anyone would be forgiven for saying that SA is broken. However we are all too scared to actually say it but it in fact becomes liberating the more you say it. SA is broken.

I battled for years to find some convincing leadership, vision and delivery from the pyramid scheme but I finally found it in the last few weeks. Make no mistake the Zumamachine can operate when it wants to. Try attack the President or the Speaker verbally and watch the wheels grind into motion. Mention Israel or Middle East, you will see and smell the productivity. However when it comes to delivery, crime and corruption the machine shuts down again. Evil are they? No. There are a group within the pyramid that have shown political resilience and need to be commended for empowering people with in a party that had no chance of ever being in executive positions. Their heart in the right place; their loyalty intact and maybe even great intention to serve but we all know how dangerous life can be when you don’t know what it is that you really don’t know.

Parliament is the ultimate institution tasked with defending the Constitution and ensuring that the Country runs. I shudder to think of how the electorate would describe this institution today and the “soldiers” elected to protect it. Not our proudest year was 2014 but definitely productive. South-Africa has hit a point in its young democracy where the next few weeks will lay the foundation for the crucial positioning of our Country and its future. Do we choose to make the National Development plan work or do we abandon the foetus before it can ever show its true potential?

South-Africa is broken but not destroyed. Our politicians cannot be trusted alone to deliver us. It requires people to get a copy of the National Development plan and hold our Government to account every step of the way. We have a plan; we have a map and us resilient people have hope now what we need is participation and accountability.

I watched the release of President Mandela on TV, I had the pleasure of shaking his hand for the first time when he came to make an address at Houghton Primary before the 1994 elections and I had the honour of being part of the City delegation to visit Madiba lying in state. The vision of Madiba was to see a rainbow nation embracing each other’s culture through true reconciliation and to deliver to everyone a slice of the Country to correct the injustices of the past. If any party does not subscribe to those principles I would strongly suggest they are not the party of the future. A reality check on where the parties stand a year after Madiba’s passing is worth the investigation.

South-Africa had promise, South-Africa is broken but like the father of our nation taught us…South-Africa has a world of hope. Long live South-Africa – Long live…

Posted by: darrenbergman | December 1, 2014

Do we need the South African sports awards?


South African Sports Awards 2014

I heard about the Sports Awards (SASA) way before I ever attended the event. The sports awards in my opinion has always been clouded in negativity especially around cost and selection criteria.

It was thus important in my mind that I attended the awards last night so that I could go and see for myself just how bad the situation really is.

Minister Fikile Mbalula has been at the crease for a few years now and has from the start stated his legacy would be transformation. I remember Fikile from the youth and regard him as a show-politician rather than an academic politician. He is versatile in any of the departments because he is a politician rather than a specialist. Lastly, in understanding the man one needs to understand that he is a fore-front politician. These politician love the lime light, always involve themselves in the high profiled meetings and usually never use a spokesperson as they are media mad. If you expect policies and technical analysis from this Minister than you will always judge him low. If you judge the man on the amount of times he communicates on his portfolio or is seen at the glitz and glamour events you will judge him high. It is no secret that he has been given the name Minister Razzmataz but it is also no secret that he enjoys the name.

The Sports Awards is a novel idea in principle and one that should be embraced if the main objective is to recognize our sports heroes and to thank all sportsmen/women for the valuable contribution they make in keeping South-Africans passionate and enthused around the various sporting codes.

PLEASE SEE THE END for my witness account.

I went to the awards wanting to hate it and find fault with everything because I felt that the mechanism to this event was flawed. Knowing the characters in the story and the history I was sure that things would be visibly wrong in all facets of the awards. However I was certain to the core that we need to recognise our coaches, teams, sportsmen and support staff and as Government we need to thank them for the work they do on behalf of our Country.

It is hard to cost how much the awards really cost because we can never get a straight and basic answer. If you take television rights, cellphone subscription and voting lines, prizes, venues and catering. Apparently the whole package could be costed at R71m according to representation made at our committee. However Government themselves are in for apparently around R6,5m of this. This is not from any written documentation but only verbal confirmation and therefore these figures are subject to further questioning.

I would suggest that if the Country was financially stable; our sports teams were excelling; Govt contribution to the actual awards was minimal and Government had delivered to Sports and Recreation on a grass-roots level then we would all have something to celebrate and the celebrations should then be parallel to the outcomes.

The danger of trying to host a world-class event on an opulant level, is that you have to keep that pace throughout. The minute you drop the ball any step of the way, you run the risk of that becoming the focus of the evening and the rest falling a long second to it.

This night was no different. SASA was trying to throw it all into a world-class performance and put on a world-class show but they could not move away from glimpses of casualness that plagued the production through out.

Sportsmen are competitive by their nature and would love to throw themselves in contention but would want to know the rules for competing. Sometimes it seems the most obvious of our sportsmen do not stand a chance and then some name is thrown in from out of nowhere in their place. This could give rise to such an event being seen as a mere event on a calendar rather than the ultimate recognition event.

In trying to build an all-star event you also need to work out how many artists and MCs you will require and to ensure that they fill the gaps in the production and are not in actual fact that focus of the event. It seemed during the broadcast we were treated to world-class entertainment and then in the break one of the comedians were brought in and briefed to keep the audience going in Zulu. Perfectly acceptable but a gamble nonetheless.

The Minister was the only one who really looked at home on stage and seemed to do a lot of damage control in many instances and I would not be surprised if a few choice harsh words were shared after the production at some of the people responsible for causing some of these “casual” moments.

The room seemed to be balanced between politicians and sportsmen. I would have thought a night like this would be all about the sportsmen and sponsors with only a handful of politicians. If it was an empty seats issue then I am certain there are many sports teams on school and varsity level that would love to be a part of such a production.

In terms of the prizes and categories, it was innovative to include the media as recipients of awards – you silence them in critique st the very least. However I think the sports awards is vastly exclusive. This is a challenge considering the amount of sporting codes; various criteria for success and being able to host all the federations.

In my opinion the sports awards should be a tournament on its own. Each federation to identify their heroes via their own means and to have an awards evening of their own supported by politicians and sponsors. The culmination of all these winners could be the big production known as the Sports Awards and the winners should not be limited to those recognised and awarded but also through adopting a project annually over and above the SRSA projects in a way which allows Government to not spend as much on such an event but to maximize on the returns of such an event. If you want to make the event world class and professional, by all means, make it TV perfect.

In my summation I can sum up my own belief in the way forward for SASA15 – LESS IS MORE…

MY WITNESS ACCOUNT:

I arrived at the event at around 6pm. It was advertised 5pm for 5:30pm but I knew from experience that this usually meant another hour onto the clock would suffice. Signage was limited and I just followed a group of people to the first floor eventhough the one sign I did see stated the event was on the 5th floor.

On the first floor I was immediately picked up by one of the assistants of Sports and Recreation SA who was able to give me my arm band and escort me through to the VIP holding area away from the cocktail function. I usually hate the holding area because it is equivalent to being stuck in a hotel room while everyone is at the party. However usually there are other people in your hotel room and unless there is a strong host you are left to create your own atmosphere. I had President Gideon Sam and three of his guests from Africa. After a while I suggested to them that I would be going to the cocktail function as I wanted to see the action. Two buffet tables and some trays being walked around the foyer formed the foundation for which hundreds of sportsmen, businessmen and politicians were gathered. A background band played comfortable music and the atmosphere seemed comfortable.

 

At around 7:15pm I returned to the holding area whereby the Minister, his deputy, the Director General and various other Ministers and deputies were now present. After warm and friendly greetings by all we were briefed and then taken to the cocktail area for speeches. It seemed that although they prepared us in the briefing for this, they were unprepared for the amount of dignitaries on the floor. A scurry for chairs and placement took place with people left wondering where and how they should sit. The speeches started but I think the only people who could hear, because of the background crowd noises of those not interested in the speeches, were up to a few rows back. We were welcomed by SASCOC and SRSA and then the President of the Lotto board and then the deputy Minister.

 

The MC then announced the order in which everyone should proceed to the venue. However I found when walking up to the 5th floor it was in chaos anyway. Besides utilizing an arm band system and block,row,seat number ticket, people still managed to get lost once inside the venue.

 

Due to the live broadcast, SABC took over the production and things seemed to work like clock work. Around me, I noticed the name of a few Ministers and deputies that clearly were invited but not present . The four MC got on stage and away we went into a show that went into set cycles of stage act; singer; announcement of hosts to introduce the nominees and then a video of the nominees and then the announcing of the winner and then an acceptance speech of the winner. In between the commercial breaks we were entertained by a comedian that mainly spoke Zulu and sometimes was kicked off mid way through his set for time management.

 

The Minister gave a speech, and Minister Jeff Radebe represented the office of the Presidency and also gave a speech. Our fallen sports heroes were honoured in a moving tribute and some lifetime achievers were recognized and also gave a few words.

 

When it came to the ultimate moment of announcing the sportsman of the year, the previous winner, the Minister and another person got on stage. The third person was then briefly introduced as the man who would be giving away a BMW to the sportsman of the year. The announcement was made and with a blink of the eye and close on midnight the production was over.

 

Nothing left to hear or say, left to our own devices we made our way down to parking. Chaotic and with organisers running out of tickets for everyone, people were delayed at the two parking stations more than at the exits.

Posted by: darrenbergman | November 22, 2014

A TALE OF THREE PARTIES


Pre-elections 2014, I made some public predictions. I predicted the EFF would get 5%, the ANC would start losing support and that the DA would still grow. I also made a prediction that channel 408 would become as popular as the Oscar Prestorius trial channel.

These predictions were almost spot on but more important than that is the significance they hold for 2016 and 2019.

If you look at the South-African election history, post democracy, it can be deduced that any party that starts losing support will never gain growth again as they continue on a downward trajectory. For any party wanting to compete and remain relevant, they need to insist that growth in their party is always positive else they find themselves on a dive that has no mechanical recourse to correct itself. With the ANC losing 2% this statement becomes not only significant but also important to the future political landscape.

Two parties had majorly impressive results that should be celebrated. The EFF and the DA both showed impressive gains. Two different parties with two different offerings to the public. Analysts would be forgiven for making the statement that the parties are on different sides of the spectrum and therefore would not compete for the same votes but that both parties would be in the running for disgruntled ANC voters. I am utterly convinced that the DA did lose votes to the EFF although we gained many COPE votes. I believe that if the DA and EFF do not promote their principles diligently enough we might still end up cannibalising each others votes with the DA being a bigger loser in this specific process.

The prediction that channel 408 would become a popular channel was based on the premise that the EFF would add spice to the house; the ANC would be forced onto the ropes for putting person before party and the DA would continue on the mission it was already gaining positive traction on. This would make for exciting, interesting and nail biting  monitoring as people apprehensively watched the direction in which Government steered this battered ship. Would the course be set for a national democratic revolution or would they set course on their new vision for 2030 in terms of the National Development plan?

Barely half a year into this new term and we are already seeing the signs of a major political event setting foundation in our current volatile landscape.

1. The EFF have come into Parliament with a clear agenda in their minds. Force the ANC to push the land issue; make populist statements that talk to the working class of our Country and put on a show in Parliament that makes analysts compare them to radical parties in the past. With around 20 seats in the house they have definitely made their presence known. There is a saying that a little knowledge is dangerous. Their knowledge on rules and regulations of the house has been dangerous and often led to situations that delay the house; cause disciplinary hearings or in severe cases have led to fisticuffs. They have come into the house not wanting any friends but not scared to jump into any fight that might be there.

2. The DA has come into the 5th term of Parliament with a new leader and new leadership. With proficient understanding of the rules and great institutional knowledge, the DA often leads the way diplomatically in the house. Potential voters might find us too gentle in our approach when comparing us to the shenanigans of the EFF. However the strategy is to be consistent and principled on behalf of the voter’s and potential voter’s we represent. Unlike the EFF who might have one major win of 10-0 in the house on the day and then suffer 10 consecutive defeats; the DA have buckled up for a long war knowing that we need to grapple for every win in every battle regardless of how visible it might translate publicly. Anyone that wants reliability, strength and courage would be well invested in supporting this approach.

3. The ANC have come through a turbulent few years. My last observation of the house was to note a President that is absent; a Speaker that has lost the confidence of many in the house and I fear maybe even her own confidence; a Chief Whip that seems to be at odds with his own party in the house lately and a Deputy President that is running around to justify all these visible cracks and rescue the reputation of all three at all costs. The stakes are high and the costs, time and effort in protecting the highest office of the land has become so burdensome that the excuses for non performance and the lack of answers to questions posed to Ministers seem to indicate that one person is worth more protecting then the founding document in which peace in our new democracy was enshrined…our Constitution.

Noting the above observations, I would humbly submit that one then would need to watch the next few weeks in the house with a certain amount of angst. The real test being 2016.

1. The EFF would do well to ensure that they don’t suffer the same fate as other previous parties that broke away form the ANC. They have a tendency to suffer leadership battles and infighting that consumes the party and eventually implodes it. They need to be more aggressive to the ANC and treat them more like the enemy then a partner they could cozy up to eventually. Their supporters would want to see clear opposition to the ANC.

2. The DA needs to carry on carrying on. The party continues to fight for effective redress; true reconciliation; an embracing and acceptance of each other’s culture and of course visible service delivery. We must use the National Development Plan and the Constitution as the platform and direction in which we need to go. Any deviation from any of these tools by Government should be seen as an attack on our democracy and an attack on “The Madiba principles”.

3. The ANC need to make a decision. Do they allow the head to wag the tail or will the tail finally start wagging the head and ensuring that the party leads rather than put on auto-pilot and allow time to cause the vacuum until 2019. It was sad to read in a newspaper article last week that President Zuma had berated his national executive committee for not standing up enough to the opposition and being too accommodating. It should a big lack of understanding for both his role and the role of his party in Government. It was further disturbing to read a justification by the President that because PW Botha got an airport in George we should be more forgiving. Again this should a convenient lack of understanding of accountability. The ANC performance in the house has been dismal to be polite. The use of riot police; presiding officers that are visibly biased in their execution and tricks already used by other parties shows a party out of ideas and dare I say arrogant. It could be easily deduced that many Ministers were elected to their position based on loyalty to the President than capability. It is embarrassing when a Minister does not want to answer a question because they really don’t know the answer; it is embarrassing for Ministers to attack chapter 9 institutions when they should be promoting their efficacy and lastly it is embarrassing for Ministers to engage in “street fights” or verbal character assassinations. This shows that the decorum of the house faces its own assault on dignity, tradition and decorum. The ANC do not look like the party likely to defend this attack but rather the aggressors in aggravating this assault.

With the above mentioned in mind then DSTV channel 408 is the right channel to watch for many reasons. You need to hold your politicians to account and in turn they need to show you why they deserve your vote. You should also use the mechanisms to contact your Parliament to engage with issues you feel strongly about. My prediction for 2016 Municipal elections is that we are going to see more armchair activists getting up and getting involved. The ANC will be under pressure from their alliance partners and residents demanding delivery on promises otherwise threatened stay aways or even a change in vote.

It is at this stage that you the voter will need to look at the three main stream parties and ask some serious questions. The question can no longer be do I vote or not but rather the question needs to be who should I vote for?

Do I want more of the same?
Is it time that you vote for a party that has a proven track record in Cape-Town, Midvaal and other municipalities around the Western-Cape?
Can you ever vote for a class act based on previous fascist regimes?

The story of three parties begins with a history and current commentary but the book only ends with your vote. Make it count.


If it was Friday the 13th, the shenanigans of the house of Parliament, would have been more explicable. However Thursday the 13th was a long dark night that will go down in South-African history as the day the lines were drawn and the battle could be dubbed – The battle of the thief, the greatest thief of the world.

These were the words that started what would become the lowest point in the history of the house of Parliament in the new democracy.

It seemed that the world was watching the day with abated breath. I had made a prediction a few months ago that channel 408 on DSTV would become one of the most interesting channels this year. The audience on this day would be treated to the debate around the Nkandla saga which has been the headlines for months already. This particular occasion would be the voting of the ad-hoc committee on whether Parliament accepts the findings of this report or not. I will not go into the history and reasons as to why most of the opposition parties had abandoned this committee and created an alternative report but if you have been reading the news and listening to the narrative on this crisis you would understand already.

Walking back from a caucus meeting on the day one could not help but notice the increased amount of police personnel in the precinct but more disturbing was the fact that some police were in heavy riot gear and an air of tension was already palpable. The opposition parties had taken independent decisions to do all within the rules to ensure the delay of the passing of this report or the hopeful withdrawal of such a report. No doubt, judging by the amount of ANC supporters bussed into the afternoon plenary session, the vigilance of the chairs and the attitude of some of the Ministers, this was not just expected but war had been declared way before the actual ringing of the session bells.

The first battle on our Constitution and democracy came from the Speaker within minutes of the opening of the session. Speaker Baleka Mbete (whose impartiality can be rationally questioned due to her high position within the ruling party and the presiding officer of the first eventful Parliament session whereby EFF members caused the suspension of the house) took a unilateral decision that motion time would be limited to forty five minutes. This was serious considering that not only was a programming meeting held in the morning and this was not mentioned but the rules do not allow for such limitations to be imposed and the Speaker was quoting a rule that was ambiguous at best. For good reason the opposition parties stood united here and in a brilliant show of defence, protected the rights of opposition parties to be heard and the rules of Parliament to be upheld. Ironically the arguments in this regard took longer than the speaker had wanted allocation for motions time.

During the actual debate on the Nkandla report, the boxing ring accommodated most opposition parties on the one side and seemed to hold only the NFP, APC and the ANC on the other side. Everyone came out of the corners with some good jabs and some of the punches actually seemed to hit target. At one stage one Minister got into a sensitive squabble with a member of the EFF and eventually left the changes in a challenge to sort out the issue outside and not with words. Lucky for this Minister other colleagues had to pull her back to decency.However, not, before a video had found its way onto Youtube of this incident. The intent of three of the members that made up the ANC component of the committee was also questioned considering the one had a wife in the executive and the two other’s were shown up for being more interested in the beauty of their nails than the possibility of finding something incriminating in the report. Pictures of both the Nkandla palace and the ladies doing their nails were circulated in the house and another jab had hit its mark judging by the vile content of their speech. At one stage the deputy Speaker started to lose his rhythm as the referee and warned the Hon. Mmusi Maimane that he had been named. An EFF member rose on a point of order to ask what this was and I heckled that it was a christening. Then after another jab or two the deputy Speaker launched into a lecture of the opposition parties and even mentioned the word hell. He immediately retracted and looked like he had taken an upper cut before apologising and withdrawing unconditionally. It seemed that the rounds were coming to an end and it would have to be judged as no clear winner had emerged even though the report was voted in favour of the majority.

After a break in proceedings, it became clear that if we were to go through the whole agenda, we would be there for another few hours which could take us way into the early hours of the morning. It was agreed that there would be one report left and it would then be home time for all. The debate was on a possible treaty to provide more power to SA and was considered a “soft” issue. No great shakes were expected but of course that is usually when the most unexpected happen. After two speakers at the podium, a representative from the EFF took to the podium and launched into her speech. At one point she spoke about someone being “a liar, a thief, the greatest thief in the world.” I immediately turned to one of my colleagues and said this will be a song. The presiding officer instructed the honourable member to withdraw. She refused and remained determined to complete her speech. Repeating the words that still ring through my head today. It seems that an individual that was not even present, in fact had not been present as per his obligation in terms of the rules of Parliament at any session so far (he has to appear once a quarter) was now causing a stir in the house for about the umpteenth time. It became clear that this was the moment everyone had been preparing for. The sergeant-at-arms was instructed to remove the EFF member from the podium and out the house as she was not responding and was continuing on those lines. After a few attempts the Sergeant-at-arms left the room and I can only assume it was to call for back up. Three burly police officers came and stood in front of the EFF benches. Our party made an objection to the presence of the police because of the intrusion it presented to a legislature and the separation of our powers and duties. No sooner had we started our objection, entered a group of policemen armed in riot gear. This was gravely offensive on so many levels. We had no obligation to the EFF in this regard as we considered her actions to be contrary to Parliamentary rules, however, we did have an obligation to all opposition parties to protect our institution from intrusion.

A lot of people can be thankful that the news feed was cut at that stage. The outrage, aggression and confusion from a meeting that had lost all control and decorum can never be explained in such few words. To watch Ministers wanting to engage in physical fights and police looking like they did not want to be there but had to because of forceful orders led to even further confusion and before a little bit of norm could return to the chambers, just before midnight, four of our members would be injured; an expensive computer system lay cracked over its perch and a group of politicians were holding back other politicians from engaging in any more embarrassing behaviour. Leaders from the various parties quickly got together and it was decided that after statements by our leader and the ANC chief whip the house would be suspended.

I was so proud of what the DA had achieved and how dignified we had fought for not just our rights and the rights of the house but for the principles enshrined in our Constitution. I had lost so much respect for so many members of the executive tasked with vital functions of state. I realised then and there that this was one of the most important initial battles of the future direction of our Country. I believed the score was Opposition 1 – ANC et al 0. The battle lines are drawn and you are either a believer of the National Democratic Revolution or you are a supporter of the National Development Plan as the path for our future. The DA seem to be more in line with the NDP and the visions of the father of our new democracy Madiba than the current faction running the ANC. This leads us to interesting times as we sit and watch one man regardless of whether he is a passenger of his own legacy or the master mind behind all that is wrong with this picture painted above.

I naively thought that when the presiding officers of Parliament had called a press conference, we would witness an apology or a promise to make things better but instead we were treated to a childish game of pass the parcel. All time, effort, money and sacrifice in the name of one person. A person. Possibly a liar, possibly a thief, possibly the biggest thief in the world…

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