Mr President, open your eyes.

Dear Mr President,

I live in Johannesburg, without a doubt, a first class African city. Sadly that standard of living is not as high in other parts of the country. Sadder still, it far higher in other areas.

I write to you today imploring you to open your eyes. I am a concerned citizen. I am concerned that the debate around your house has turned into one of “who is guilty for the spending” as apposed to the moral question of whether it is ethical for a man who heads a country where the wealth gap or income inequality is of ever increasing concern. Where our GDP per capita is approximately $ 6000. If it is ethical for that man to live in an approximately $ 25 000 000 house. Bearing in mind that the top ten percent are heavily skewing that $ 6000 average upward, very many earn far less.

Mr President, surely you can see that it is the ethical argument you have already lost. This is your home, a home that was built with tax payers money, rife with spending irregularities. A home built with ill gotten gains. Do you sleep well there, does your conscience not keep you up at night?

You snap at the press for focusing undue attention on the matter, but clearly, they see the moral element that you have failed to observe, you are sleeping in a house that was built with money taken from the people that put your party in office, the house you live in, where you keep your family is a thief. It has taken what does not belong to it and it has taken it from South Africans.

Mr President I ask you to look at Eskom, at our power crisis, for when something negatively affects a stuttering economy to the tune of between 10 and 80 billion Rand per month, I believe that may be the very definition of a crisis. Your municipalities owe millions in payments, money that could have been spent on maintenance, planning or new power installations perhaps? You have delegated this enormous challenge to your second in command, in doing so you have lost the opportunity to show leadership and instill faith in the South African economy. What matter is more pressing than this, what matter more sharply defines your duty?

We have an irregular expenditure figure of R 2.4 billion. Is it then any wonder that you are having such a hard time collecting outstanding e-toll monies, when it is so clear that we have so little control over where or how effectively that money will be spent?

I am concerned Mr President when the head of a democracy starts making off the cuff remarks about: if he was a dictator things would be different. How many African countries have we seen slide back into the grasp of tyranny? Where people lose the fundamental right to determine their own future? These remarks do not help us Mr President, they do not help bring in investment, they do not stir feelings of warmth.

Mr President, let us speak of blame and the placement of it. When you are the leader you are responsible for both the successes and the failings of your team. You cannot just have the one you like and place the failings on others in your team. The key theme here is, responsibility. You decided on who sat in your government. You cannot claim their successes only, their failings are your failings. The blame or credit sits with you. This is an absolute.

It is now reported that you have decided to purchase three new jets at a time when every South African is preparing to tighten their belts again. This time due to new fuel levies as well as proposed increases in residential, electricity and water rates. Are you sure you need three more jets, is this wise? I implore you to open your eyes, I believe all of the yes men in your cabinet have sheltered you from the struggle of the ordinary person. The ordinary South African who is finding it harder and harder to survive in this country where you say we have so many good stories to tell. I’m afraid we haven’t seen too many of them recently.

Mr President it is time to stop relying on the stories of the past and look to writing stories of the future. In looking to the past we can identify our failures, but it means little if we repeat the same mistakes. There are deep tensions regarding our colonial history, what of our ever devaluing currency? There is massive concern at what critical piece of infrastructure will fail next. If it is the water system how many will die before we see leadership from the front, from the top?

These are challenges we need our president to face, to lead us and reassure us through.

Mr President open your eyes, your country needs you! We need you to be the man you told us you were. We need you to be open, honest and accountable. We need sensitivity and understanding, we need a plan for jobs that delivers jobs, we need economic growth and we need you to set targets that we can measure you against. We need a leader and not a politician.

Otherwise you set the scene for the next president who can hide behind Parliament and stall trials forever in court.  I understand that you are a busy man Mr President, that you will probably not read this, but others will. You know what they say Mr President, that an idea is the hardest thing to silence.

The sparks of concern have become embers at the tip of a fuse. I don’t know how long the fuse is, or where it may lead, and I don’t wish to find out. It is my deepest wish to prevent destruction and suffering in this beautiful country. Where do we go from here Mr President? We are all looking to you.


Does it all boil down to education, or should that be management?

Every argument or discussion I have ever had on how to improve a country the quote that people seem to fixate on is “it all comes back to education”. This is my argument against that statement.

Firstly unless you are in education it completely dis-empowers you, what are you to contribute to your solution? You pass the problem along.

Many people advocate the incorporation of the capital punishment as a deterrent to violent crime, this ethically does not sit well with me. Send a message they say. I find this deeply troubling, in one sentence you say that murder is wrong, but then in the next breath you state that in order to deal with murder you want to legalize certain forms of murder. You want to allow people to pass judgment on life and death, weigh up all the pros and cons of ending someone’s existence, sounds like premeditated murder to me. It is an ethical nightmare. The trends show that those who have experienced violent upbringings are more likely to grow up to perpetuate those same crimes. To me the most obvious mechanism to reduce violent crime is to break this cycle.

You pass the problem along again unless you are the judge or executioner.

Conversely my concluding remarks on those subjects are usually that it all comes down to improving management or effective management. Leadership is so crucial to the correct functioning of any country. Where leaders are dynamic and dedicated I believe that a country can only improve. (barring dictators, there are lines between genius and madness). I believe that my perspective empowers and allows people to take ownership of improving the status quo.

How does it work?

In it’s most base form the challenge is: changing how a huge number of people experience life.

This takes real management (political will and leadership). You need to co-ordinate with the specialists that form the plans, you need to create buy-in to these plans. You need to manage expectations of all involved parties, budgeting, construction, education. All of these cannot be integrated without decent oversight and accountable management.

Throwing money at education has not worked in South Africa, schooling is not education, employers are not hungry for school leavers, they are hungry for hard workers, people that are inspired to better themselves and their situation. People that want to learn more, learn and implement their training. Be it brick laying or advanced mathematics. Keeping these people engaged at work is also about management.

Good management is leadership, setting an example placing boundaries, setting expectations defining the mission plan.

Managers need to be measurable too, they have to set milestones that they need to achieve and they need to be accountable to these goals, just as any CEO is held account to their board. I believe that an improvement in education would be as a result of a better functioning system. Surely where children can read and learn at night because the lights stay on and they are safely tucked away in warm waterproof building the uptake of knowledge increases exponentially!

When people have options other than crime, when they have belongings and people that treat them well they will not be so quick to throw it all away on some terrible short sighted deed. When detention for crime is seen as a way to rehabilitate and reflect on ones transgressions and improve and become a better person.

Better management breeds confidence and investor confidence is essential to job creating and growth in the economy. The rules have to be fair for all and enforced equally. Leadership needs to be accountable to the functioning of the entire system. If the system is in disarray management cannot fix a problem by blaming a past manager. They need to analyse the situation and set out a road map, this plan then needs to be actively nurtured and supported and reported on.

I don’t mean to say that the entire burden rests on the managers shoulders, but if that is where the praise will be lumped then that is where most of the performance must be measured.

The support staff of this vision need to believe they are heading in the right direction, they need to be motivated to power this vision. Before that however, as is true in business, they need to want to work at it. South Africa as an example struggles with active citizenry, it is always easier to sit back and complain but if you want to see an improvement you need to get up and ask how can I help? You need to offer feedback, everyone is accountable to and for their own future.

Self-management guided by examples from your leadership is an essential part of forming a safer, more prosperous society. In the same way as a few individuals can drain the enthusiasm out of any movement, those few individuals that give of their energy and enthusiasm can encourage those around them to do the same propagating energy.

This is part of my contribution I want to start these conversations, not about the “misbehavior” of parliament but about what each and every one of us want out of life. What roads we are prepared to walk together to see everyone to the destination they deserve for the effort they are prepared to put in to raising everyone up.

We are not owed anything from this life a friend recently told me, now I’ve been told this many times before but it sunk in this time. We get what we work for. Relationships, social cohesion, country. We need examples to look up to we need management we need leadership. We have to define what that looks like to us.

If we don’t see what we want held up as leadership then we need to stand up and be that leadership, worst case scenario everyone disagrees with you, you argue and discuss ideas and you all grow. Best case scenario you inspire others to stand up with you, one small voice amplifies and and spreads and you make a contribution.