Home Fleetwatch 2014 Comments by Patrick O'Leary When will the candles of South Africa be held up for the...

When will the candles of South Africa be held up for the world to see?


South Africa is frustrating the heck out of me. The reason for this is because in my opinion, South Africa is so wrapped up in murky politics that it is not seeing its true potential as a growth engine for Africa, a manufacturing base for various world markets and a nation of like-minded people who – when the politicians get out the way – can link hands and achieve great heights. The potential of the country is truly awesome but is unfortunately being hidden under dagger and cloak politics that seem to overshadow all the good that can emerge from a nation of people who, quite honestly, are amazing. The late great Nelson Mandela saw this potential and worked towards realising it – and he had the nation behind him in doing so. This was noticed by the rest of the world with the result that South Africa earned the label of “miracle nation”. That label came from outside. Within our own borders, we labelled ourselves the ‘Rainbow Nation’. Now isn’t that nice. A rainbow is something beautiful forming a colourful bow across the land after life-giving rain has fallen. If a rainbow was only made up of one colour, it would impress but certainly not enthral. It is the diversity of colours in a rainbow that makes everyone stop, look, and smile. It’s a ‘wow’ feeling.

Do you recall the saying “South Africa’s strength lies in its diversity?” I haven’t heard that for some time. The concept seems to have gone up in smoke. Nowadays, the spirit of unity and purpose formed under the “Rainbow Nation” as we all strived to make South Africa work for the ‘greater good of all’ is missing. The spirit has gone and the void has been filled by political clap-trap from leaders who are building power bases rather than building a nation. In doing so, they have forgotten the potential greatness of this nation as a unified force by focussing on positioning themselves for maximum gain and privilege within political parties and Parliamentary structures rather than within the broader interests of the entire country. This is frustrating in that for the life of me I just cannot understand how the politicos don’t see that by their words and actions, the diversity of South Africa once hailed as our greatest strength is now our greatest weakness.

Accusations of racialism are bandied around like confetti whenever the Government is criticised and this has filtered through into opening old wounds, many of which have already healed while others are in the process of healing. What I see in South Africa is politicians scratching the scabs off healing wounds to expose them all over again. General Douglas MacArthur, one of the US’s greatest military leaders said in his farewell address in 1951: “The issues are so global and interlocked that to consider the problems of one sector, oblivious to those of another, is but to court disaster for the whole.” And to those EFF members who displayed those horrible racist, ‘war-talk’ slogan banners at the launch of the EFF which read: “Honeymoon is over for Whites” and “To be a revolutionary you have to be inspired by hatred and bloodshed”, let me recall the words of General MacArthur in that same speech. “I know war as few other men now living know it and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling (international) disputes.” Stop the war talk out there. It is so destructive and divisive.

What is really frustrating is that the greatness of this country – which is already being manifested in so many areas and so many ways – is being ignored and not capitalised on for the very reasons stated above. I was reminded of this once again when I visited the GUD Filters factory in Pietermaritzburg. The industrial area itself looks a bit tatty as does the centre of the city but step through the doors of this GUD factory and one is transformed into a different world. As a trucking journalist for some 38 years, I have been extremely privileged to visit manufacturing facilities all over the world – Japan, Europe, America, Brazil and even Ireland. With one or two exceptions, most of them are stunning. I honestly never expected to see similar standards in this local GUD factory in Pietermaritzburg but wow, was I surprised. The cleanliness, the productivity, the motivated and happy workers, the technology, the enthusiastic management team – all of this combined to create a vibe that was truly uplifting. Walking through that plant and talking to some of the workers while being shown around by management made me feel something which, to be honest, I haven’t felt for some time. I felt ‘Proudly South Africa’ – and the feeling was good.

What GUD has done here – for the company, its employees and for South Africa – is truly outstanding. It reminded me of Navistar’s Springfield factory in Ohio which I visited many years ago. The vibe was such that I referred to it as a ‘Mother’s Apple Pie’ factory – warm and inviting. I recall feeling so proud during that visit when I noticed one of the completed International Eagle cabs with a sign stating it was bound for South Africa. It was a sort of endorsement of us being part of the global community. The visit to GUD’s Pietermaritzburg factory, followed that afternoon by a visit to the company’s Durban plant, gave me an even bigger thrill because this time, the manufactured goods were going in the other direction – out of South Africa into the world’s major market. Yes, GUD not only makes products for our local market but exports millions of ‘Made in South Africa’ filters to countries around the world. I can point to other organisations doing the same, Mercedes-Benz South Africa being one example. So why don’t we capitalise on expanding these centres of excellence by focussing and encouraging the exciting things of this country rather than be bombarded with political rubbish that destroys rather than builds. That is what I find so frustrating. Surely our leaders want to leave behind them a legacy of growth and progress. Based on their actions, it doesn’t seem so and this does a gross injustice to South Africa and its citizens. There are so many companies in our industry doing great things for this country.

Will this ever be recognised and capitalised on by politicians or will they continue to ignore the candles that shine so brightly for the rest of the world to see?

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