We are being too hard on ourselves

Phumla WilliamsSouth Africa’s reputation in the G8 has increased over past four years.

Brand South Africa CEO Miller Matola recently pointed out that “we are too hard on ourselves as South Africans”. His words rang true with South Africans often only speaking about the challenges we still face as country, rather than focussing on our numerous achievements.

This phenomenon was again highlighted with the September release of the Reputation Institute’s RepTrak Report. According to the report, South Africa’s reputation among the G8 countries - consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - showed a steady increase over the past four years from 44.3 out of 100 to 51.24 in September 2013. However, South Africans responding to the same survey only awarded the county 33.69 points, 17.55 below that of the G8 countries.

Trevor Ndlazi of the Wits Business School was alarmed by the results saying that it affects “our message that we are sending outside” the country. He added that reputation is driven by behaviour, and often what South Africans might say about the country to international people will affect their decision to visit or invest. “Our reputation is fragile. The things that we do, the things that we say can damage our reputation quite significantly," he warned.

Dominik Heil from the Reputation Institute emphasised that the study should be seen as “a reality check” for South Africans.  He has a point and we need to ask ourselves why we are so “hard on ourselves” and continue to minimise our numerous achievements?

Over the past four years President Jacob Zuma’s administration has worked hard to implement various new programmes which have already started to benefit South Africans. It appears that South Africans have noticed with the most recent TNS survey indicating that approval rating for the President among South Africans in the seven major metropolitan has improved since the beginning of 2013.

This progress has been particularly evident in our achievements in healthcare. In April 2010 government took decisive action to tackle HIV and AIDS which led to the expansion and acceleration of HIV awareness and prevention programmes, testing, counselling and treatment.

The scaling up of government’s antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme bore positive results with 2013 Mid-Year Population Estimate released by Statistics South Africa indicating that South Africans’ life expectancy increased from 56.8 years in 2009 to 59.6 years in 2013. Infant and under five mortality also declined considerably over the same period.

Currently South Africa has the largest HIV Counselling and Testing programme in the world with more than 2 million patients on ARV treatment.  This programme has resulted in a remarkable reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 25 000 children being born HIV positive in 2008 to 8 100 in 2011.

Again on education, we have made significant advances. The matric pass rate has steadily increased from 60.6 per cent in 2009 to 73,9  per cent in 2012. Progress has also been made with the provision of free basic education with approximately 70 per cent of all learners now in no-fee schools.

In 2011 the Annual National Assessments System was introduced to objectively assess the quality of education below grade 12 level.  Over the previous two assessments, learner scores have already shown an improvement.

  • We have also tackled job creation, economic growth and development head-on at a time when the world was in recession and jobs were being cut. Last month President Zuma stated that through the New Growth Path, 750 000 jobs were created of which almost half were in the public service, especially in much needed services such as health workers, teachers and the police.

Our massive 2012 infrastructure development plan aims to create new jobs, change our economic landscape and strengthen service delivery. It is already bearing fruit placing the country firmly on course to reach spending of R1-trillion on infrastructure projects within the term of this current administration.

As part of our commitment to infrastructure development, a vast number of projects are planned such as the development of two universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape and addressing backlogs in schools and public health facilities.

Government has also made progress in rural development and land reform. Between 2009 and December 2011 over 823 300 hectares of land have been acquired and allocated to 20 290 beneficiaries. This rate of land redistribution is an improvement over previous years and indicates that our systems have improved.

In addition, in 2009 we identified crime prevention as one of our five priorities. The recent South African Police Service Crime Statistics indicated that murders decreased by 16.6 per cent from 2009/10 to 2012/13.  Over the same period, sexual offences declined by 12.3 per cent and serious crimes by 10.6 per cent. 

However, one of the biggest legacies of the past four years is the National Development Plan – our country’s 2030 vision. It is in the process to be implemented and will help resolve the remainder of our challenges. These achievements are  a result of our collective efforts working together as South Africans, they are achievements we must all be proud of.

It is time to stop being so “hard on ourselves”. Let’s celebrate the country’s successes, prove the naysayers wrong and work together to address the outstanding challenges. Equally important, let us talk our country up. In an earlier State of the Nation Address, President Zuma captured this sentiment very well when he called on all South Africans by saying: “All of us have a patriotic duty and responsibility to build and promote our country.”

Working together we have changed lives in South Africa!

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)

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