Trevor Thompson: “I have a dream for SA in 2017…”

By Trevor Thompson*

I have had a dream for a very long time: when I fought with my parents against the apartheid injustices in the early 1970’s and canvassed on behalf of the then Progressive Party to free society of the injustices inflicted against others, the freeing of political prisoners, opening society and access to all South Africans to the nation’s resources, amongst other ideals.

Then, as now, I knew the key was to enable these dreams through the implementation of sound education policies and providing these to the folks who had been denied access. I realised that the nation needs to find all able-bodied persons to contribute to the national treasure. I worked in Asia and admired the focus there on high quality education before the provision of ‘nice to haves’ for the population e.g. Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.

Through my years in management I have also come to realise that goals can only be achieved through people: people empowered through education and training, experience and the confidence derived from true knowledge and achievement: people with access to funding from investors keen to harness the abilities and expertise of a proud nation with abundant natural and human resources.

My dream therefore envisions the following steps to be taken from now to correct our ills:

  1. From today ensure that our education system is available to every South African in the quality level we find in our private schools. These are world class and there is no reason why in time we cannot extend this to our national system. We need well educated workforce to achieve our long term goals.
  2. Our government needs to be focussed on the priorities of high quality education, health and job creation. We cannot create jobs in government with a tax-base of only 5-6 million people – so do everything in our power to encourage private investment.
  3. Government needs to urgently overhaul its top-heavy and expensive drag on the economy. There are too many departments, employees, ministers, vehicles, who are embroiled in corrupt activities on top of the financial burdens – and not being productive. A thorough cleanup using the full range of legal and workplace mechanisms is required.
  4. Government spending should be focussed on encouraging the steps above through an enabling environment rather than trying to do the tasks itself. The SOE’s need to be privatised and run efficiently. Government needs to become’ lean and mean’, thereby increasing the tax revenue for the country and allowing government to fulfil the role of leading the country in the right direction.
  5. The country requires qualified and proven leaders to ensure the execution and achievement of the above goals. We cannot continue with the practice of cadre deployment, of generally unqualified and inexperienced, employees in positions requiring management and other skills. We must appoint the right person for the job – from President down to office staff.
  6. Our social bond with the poor and the uneducated needs to be evaluated against our, and the rest of the world’s, burgeoning population growth. We need to create awareness around these issues and take action to save our country and the rest of the world from potential resource droughts.
  7. Our system of election of national representatives in government is flawed. This system has been hijacked to enable cadre deployment at the expense of the nation. What is needed is the ability of voters to choose their own representatives. The current proportional representation system with party lists is proving to be a disaster especially in the governing party. Opposition parties tend to use it more effectively, but government not – again at the expense of the nation in general and the poor in particular.
  8. South Africa is rich in resources – but these are finite and cannot be replaced. We need to very carefully assess our natural resources in terms of biodiversity and protect those crucial areas against indiscriminate acts such as mining, deforestation, water pollution, carbon emissions and similar . We need a strong environmental ministry.

I believe we can do all the things necessary to be greater than we have ever been, we just need the leaders to direct us in the right direction. And, this, therefore, is my dream – that the true leaders of our country will stand up and lead us into the future bearing the above in mind.

“And then there are people, lots actually billions more people doing nothing. Social interaction will be paramount. And then there is earth and its finite resources with diversity reduced we have to think very carefully about our future, if we are to have one. The one thing we have to get right is human greed in all respects and of that first in line in an explosion in population. Africa is at double the rate of any other continent in second place, yet we still see poverty disease wars greed dictatorship expanding faster than ever. Using technology we have to change our thinking.”  – Robert Goldman.

  • Trevor Thompson is a management consultant in forestry and related fields including forest management, certification and downstream use of forest products. He has worked in South Africa, and during the last 20 years, South America and Asia, in senior and top management positions, serving as Managing Director of ScanCom Vietnam, the largest trader in outdoor furniture into European markets.
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