South Africa went from Nobel laureates to celebrating a pothole filling

Pothole (Chris UK/Flickr)

Last weekend, South Africa segued from WTF to HTF. This is a country that doesn’t easily disappoint, there is a surprise almost around every corner. Pliny the Elder coined the phrase there’s always something new out of Africa, around the time that Jesus Christ walked the earth. 

The ANC, which in the words of its last president Jacob Zuma has vowed to rule until He walks the earth again, has perfected it though.

It is a hard act to follow for a country like South Africa: We have been the industrial powerhouse of the continent, the home of the richest gold and diamond fields at one time in the world. We have birthed and bred countless Nobel laureates across a range of disciplines from peace to literature and the sciences. We’ve innovated from Kreepy Krauly to Pratley Putty. 

We have been both a global polecat and an international beacon.

We have had some great triumphs too in recent times; from the hosting of the Soccer World Cup and the building of world class stadiums; the construction of a modern high-speed rail link between Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo, which operates successfully more than a decade later.

We had a very successful lockdown, initially, with what appeared to be great leadership from President Cyril Ramaphosa – a PPE tenderpreneur scandal fingering a person in his office notwithstanding. 

Afterwards it seems to have all gone to hell. You might blame the lockdown on the absolutely appalling backlog of operations at Chris Hani Baragwanath that was revealed this week. It’s easier to excuse some of our worst dysfunctions when you see that a country like Britain also pumps oceans of untreated effluent straight into the sea, next to its most popular beaches, like we do into the Vaal and into the Indian Ocean. 

The UK has politically connected tenderpreneurs too, although the NHS hasn’t spent R40 000 for four plastic buckets that should have cost R600, like Tembisa Hospital among other millions of Rands it splurged on non-essential – and inexplicable – items.

But there are also some things that we can’t blame anyone else for; like the systematic destruction of a rail network – the spine of which has been in operation for more than 120 years.

No one else is guilty of the network of potholes that have begun to manifest themselves in almost every single one of our badly run ANC municipalities. But even if we could forgive, should we celebrate the amateurish filling of them, one at a time, when there are tens of thousands growing exponentially as you read this? 

The ANC obviously thinks so. 

It rolled out Cyril the Meek at Delmas last weekend, where pictures showed him looking with amazement – he no longer appears shocked, thankfully – at the filling of a pothole with some tar mixed with gravel. He even pushed the roller for the cameras.

And in that moment, the entire country moved from What The F*** to How The F***. HTF did we get here? HTF is this even a news story? 

HTF are we ever going to come right?

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 10 September 2022.