Notes Towards a New World: 100 Ways to a Better South Africa

While under lockdown due to Covid-19, we have all been forced to reckon, perhaps more than usual, with the glaring inequality and injustice we live with in South Africa. Crippled by the sense of my powerlessness to change things, I have been preoccupied with the idea of a new world. The following 100 points are my way of imagining a different South Africa. In many ways, the points I am making here are obvious, and that is the point—that while they might be obvious, they are not our reality. I write these in the hope that they can galvanise us, particularly young people, to push for a more just, more equal, and more empathetic society. The kind of South Africa we deserve, one grounded in social solidarity.

  1. We need to develop a kind of civic education class/module where the South African Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, becomes part of the school curriculum. This would mean that by the time a South African matriculates, they should hopefully know the constitution very well. Imagine a South Africa where 18-year-olds are able to assert their constitutional rights!
  2. We need a concerted effort to build solid healthcare and education sectors in post-apartheid South Africa. These two sectors, in many ways, are the foundations of a great nation. The idea is that with a healthy and educated populace, we can build a strong nation. 
  3. South Africa should invest in public libraries. Public libraries should be made technologically savvy and systematised with efficient processes, in an effort to make them accessible to all South Africans. In time we can move to building state of the art libraries in at least four corners of the country, with different themes and designs. Imagine the pride in our sanctuaries of knowledge.
  4. We should create pathways whereby South Africans can fund and gift book donations to South African libraries. Libraries could have accessible lists of books they need, and ordinary people could assist libraries in obtaining them. We can develop a unique system called the ’South African Library System’.
  5. The South African state needs to invest in making books affordable and easily accessible. This could mean local printing, perhaps buying books from countries with cheaper publishing press, but something has got to be done to fix the inaccessibility of books.
  6. The South African government should invest in Lovedale Press and make it a functioning National Heritage. We should all do everything we can to save Lovedale Press. 
  7. Our government should really take the learning conditions of pupils seriously and invest in the infrastructure of schools all over the country. By infrastructure I mean roofed buildings, working ablutions, electricity, and safe playgrounds. 
  8. To ensure we have a great education system, teachers must undergo continuous training, where their skills are “updated” or “upgraded” to suit the changing needs of incoming pupils. 
  9. The training curriculum of teachers, over and above their subject areas, needs to include intersectional issues of race, class, gender, disability, and sexuality. 
  10. Teachers need to be remunerated adequately for their work, which in itself would be a recognition of the importance of the work teachers do. Investing in teaching will mean that the profession becomes desirable, which will be great for morale in the profession. 
  11. On a national level, teachers need to be honoured for their work in educating the nation through boards that recognise excellence in teaching. 
  12. Schools in South Africa need comprehensive sex education. Considering the high rates of teenage pregnancy, sex education must start as early as possible. 
  13. South African schools need to build better relationships with parents, where parents are involved in the operation of the schools. The facilitation of parent-teacher meetings should be done in ways that accommodate parents’ schedules. 
  14. The history of the feminist and women’s movements and the history of the sexuality movement need to be part of the history curriculum in South Africa. 
  15. We need to make sure that indigenous languages are taught in South African schools, making it compulsory for pupils to study South African languages other than English and Afrikaans. This should begin at grade one.  Furthermore, knowledge of indigenous languages should be linked to admission to university, while granting scholarships and hiring for jobs could factor in knowledge of indigenous languages.  
  16. More investment through funding is needed for institutions of higher education. Particular attention should be paid to historically black institutions to ensure their survival and thriving into the future. The desire to learn should always be fulfilled. Investing in higher education is a way for South Africa to invest in itself. 
  17. Resuscitate and fund technical colleges to ensure diverse skillsets and training for the South African workforce. People’s strengths and passions are differently distributed in society, and providing different kinds of institutions of higher education shall capture this distribution.
  18. We need to encourage and invest in the transfer of skills in our country. The fact of the matter is that because of apartheid policies there is unequal distribution of skills development amongst South Africans. In the transition from apartheid to post-apartheid South Africa, there hasn’t been a concrete plan for skills transfer, and this has been to our detriment.
  19. Education is not just a means to an end; we should develop and cultivate a culture of education as an end in itself, with the goal of cultivating critical thinking, broadening our minds, and possibly contributing new ways to organise our society. 
  20. The SABC should institute another channel that is singularly geared towards educational programmes. The programmes can include South African and world history documentaries, current political debates, book discussions, contemporary South African life documentaries, creative arts seminars, and entrepreneurship seminars, elections around the world, wildlife and science documentaries, how-to-get-into-university seminars, and South African Constitution 101 seminars. 
  21. The state needs to invest in public WIFI in public institutions like libraries and other strategic places all over the country to enable access to the internet and the many resources it avails. This would enable citizens to look for work, improve their qualifications through many free online learning, and access the plethora of DIY resources online. 
  22. Investment in healthcare infrastructure is crucial to ensuring optimal care to all citizens. By infrastructure I mean efficient administrative processes, the necessary equipment, ambulances, and rigorously trained first responders and personnel. 
  23. The South African government needs to create, diversify, and fund pathways to medical schools and general healthcare work. 
  24. The South African Police Service and the South African Defence Force require an overhaul, where apartheid-style policing is done away with and a new citizen-centred policing approach is instituted. 
  25. The training of the South African police force and army should include a comprehensive understanding of Constitutional Law, particularly the Bill of Rights, and Criminal Law. 
  26. The police services need to be made more efficient, and digitisation might help increase efficiency. The police services need secretary-style frontline workers with impeccable listening and administrative skills to ensure the smooth running of police services, all designed to aid citizens in distress. 
  27. Many South Africans have pointed out how law enforcement is energised to work in certain “breaking of the law cases” but not in others. A case in point is that law enforcement is slow, sloppy, and inconsistent in investigating and prosecuting gender-based violence, but has been eager to break down protests, and during the Codiv-19 lockdown has had a “heavy handedness” (as President Ramaphosa put it) and even murdered citizens for “breaking” lockdown curfews. This kind of excitement and heavy handedness of law enforcement is nowhere to be found in almost all the corruption accusations of politicians. Law enforcement needs to treat every case of wrongdoing with seriousness, if it is to be trusted by citizens. 
  28. There is a culture of violence in South Africa. It is a culture that partly stems from our violent history. It is the responsibility of everyone to end this culture of violence and cultivate a different way of solving disputes. 
  29. All parents must cease to beat their children. It is, after all, against the law. Beating children as part of child rearing contributes to the culture of violence. Consider what kind of lessons you are imparting to your children by solving issues using violence on another human (because your child is another human). As a parent, and an adult, devise new ways of discipline. Consider the lesson you are imparting on girls and boys when you beat them, and then tell them that you love them; how conflating violence with love plays out in adult behaviour. 
  30. As a society we need to raise boys differently. The boys in our society become men who are violent towards women. The gender hierarchy that boys and girls are socialised into from a very young age creates gender inequality in our society. 
  31. The values of accountability, empathy, vulnerability, care, and consideration are some of the ways we need to consider in the constitution of new manliness and masculinity. It is unfortunate, but men in South Africa experience the empowerment of women in post-apartheid South Africa as their disempowerment that leads to a demonstration of toxic masculinity traits.
  32. In 2017, 62% of births in South Africa had “no information on the father”. That means that 62% of the children born in 2017 had no father. The culture of men not taking responsibility for their children needs to be challenged, and processes need to be put in place to ensure that accountability takes place. 
  33. All babies born in public hospitals in South Africa should receive a pre-packed “starter kit” that includes all the essentials needed by an infant in the first few months of life. 
  34. Rape is a terrible violent crime perpetrated by men in South Africa. We need to fight it with everything we’ve got. And it all starts with undoing – no – demolishing the gender hierarchy. 
  35. The gang wars in the Cape Flats are a South African problem. The interventions to end gang violence in the Cape Flats require serious community involvement; they require economic upliftment, an engineering of a different society. 
  36. We need to have honest debates about the problematic aspects of our traditional cultures. Some of the traditional practices in South Africa’s cultures do not serve the wellbeing of our communities and need to be reconsidered. The rationalisation of “we’ve always done it this way” is not good enough to sustain hurtful practices. I am speaking of practices such as Ukuthwala.
  37. Embracing our cultures, and/or rejecting certain aspects of them, shouldn’t be dependent on who is watching. We need to consider whether practices are harmful to members of our communities, and how to justly deal with such practices. 
  38. A feminist and women-led political party would be a good addition to the South African political landscape, where it could push for policy agendas that prioritise women and disrupt the current political landscape. 
  39. We should encourage young people to be active in politics in order to foster new ways of thinking about South Africa. Many young people don’t vote, because they don’t believe their voices are heard or make any difference. Perhaps there is a space for a youth political movement/party.  
  40. The payments of social grants and senior pensions should all be done electronically by now. The system of making senior citizens queue for their monthly payments is archaic and lacks dignity. The state should lead this process and encourage safe and efficient ways to access state grants.
  41. The South African government is there to serve South Africans. People who work for the state, and state parastatals, work for the people. While those who work for the state deserve our respect as citizens, they are not above citizens in their role of service. 
  42. Party politics will be the end of our country. As citizens, as young people, as people who desire a different future, we need to vote differently. Firstly, we need to vote against power, and vote to decrease the power of the of parties who are currently ruling. As citizens we need to engineer a situation where different political parties are in charge of different provinces. The ANC majority in parliament brought us the devastating years of the Zuma presidency, which we will literally be paying for  for years to come. It really is upon us to lessen the power of political parties; in so doing, we also lessen their power to harm our society. Imagine a South Africa with a DA-led Western Cape, a UDM-led Eastern Cape, an EFF-led Limpopo, an IFP-Led KwaZulu Natal, a Good-led Northern Cape, an ANC-led Gauteng, an ACDP-led North West, an NFP-led Mpumalanga, and a COPE-led Free State. What would our politics look like? 
  43. Serious social solidarity demands that we vote against “our favourites” in order to achieve a better state of things. The demand is not that members of political parties necessarily leave their “political party home”, the ask is that you don’t vote along party lines, rather, if necessary, you betray party solidarity in solidarity with South Africans, and the future of our country. 
  44. All politicians involved in the mismanagement of parastatals funds and corruption deals must account for their involvement in court and face jail time. They must furthermore be liable to pay back the mismanaged funds. 
  45. The office of the Presidency, Members of Parliament, and Members of the Executive should all take part in mandatory, comprehensive training grounded in intersectional politics of race, class, gender, disability, and sexuality. It cannot be taken for granted that people occupying these positions fully grasp these concepts as lived realities and as they play out in contemporary South Africa. 
  46. The Life Healthcare Esidimeni Tragedy in 2015 was indicative not only of the South African government’s approach to people with disability, but of that of the majority of South Africans. As a country we are in desperate need of Critical Disability Theory – especially for those who work for the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disability. 
  47. The biggest disappointment in the current ANC-led government is the lack of prioritising the poor in South African society. While there are things I can look away from, it’s impossible to ignore this. The continued suffering of black people with a black government in power heartbreakingly demonstrates Frantz Fanon’s “the pitfalls of national consciousness.” 
  48. At times it feels like South Africa is at war with the poor and the homeless. The City of Cape Town deserves a special mention here; the city governance becomes even more heartless when one considers the history of District Six staring us in the face as it continuously treats homeless people with contempt and violence. 
  49. The “Social Welfare Services” should be better equipped to deal with homelessness, mental illness, and people who find themselves destitute in the streets of South Africa. One would imagine that with a history of forced removals, labour migrations, and people’s precarious work life, we would be more empathetic to the hardships of people on the streets. 
  50. Since the election of President Ramaphosa there has been talk of the “fourth industrial revolution”. The fourth industrial revolution is the technological revolution where most, if not all, aspects of life are run by advanced technologies that replace each other. There has been talk about tablets for all students. This is of course difficult to take seriously, because the majority of schools in South Africa lack the most basic infrastructure, and it seems that tablets should come after proper classroom lights, electric sockets, and ablutions. 
  51. The aim of the state should be to create social solidarity over and above extreme individualism that is prized by the capitalist system. This is of course difficult to achieve when there is a lack of trust in the state by citizens, like we find in South Africa as a result of unbridled corruption. 
  52. Growing up, I remember the “buy South African products” campaigns, which were filled with a sense of pride in South African products. As a nation, we really need to cultivate and foster the idea of supporting home grown products  and sustain local businesses. This is social solidarity. 
  53. The trust between citizens and the government is broken and rebuilding this trust will be a long but necessary a step. The trust is so broken, that when the German Consul General pledged money to help buy testing kits for Covid-19, South Africans responded by asking that the German man buy the tests and give them to us because the money would otherwise be misspent by the state through corruption. Reading that Twitter thread is all kinds of embarrassing. 
  54. Information about corporate money that supports and sponsors party politics needs to be readily available. This would be one element of radical transparency in South African politics. 
  55. South Africa is a relatively middle-income country. Everyone, absolutely everyone, should have access to clean water and sanitation. 
  56. We should be building decent RDP houses for people. By this I mean that new RDP houses shouldn’t be leaking, should be of a decent size, and should give people a small yard space where they can have a garden or build a nice red stoep. 
  57. Mismanagement of funds and corruption deals through government parastatals with foreign sovereignties and multinational corporations should be considered treason. Such corruption is looting taxpayers’ money and handing it over to foreign land, crippling the South African state. 
  58. The years of Jacob Zuma’s presidency have ensured the collapse of government parastatals, to a point where these parastatals are ineffective. We need to rebuild the government parastatals for them to properly serve South African citizens. 
  59. Both in the ANC-led national government and in the DA-led provincial government, citizens are often treated like children, nannied when it comes to policy decisions. This is insulting to many citizens who take their role in democracy seriously and desire to participate in the country’s democracy. 
  60. We need radical transparency in order to rebuild citizens’ trust in the government and to rebuild our society. The lack of transparency in the ANC-led government has created distrust among South African citizens.
  61. Through our wandering in the dark because of power cuts, cutely called “load shedding”, it has seemed that those in charge do not understand the gravity of their effects. Those blackouts have seriously affected people’s daily lives, functioning and productivity, ruined aspects of small businesses, and affected the ability to teach. The blackouts have become so bad and so frequent, that South Africans have begun organising for “life without electricity.” This is unacceptable. Not to mention that these blackouts affect those who do not have the means to “keep the lights on” without electricity through gas and petrol generators. This should be fixed with urgent priority.
  62. We all want nice things. Nice things shouldn’t only be reserved for historically whites-only suburbs, they should be availed to everyone. By nice things I mean regular refuse collection, regular painting of roads, trees, streetlights and signs, and access to the councillors who supposedly represent us. 
  63. More thought and consideration need to go into the appointment of judges in South African courts. Our judges are not diverse enough in terms of gender, f values, and a myriad of other factors, which adversely affects people who are “too different”, because the current judges do not “get” or are biased against them. Not to mention the gender bias in gender-based violations affecting women. 
  64. South Africa should decriminalise sex-work. 
  65. In the selection of people for government positions, we need to consider educational skills and professional experience. The position of Minister of Health, no doubt, requires impeccable knowledge of the healthcare sector either as a practitioner or in another capacity. Similarly, with a portfolio like that of the Minister of Arts and Culture, I imagine a veteran in the Arts and Culture sector would be most suitable for the job. 
  66. As South Africans we need to be able to make connections between the mismanagement of state funds and corruption, and the lack of funds for services and other necessities for citizens. Take the example of South African Airways, where billions of rands have been spent to financially rescue the company; imagine what else those billions of rands could have been used for. 
  67. South African Airways (SAA) needs to be shut down. The idea of a national carrier is archaic, and the majority of South Africans do not use SAA. Keeping SAA afloat is a waste of taxpayers’ money that could be better spent elsewhere. 
  68. I have often thought of the Post Office as one of the most important state-run enterprises. South Africa should resuscitate the Post Office and ensure its efficient management and administration. The Post Office shouldn’t necessarily be making a profit, but rather rendering services to citizens at minimum cost. Considering that we are moving towards a culture of e-commerce, the Post Office, with its built-in infrastructure, would be a crucial service right now. In South Africa one hesitates to use the Post Office, as the goods may arrive a year later or not at all. I have goods posted to me two, even three years ago that are yet to arrive. 
  69. We should have a Pen Pal programme for young South Africans to connect and share their lives with one another through writing. This could of course be done through email, but it would be a disadvantage for those who don’t have internet access; it’s also much more interesting through the post. This is another reason the Post Office needs to function at an optimum level.  
  70. South Africa should invest in local and national public transport infrastructure in order to facilitate efficient ease of movement. Enabling people to travel will help in South Africans learn more about the country, so people would be able to see how others in the country live. There are many ways to create connections between citizens; often, the infrastructure is already there.
  71. White parents and white communities should raise their children with comprehensive conversations about colonialism, apartheid, and white privilege. Without this knowledge, white parents are setting up their children to NOT be responsible members of South African society poised to make socially conscious contributions. The failure of white parenting was on full display during the fallout over the Miss SA hopeful Bianca. 
  72. White South Africans need to learn humility. At times it seems almost as if white South Africans enjoy the prospect of a failed South Africa just so they can say “we told you so.” This attitude ensures that white South Africans are only tentatively invested in the success of our new democracy. 
  73. In response to white people’s antics, black South Africans pay too much attention to whiteness. Whiteness is a distraction. The irony is that Steve Biko is always quoted for his philosophy on the psychological effects of whiteness, yet black South Africans do not seem to heed his call. Bianca, “Karen”, and Penny Sparrow are all distractions. 
  74. We should create a programme where South African families adopt each other and share life experiences across racial lines and across different kinds of families. Imagine the kinds of solidarities that could emerge through a process of sharing ourselves with one another. 
  75. While race continues to play a role in how our lives are shaped, we must also imagine ways to surpass our current understandings of race. It’s a difficult task, but we should all be on board if we are to overcome our divided racial past. 
  76. South African schools and other institutions should facilitate exchange programmes with countries in the Global South, with an emphasis on countries on the African continent, in order to foster better South-to-South relations, and for South Africans to be able to situate themselves within the world and its history.
  77. We need to create more humane prison environments. Environments where education and rehabilitation are not only possible but the goal. Currently, prisons are spaces where people are hardened and become more dangerous to society because of prison life. 
  78. We need to ask ourselves what environment produces the people who are in prison. Perhaps an honest conversation about the conditions that produce criminality will aid us in creating a crime-free South Africa. 
  79. The South African state does a very bad job, perhaps intentionally, at regulating the unbridled cowboy capitalism that has rendered South Africa the most unequal country in the world. When South Africans are not being screwed over by the state itself, they are being abused by corporations, particularly financial institutions. The way corporations abuse poor working people has the same tenets as colonial extraction with little to no reward.   
  80. South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. We need to do everything in our power to solve the inequality in South Africa. To do this, we have to be bold and creative. Under consideration should be a wealth tax and an inheritance tax.   
  81. We owe it to ourselves to test out what South Africa would be like under a different leadership than the one we currently have and have had over the past 25 years. Maybe the ANC-led government has done all it can, and we owe it to ourselves to try a different kind of leadership. 
  82. A conversation and a move towards the redistribution of land are not only just but would hopefully bring peace to many South Africans. We need to have many, many transparent conversations about the redistribution of land, and come up with creative ways of implementing this in ways that will benefit those who were seriously injured by forced removals, whose pain and suffering are visible in their destitution today. 
  83. Africans from other countries on the African continent are not our enemies. They have never been our enemies, in fact quite the contrary—they were there for us in our time of need. Afrophobia is a deflection from the real source of South African misery, which is caused by an alliance between the ANC-led black government and white-owned and operated corporations.
  84. No one ever flees their home because they want to, and certainly not to a country where one is hated. People leave home in search of liveable lives. Their lives are usually unliveable because of war, joblessness that leads to hunger, persecution, and many other reasons. We need to cultivate a Pan-African social solidarity. 
  85. The contribution made by artists and the arts to South African culture is undervalued. This is demonstrated in the lack of adequate funding for artists and the arts, and the lack of proper regulation of how different aspects of the arts industry function. The under-appreciation of the arts in South Africa is proven by the appointment of Nathi Mthethwa as the Minister of Arts and Culture. In one word – insulting. 
  86. We need to duly honour South Africa’s artists. Street names, boulevards, types of flowers, university buildings, state structures, you name it.
  87. Miriam Makeba’s oeuvre should officially become a National Treasure. 
  88. We need to rethink Christian holidays as part of the secular calendar. We need to rethink this either by incorporating other minority religions into the official calendar, or by doing away with special religious holidays altogether. 
  89. We need a consortium of experts in different fields—like scientists, philosophers, lawyers, economists, and environmentalist, as well as lay people and young people, to come up with a plan for the next 30 years. What do we want South Africa to look like in 2050? 
  90. The South African state underutilises experts and specialists in many fields. What is the point of having world renowned specialists if they can’t use their skills to better South African society? This is a sad reality.
  91. Considering the degradation of the environment, we should seriously ban all single use plastics, and then move slowly to banning other things that are choking the planet. Industries can be given timeframes to get their act together. Growing up we used to buy milk and cooldrinks in deposit bottles. Let’s go back to that.
  92. I was in Port Elizabeth, now called Nelson Mandela Bay, and it was hard to stay in my lane while driving, because the roads have not been painted, there are potholes, and there has not been basic maintenance done in what looks like years. The white lines on the roads are invisible on a major highway—Settler’s Way (a name that should probably be changed), between Deal Party and South End. This is a safety issue. The maintenance of roads—road signs, electricity, water pipes, water dams, streetlights, drainage systems—is necessary. South Africans deserve to have working things. 
  93. The critique of the state by citizens is necessary for a healthy democracy. In South Africa, particularly those who support the ruling party, both nationally and provincially, act as if it’s treasonous to critique the state and what the state does. The critique of the state is our role as engaged citizens. 
  94. And NO – critique of the ANC-led national government does not mean one endorses the DA-led provincial government. And vice versa. It’s revealing, perhaps even painful, to actually have to say this. 
  95. We have a strong constitution. We have so many great policies. We have a strong and progressive judiciary. It is not more laws that we need. We need to teach citizens to embrace and follow the laws we have. A case in point is that we have come so far with sexual liberation in the law that same-sex marriage is legal, yet violence remains an ongoing feature of queer people’s lives, particularly gender non-conforming people. 
  96. The silence over human rights violations by other African states South Africa has a “relationship” with is a demonstration of complicity. As a country overcoming the difficult past of apartheid, we need to do better with speaking up against injustice in other parts of the world, particularly on the African continent. 
  97. The legalisation of cannabis for personal consumption was a progressive move. Used effectively and in moderate quantities, the plant has many positive effects. There are people, particularly women, who have been ahead on the cannabis cultivation front in the rural Eastern Cape, and no doubt in other rural communities in the country. Those people should really have first dibs in the obviously budding cannabis industry in South Africa. It is revealing, and against the spirit of entrepreneurship of “vukuzenzele”, to hunt down and burn cannabis fields in rural areas, when many in white coats and white-collar industries are poised to make a killing from cannabis. Ensuring a stake for these communities in this budding industry would be a creative way of the redistribution of wealth. 
  98. Take down the pictures of the president and other public officials in entrances of public buildings. There is something ill-fitting and somewhat cheap about the smiles of public officials in public buildings, particularly on walls with peeling paint and spider webs. 
  99. Public officials should be forced to use public facilities; public transport, public hospitals, even public toilets. Perhaps then they could understand how those public services need to be funded, improved upon, and maintained.  
  100. Engender a philosophy of freedom that is expansive and accommodative. Engender a freedom that enables liveable lives. A freedom that enables each and every South African to pursue their dreams and fulfil their human potential, whatever that potential may be. 

Many of the points I have raised here cannot single-handedly fix South Africa, but must be seen with reference to other points. For example, point number 1 cannot really be fulfilled if points 7 and 8 are not met. We need to somehow imagine and work ourselves out of the dark place we find ourselves. And sometimes the most obvious route is the most ellusive.

Author: Lwando Scott

My name is Lwando Scott. I am a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Cape Town. I grew up in Port Elizabeth but I call Cape Town home now. Like most South Africans I am trying to make sense of this country. I am trying to make sense of my place in this world and I think starting this website, while I should be doing my academic work, is a way of feeling through the darkness.

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