“If we don’t seize this opportunity to fix what’s wrong, we’ll become a banana republic.” – OUTA CEO

Following days of rioting and looting in South Africa, reports of South Africans pulling together in communities are becoming common. Joining BizNews to discuss this phenomenon is Wayne Duvenage, the CEO of OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse). He comments on the camaraderie seen in afflicted areas, noting that this assistance “is in so many South Africans, coming to the fore in times of disaster and need.” Duvenage also notes that now is the time for South Africa to ask why this happened. “If we can take from this, the journey forward to fix what is fundamentally wrong, I think there’s going to be a good road ahead.” – Jarryd Neves

Wayne Duvenage on communities coming together:

I think we do see this voluntary assistance in the mindset and the psyche of so many South Africans and that comes to the fore in times of disaster and in need. We’ve got some really good organisations, like Gift of the Givers but it’s really interesting to see how communities have mobilised themselves. It’s easier to do with social media. But the spirit, this humanitarian spirit, that comes to the fore so often is just so rewarding and needed in times like this.

On what he’s hearing on the ground from KwaZulu-Natal, a deeply affected province:

It’s devastating. The aftermath of this is going to live with them for a long time – and in other parts of the country – because the supply lines are cut off. The distribution and getting food to the markets, in and out of ports is closed down. It’s going to have a devastating impact on the economy – from fuel to food, infrastructure and then rebuilding. This is going to take a long time. I always try and find the good out of this. Nobody can really say we needed this, but what will happen – and what has to happen – is that I sincerely believe this is the time to ask why. How did this happen? We understand there is a political agenda [and] there was crime.

How do we prevent this from going forward? I think [that if] we just look back, we can understand that since our new democracy, we really haven’t paid attention to education, health, safety, poverty alleviation, job creation or closing the the gap between rich and poor – there’s inequality that exists. And yet, we had every potential to be a thriving, prosperous nation with everything that we have going for us. Our politics got in the way. Looting got in the way, self-interest got in the way. If we can take from this the journey forward to fix what is so fundamentally wrong – the electoral reform that is required, education, building, putting competence into government – I think there’s going to be a good road ahead. Good growth coming from this. But if we don’t seize this opportunity to do that, then we will become a banana republic.

On how upcoming local elections may reflect community/society thinking:

Local elections are coming. I think local elections are going to show the mettle of communities and society, because there is a difference between national and local and it is in the local space that change has been happening for some time. A localised tax revolt, taking over the running of the water systems, going to court [and] removing councils. There’s going to be a lot more of that. The local elections are going to tell us a lot – especially with this independent candidate movement and and structures that are being set up – so that local elections, we believe, will be moved out a bit further, [which] gives time to really take from this learning and solidify that.

We’ll get a lot of understanding of where this country is going to go, politically, at the local government elections. We also have to have electoral reform because the party list system and people electing people to represent them in parliament, in constituencies, that is missing. They’re in power yes. People might not care, but they’ve got the purse strings and they know now – and I think Cyril knows he has to move now with urgency to change things – because when we get government right, government for the people, then it’s going to go well. Otherwise we’ll have government by the people, for the people – and that’s also starting to take shape. Organised civil society is becoming a reality in this country now.

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