Our posturing politicians

Jack Bloom says deeds are better than speeches any day


I like American political humourist PJ O’Rourke. He says things like “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Here’s another gem: “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” There is often a lot of wisdom in his barbed humour.

I thought of him when reading an article by Helen Madoff entitled “Take your Women’s Day and shove it”. It’s completely over the top, but makes some telling points. She says “Take your pathetic, meaningless, mind-blowingly expensive and stomach-churningly patronising Women’s Day and cancel it.”

She doesn’t even want a Woman’s month. Also to go should be “that ridiculous, pointless, bloated Dept of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.” It really is a useless department that insultingly lumps women with children and the disabled. It mostly empowers bureaucrats who spend a lot of money on overseas trips and conferences. Madoff calls it “a particularly sanctimonious event-planning agency.”

Her main gripe is that “it’s open season on South African women 24/7, year in, year out.” She is absolutely right to point to our shocking rape statistics which are the worst in the world for a country not at war. But why is progress so slow in re-establishing specialist police units and courts to curb all forms of violence against women?

The Domestic Violence Act was passed in 1998, but parliament recently heard how only 14% of 263 police stations visited were fully compliant with this Act. It’s not just Women’s Day that can be criticised as an inadequate substitute for real action.

Youth Day events are also often expensive jamborees that do little to help youth the rest of the year. The National Youth Development Agency is little more than an employment agency for the ANC Youth League. It had 453 employees in 2011/12, whose salaries totalled R175 million, which was 42% of its total budget. And who can forget the R100 million wasted on the International Youth Festival with its kissing games and fishy contracts?

Meanwhile, Government won’t implement the Youth Wage Subsidy which would create lots of jobs for unemployed youth. It’s interesting that more good seems to come out of Mandela Day even though it is not an official holiday. It also has a lot of posturing and platitudes abound on this day. But at least it gets ordinary people to do practical things that uplift others. And there is a lot of push to “Make every day Mandela Day”.

Give me deeds over speeches any day. As O’Rourke puts it “Everybody wants to save the earth, but nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.” It’s easy for politicians to spend taxpayers’ money on projects that make them look good as the TV cameras run. But a myriad of small kindnesses every day amounts to so much more.

The things that Government needs to do it must do well, particularly those that create opportunities. We need a vibrant and strong society, but this cannot be created by dependence on Government. It’s up to us, not the state.

Jack Bloom MPL is DA Caucus Leader in the Gauteng legislature. This article first appeared in The Citizen.


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