Personal experiences: Why South Africa is failing?

I could dwell on all South Africa’s major ills such as an incompetent ANC or Zuma’s single-handed attempt to detail the South African economy. Alternatively I could lament about other ailments such as Zuma’s friend Dudu Myeni’s bid to insert some crony into the Airbus deal at a cost of R1.6 billion to SAA. No. Let me rather rail against my everyday experiences which indicate that all is not well in sunny South Africa.

Main picture: This surreal walkway recently installed in Cape Town, South Africa, creates a meandering, aerial path that allows visitors to stroll through the treetops. The steel-and-pinewood Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway begins on the forest floor, gradually sloping upward and eventually elevating guests to a spectacular vantage point above the canopy.

Driver’s and vehicle licence renewals

I scheduled the renewal of my Driver’s Licence for December as I planned to take three weeks leave. Firstly the JMPD was on a “non-strike” strike. On 702 Talk Radio the situation was a comedy of errors and misstatements with the Union insisting that their members had been told to report for duty but that many would first have to return from the former homelands. The union spokesman was insistent that that they were not on strike whereas the JMPD insisted that no staff were working due to there being a strike.

To confirm that the Roodepoort Office was closed, I drove past. It was empty, totally vacant, with not a vehicle in the parking lot. Whether it was due to a strike or the confusion by the staff whether they were on strike or not, I shall never know. Whatever it was, this confusion reigned for weeks commencing in late November.


I decided to short circuit the whole fiasco by travelling to Tshwane and registering at the Nelmapius Test Centre. To kill two birds with one stone, I would also pay my Vehicle Licence at the same time. I duly noted that according to the newspapers, as from 1st November, one had to present Proof of Residence when renewing it.

Naturally as always, the queue at the Testing Station meant a two hour wait. As I did not bring a photocopy of my ID Book, I had to drive one kilometre to a caravan parked at the side of the road. I understand why they do not want third parties plying their wares inside the Testing Grounds but why don’t they provide a photocopy machine or at least provide a list of documents which one must possess BEFORE one enters the queue. After a two hour wait for the eye test, signature and thumb prints, there was another half an hour wait to pay.

Now came the next problem. Different queues for Driver’s Licence payments and Vehicle Licences. After I had duly waited my turn in the one queue, I then joined the next queue. But now it was almost closing time but before I abandoned my attempt at paying the vehicle licence, I enquired from an official whether Proof of Residence was obligatory. “No. Not as we know.”


Back at home I checked. According to the internet, it DEFINITELY is a requirement for renewal!!!

After spending three and a half hours at the Traffic Department, I will still have to go back and renew my vehicle licence.

Recycling one’s domestic refuse

As a person concerned about the environment, I meticulously recycle all our household waste. One of the weekend chores is to take the various containers to the recycling area. Each type of waste is then assiduously placed in its correct container – glass, paper, plastic and tins. I will even remove the paper wrappings off the tins and place them in the paper bin.

Being on holiday in December, I took the containers to the recycling depot as soon as they were full. What was I confronted with? The guys from the recycling company were merrily placing all the contents of all the bins in one pile in the truck. Questioning one of the loaders, they confirmed that this was their standard Operating Procedure.


That means that after the conscientious efforts by all the residents to separate their waste, all the items are mixed only to be separated again later!

Removal of a tree on the pavement

I am always loathe to remove trees as they are the lungs of the world but when the roots of the tree interfered with the water main on the pavement, action had to be taken. It had to be chopped down, removed, used as firewood.


The relevant municipal department – Joburg Water – was certainly diligent as they arrived on the next available Sunday. The crew included one 5 tonne truck, one back-hacker and half a dozen labourers.

To put this operation into perspective, this tree was similar in girth and height to a tree which I had removed from inside my property a few years previously. Essentially in that case, there was a two man crew. One would scale the tree with an electric saw and attach a rope onto the branch while the second guy on the ground would lower the cut branches safely down to the ground.

The whole operation took two to three hours.

Now was my chance to ascertain how the municipality would perform.


I reckoned that at most it would take the three hours that my 2 man team took. This would be an opportunity to compare the productivity between Joburg Water and private enterprise.

Because the Tree Removal Team has arrived at 10am that meant that it was tea time. Kindling was scrounged and a quick fire was made. It was coffee time with one person making the coffee and five in attendance in attendance, watching. I went inside and retrieved an ice cold cider from the fridge.


My skill at measuring team dynamics using my admittedly limited Industrial Psychology skills would be put to the test. I would mentally measure productivity by ignoring efficiency and effectiveness. My yardstick would be based upon a subjective rating of how much a person was working irrespective of whether it was the optimum modus operandi, speed or efficiency.

Twenty minutes later it was time to start work. One man climbed up the tree and started cutting branches while five co-workers watched. After two to three hours of cutting he was finished. Naturally this man’s role and hence title obviously was recorded by me as Branch Cutter. Nobody ever relieved him as he cut each branch in turn. Two others dragged the fallen branches to the truck and stacked them on top. By now I had identified fives roles each with its own responsible person: the Tea Maker, the Branch Cutter, two Branch Transporters and the Truck Driver.


Finally it was the turn of somebody who up to this stage had played no part in the proceedings. This role I termed the Manual Root Clearer or MRC. So while the truck driver operated the Back Hacker together with the able assistance  the MRC, the rest formed a circle around the stump and watched as the other two removed the roots.

Suddenly the Tea Maker sprang to life. Being a Sunday and 15:00 to boot, it was time to go home. With a flourish, he announced that the Team would be leaving but would finish the job the next day.

I bid them adieu; no actually hamba kahle!

They waved.

With that they were off.

By my crude back-of-a-cigarette-box calculation to ten decimal places, their rate of work – scientifically known as utilisation – was less than 30%. Taking into account their efficiency, the net productivity must have been no better than 20%


I could provide many more examples like this but they would all highlight the same issues: no sense of urgency, insufficient multi-tasking, no planning and lack of foresight.

All of these point to mediocrity.

How can South Africa become a winning nation when a job is not performed ONCE using the best method possible and where everybody actually works instead of having everybody supervising one person working?


Ultimately South Africa’s lack of productivity ethic will doom the nation to being a Third World Nation in perpetuity.

This is not how the Tiger Nations in the East achieved their spectacular rise.

It was by hard graft, dedication and commitment.

Abundant natural resources alone with not extricate South Africa from Clem Sunter’s Low Road Vision for the future.

Instead these minerals will ultimately remain in the ground as it will become too expensive to mine them. Ignoring the depth of the mines, is this not what is plaguing Lonmin in platinum and Anglo-American in gold?

An attitude of entitlement will have to change or is this now too politically incorrect and racist to challenge?


Source of photos: Unknown.



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