A Foreword For  The Regular g33q.co.za Reader

g33q.co.za is not a political blog. I tend to steer clear of controversial issues that have no bearing on the technological  slant of my blog. I respect my readers right to differ from me on issues that are not technology or IT related. This is a blog where we are tech-heads first and foremost.

With this entry I am making an exception though, partly because our local government elections have entered our realm of influence, the on-line one, and I am choosing this medium that our political parties have embraced to take the fight to them.

UPDATE: The DA has responded via Brandon Topham to this entry, you can read it HERE.

On 18 May 2011 we will have the opportunity to vote in the local government elections. As of this writing it is twenty-seven days until we can make our mark on a ballot, and play a role in the exciting democratic process.

Part of this process is campaigning for our votes by the political parties involved. This year a new form of campaigning is taking shape – on-line campaigning.

Most political parties have had websites and Facebook groups for a while now, and logic dictated that the more interactive media of Twitter be the next tool in their quest for more votes.

Why write to the DA?

A few days ago I noticed a new Twitter follower, Brandon Topham, the DA Mayoral Candidate for Mayor of Tshwane.

This piqued my interest. For one, I find it admirable for a person to open himself to public interaction on an unregulated platform/forum such as Twitter. I hope the Political Parties out there who use Twitter to interact with their followers have at least one advisor well versed in social media to guide them through the minefield. It is really a jungle out there, and the people on-line are not afraid to raise their opinions and engage those who interact directly with them with tough questions.

We on-line socialites are an irreverent bunch.

Naturally I engaged Mr Topham. I followed him, as a matter of courtesy as well as curiosity, and I peppered him with questions.

To his credit he has responded to all my tweets, and after a to and fro session he invited me to write an email raising my concerns/ideas to allow the DA to respond more completely.

Well that is just dandy, but I believe that democratic discussion is a matter of public record. While thankful for the opportunity to engage a political candidate directly I decided to place my letter on-line, and offer the DA the opportunity to respond in the public theater to my questions.

Be warned that this is a long piece, I have listed thirteen areas of concern that I have that will influence how I vote. I do not pretend my concerns to be universal, and many readers will differ from my opinions here. I fully expect the DA to differ from me on many points – I do not want agreement from the DA, I want to know that even though we disagree they have clear plans and not politi-speak to offer me in return for my precious currency of one prime, untarnished and never before used democratic vote.

How I Will Vote This Time?

In the past I have taken a very simplistic approach to my vote – who is more likely to limit the ANC’s powers? Who was most likely to come second? And in the late 90’s I did not have a problem with the ANC as such, I just believed – and still do – that a clear two-thirds majority is unhealthy in a democracy such as ours.

Over the years things have subtly changed, in my life and in my country. I have become older, married, and a parent of two children. If ever there was a time for me to stop being a consumer-voter it has arrived.

Suddenly my vote is not a personal thing any more. I have the future of my children to take into account when I vote. I have seen the failures of our current government on many levels, and I believe that my children deserve better than what our current government is offering us.

I have not decided who to vote for yet, and I will never disclose who I am going to vote for – such is my democratic right. Suffice it to say that it will not be the ANC – they have some serious house-cleaning to do before I consider supporting them at all.

Why This Election Is So Important To Me

I am 33 years old, and my children are almost Six and almost Four. In two years we will have a National Election.

The way I see it, if there is to be a change of government on a National Level in two years time this election will be the bedrock of that change. Any new party who governs this country will take at least five years to roll back the many problems that plague our country, and then if they win the election after that another five years to bring about a positive new future for South Africa.

Twelve years. In twelve years I will release my daughter into the adult world, and she will then be eligible to vote. She will also enter university if she so chooses, alternatively she will enter the job market.

For the first time I believe that my, and my wife’s, vote will have a direct impact on the future of my children. I believe that giving the wrong party my support will be one of the gravest mistakes that I as a parent will ever make.

Suddenly my vote has become, for the next twenty seven days until I cast it, the single most precious commodity I possess.

If any political party wants me to give it to them they will have to work hard for it, and by engaging me directly Mr Topham and the DA have given themselves an opportunity to sway me to their support.

Call me arrogant if you will, but I believe that as a voter I am worth being wooed. Every voter in South Africa should approach their vote with an attitude of self worth, yes even a little arrogance. You only have one vote after all.

My Chief Concerns

Below is a shortlist of concerns that I as a voter have. Some of them are outside the scope of influence of a local government, but I want to know that the party I vote for has a long term vision for my future. If I choose to vote for a party in local government now, I will most probably support them on a National level in two years time.

Let’s dive into them:

1. Service Delivery.

I have decided to kick off with this elections big campaign headline – Service Delivery for All.

I live in Pretoria, in a middle class area where we have running water and mostly timely refuse removal. Lack of service delivery is a minor issue to me. Even the “load shedding” issues seem to have gone away for now. Life in this regard is mostly good.

Why should this make the list of my concerns then? Well, have a look at what happened in Johannesburg. What happened there in the run-up to the elections has brought it home to me that a lack of service delivery can strike anyone, even me living in comfortable suburbia.

I want some guarantees in this area. The local government who represents me will have to make sure that the rates and taxes I pay are properly utilized and will ensure that my neighbors and I have our basic needs taken care of. And I extend the term “neighbors” to include my friends living in Eersterust and Mamelodi a few kilometers away.

“Service delivery for all” should mean service delivery for all.

2. Strikes

Service delivery extends beyond collection of rubbish and the provision of water and electricity. Last year we have been at the mercy of striking workers in many areas. Notable are the Education and Medical workers strikes.

Any party I support must have a plan for dealing with an emergency such as this. While the DA is quick to trumpet their successes in service delivery I have not found anything on-line that indicates what their track record was with dealing with the strikes that hit our schools and hospitals last year.

It is clear that the Teachers Union do not think that education should be declared an essential service until an 80% pass rate is achieved nationally. Will it be good teaching, or Sadtu?

What is the DA’s plan to deal with strikes? How will they keep our children safe in the event of a strike and the unfortunate violent behavior that a minority of strikers exhibited? How will they ensure that people in hospitals will not be neglected and die when those we entrust with our lives in an emergency turn their backs on us?

Do they have a plan B in the event that our garbage guy and his colleagues decide to stay at home for a week or two? If this plan includes providing me with the infrastructure to don a pair of gloves that my neighbors and I take our garbage to the dump ourselves I am okay with it, as long as there is some kind of plan.

3.  Education.

Talking about our strikes and the challenges that faced our students last year neatly brings me to another parental concern – our education system.

The public education system is a mess. Outcomes based education is a failure.

It is so bad that my wife and I have decided to to home-school our children, and even here the shadow of our current government looms. Just this year home-schoolers had to turn to the courts to protect their right to choose their own curriculum.

What is the DA plan for our current broken educational system? Do they have a vision for students in South Africa that does more than just teach them stuff? I want to hear a plan that prepares children for the realities of life, one equips them to compete on an equal footing with young people across the world.

I want to know that there is a vision for our education system to deal with our dwindling skills shortages.

This extends to our universities and the standard of education they provide.

4. Stimulating the Economy

What is the plan for our economy? What is the plan in the short and long-term?

What is the plan with our bloated and inefficient and ineffective parastatals (Eskom and Telkom, I am looking at you here) that are operating against the principles of a free market economy?

I for one would like to see Telkom and Eskom privatized and their protected status against competition removed. I would like to be able to put my hard earned rands in the hands of someone who will provide me with affordable services – there is that word again – without having to wait ten days (or longer) to fix a broken ADSL line.

I want to pay my electricity bill and not worry about shedding my load because the lights went out just as I was about to sit down and watch Top Gear.

I want to support a company that will be able to provide electricity to all the townships that have been waiting for the promise of equal delivery for the past seventeen years.

The ANC and their economic model has not done this.

Included in my shopping list for privatization is SAA, Transnet and Sasol. Let them compete and survive in a free market. This can only be good for the consumer.

If there is a better counter argument I would be glad to hear it, but again, show me that you have a plan.

5. Affirmative Action – Employment Equity.

It has been seventeen years and Affirmative Action has not delivered on its promises.

The only result of this policy has been blatant exploitation and economic entrenchment by tenderpreneurs. Those who have gamed this system for their own personal gain, to the disadvantage of those who should have benefited from an equal playing field.

Surely the time has come to look at this broken system? Is the way it is approached right now the right way to go?

Is it still necessary to give someone a job based on the color of their skin or their gender?

Our current government has had ample time to redress the wrongs of the past, and all that they have succeeded in doing is heap more wrongs on top of the old ones. Blaming the past for the problems we are facing now in this regard is approaching the issue ass-backwards.

A new plan is needed, urgently, and I want to know that the party I am voting for has a vision for the future. Possibly even one where Affirmative Action is not needed to allow every person in this country to put food on their table – we are struggling with a 40%+ unemployment rate at the moment.

How will the DA combat this?

6. Crime

It is only sixth on my list of concerns, but it is one of my gravest. I believe strongly that a large swathe of our crime wave has its roots in economic desperation. Good people are forced to do bad things in order to survive.

But crime has also become an opportunity for self advancement. Professional corruption is rampant, in our government, in our parastatals and in our private sector. Many millionaires have made their fortunes illegally, and they should be bought to book.

And then there are the really bad people. The murderers, thieves and other “traditional” criminals. People who would have chosen to be criminals regardless of the economic situation in our country, regardless of the opportunities afforded to them.

Dealing with them will need a rejuvenation of our police forces, something more sustainable than a “stomach in, chest out” initiative.

Speaking of which…

7. Our Police Forces.

Our country needs to have the credibility of the police forces restored. I think twice about stopping at night if a copper flags me down. When I was a kid my mom told me that if I got separated from her in Pick and Pay that I should look for the “omie met die blou klere”, the police man.

Today I tell my daughter to go to the “tannie by die till”, the cashier. I simply do not trust our police forces with the immediate safety of my children.

And then there is the dealing with criminals – both inside and outside of the police forces. Crime needs a credible deterrent. Criminals must have a credible belief that they will get caught – forget about the death penalty, it is not a deterrent. Besides, before you can hang the criminal you have to catch him.

The death penalty- indeed, no penalty -  will carry any weight if the criminal believes he has a fair chance of getting away with the crime in the first place.

And of course the criminal must believe that once caught they will be properly punished. Five life sentences for multiple murders? What does that mean? Will it be five life sentences of hard time, or will it be five life sentences lounging at the expense of my tax money with just a glimmer of a chance of escape or an easy out due to negligence?

Justice must also be swift. If a dude runs out my neighbors front door with a MacBook under the arm I must believe that he will be tackled to the ground by a fit and respectable cop before the week is out. I want to know that once he is thrown in the back of a “vang wa” that he will be booked and charged in the shortest possible time, and that he will get his comeuppance soon. Not in a year or two, and please, no more lost dockets.

Can I trust the DA to “deliver” in this area?

8. Our defense forces.

I want to know what I am paying for in this regard. Are our defense forces equipped to defend our country against threats, whether real or imagined? Even more important – are they equipped to deal with national emergencies like natural disasters?

Are they able to assist our neighbors in case THEY get hit with a national tragedy like floods?

And what about our navy and air forces? What will our next government do about the lingering questions regarding shady arms deals? Will we be provided answers regarding these? Will our national forces be able to use the equipment we paid billions for?

Will they be able to keep our national waters safe from the looming threat of piracy?

9. The “e-opportunity.”

The world is riding a wave of growth and opportunity that is the Internet. Predictably, and sadly, South Africa is falling behind. And not internationally either, we are falling behind the rest of Africa! Kenya and Nigeria have better Internet connectivity than we currently have. M-Pesa? Kenya was first in Africa with it.

We are no longer the leaders in Africa in this regard. South Africa should lead here. There is no excuse for the continent’s largest economy struggling to get it’s businesses and populace on-line.

The “Telkom Tax” has a large role to play here, and I have raised my opinions about these above. How will my local, and possible future National, government ensure growth and leadership in this area?

How will they utilize the available metro-fiber networks for the public good?

How will they help business to get on-line and become attractive for international investment?

10. Transport Infrastructure.

Speaking of business and delivery, our transport infrastructure needs serious attention.

Roads nationwide are in a state of disrepair – only 8% of our roads are in a satisfactory state. And the cost of transport is escalating. If it is not the petrol price it is rising toll costs.

Speaking of tolls, what is going to happen with our new toll infrastructure between Tshwane and Johannesburg? While I balk at the prospect of paying twice for the roads I travel (road tax and tolls) I see an opportunity that I would be willing to pay for.

Here we have an integrated system able to read number plates that covers most of the main arteries across the greater Johannesburg and Tshwane metros.

Use it to track stolen vehicles! That no-one has suggested this is beyond me. You have a system that can READ number plates, LOG the location of the vehicle AND identify the owner!

Surely this system will be able to flag a stolen vehicle? Had your car hijacked? No problem, the moment the hijacker goes though a toll gate the location of your car is logged.

I will have no problem paying to drive these roads if the system has an added benefit of finding my car once it is stolen.

Has the DA considered this? Do they have a plan for our local and national roads infrastructure?

Does the DA have a plan for dealing with the blatant disregard for traffic laws by road users?

11. Land Reform.

I had to go there. What will become of the acres of land lying fallow due to mismanagement by our current government once it has been redistributed?

Does the DA have a plan to again utilize these farms? Does this plan include turning South Africa into a net exporter of foods as opposed to the current reliance on imports?

Does the DA have an alternative to Land Reform as it is being handled now?

12. National Health-care.

Our current public health-care infrastructure is a broken system. Public hospitals are in a state of disrepair, we are facing Aids and Tuberculosis pandemics and there seems to be no clear plan to deal with them.

Will a DA local government be able to deal with these issues in the areas where they are in control? Do they have a long term vision that they will implement if they ascend into National Government?

Will we be able to care properly for our sick, will private and public health-care be affordable and of a high standard?

13. My Involvement.

I want to become involved in this country of mine. And by that I do not refer to becoming a member of a political party and campaigning on their behalf.

I would like to see a national program where professionals re-invest their skills and expertise into society.

I am a computer geek – how will I be able to sow my skills into the next generation? My way of doing this up to now has been to employ unskilled junior technicians and investing a lot of my skill and knowledge in them.

Does the DA have a plan to use my skills in my area of expertise in the interest of society? I would be willing to present a workshop on the advantages of computer literacy to students who are at the point of making career based choices in their curriculum.

I am certain there are accountants, doctors, nurses and many other professionals who would be willing to invest some of their time in the youngsters who will follow in our footsteps and who we will entrust with the future of our country.

Summary

This election is becoming more and more important to me as time passes. As I noted earlier this election and the vote I cast has become larger and more important than just me. It will be the most important decision I make this year.

I have read the election manifesto’s of the DA, the ANC and the Freedom Front Plus, and COPE is next on my shopping list.

So far the DA has been the only one to engage me, and other voters, directly on-line. I believe the voters in this demographic have been traditionally ignored. It is a fresh approach that I am excited about.

I invite the DA to respond to this letter, and I hope they have plans or responses for most or all of my thirteen listed concerns and opinions.

If any other political parties read this, they are also welcome to respond. Any responses will be placed on-line on this blog.

It might garner them one more vote, or two if they sway both my wife and myself with their response to this entry, and if they do so they might just cause us to have a chat with my parents and my brother.

Five votes are not a lot in the bigger scheme of things, but those five votes represent 100% of the votes of five individuals, and an investment in the future of two very small children.

Is the DA up to this challenge?

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