In these times of frustration with the appalling levels of corruption at the highest levels of government, and the depressing realisation that most of the ruling party are on the Gupta gravy train, it is always good to come across decent human beings who work for the good of the country rather their own atavistic and avaricious benefit, and to discover rays of hope peeping through the dark clouds of despair.
I came across one such ray of hope, and a heart-warming ray of light, on 1 June 2017 when I attended the launch of the United Way South Africa (UWSA), a non-profit organisation that envisions a nation where all individuals achieve their full potential through education, income stability and healthy lives. UWSA’s manifesto is both simple and complex – “we unite and connect all sectors of society; individuals, businesses, non-profit organisations and government; by mobilising the caring power of communities to create long-term social change and action through giving, advocating and volunteering.” Simple in that it is about humankind doing what they should be doing, and complex in that human nature is a difficult beast to conquer.
Thus, getting the goodness inherent in our society to work with the malevolence inherent in our government requires a steadfast approach, and the will for good to conquer evil. The conflict underlying this clash of cultures was apparent to me, when the champions of UWSA arrived silently and anonymously in their own cars, whereas if the government was involved the “dignitaries” would arrive in a blaze of blue lights, accompanied by massive pomp and ceremony. It is the nature of the beast, and which brings the competing philosophies into stark contrast.
But back to the good guys. In their publicity blurb, UWSA says that their point of departure is the South African National Development Plan 2030 (NDP), which was nominally implemented in February 2013, but with very little progress in the four and a half years since then, primarily because the Zupta clique have other priorities. UWSA is all about the NDP coming on track again, and addressing the major challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Their business model is “to promote collaboration between all the relevant stakeholders in order to leverage, aggregate, support and expand common development programmes for disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Through collective community impact, we hope to bring about long-term sustainable change to these communities in the areas of education, income stability and health.”
All very laudable, and achievable, if only everyone pulled together. Alas, therein lies the rub, because even though every little bit helps, the big elephant in the room is not budging. However, it is a ray of hope, and a sign of what can be. I left the launch with a spring in my step, and a smile on my face, only to be shoved off the road by a posse of cars with blue lights flashing, clearing the way for a large black German SUV, no doubt bearing an oh so important government minister, gorging on caviar and champagne, and giving a large middle finger to the desperately poor of our country.
Caption: At the launch of United Way South Africa Albert White, vice president Lilly Foundation, (left), symbolically handed over a US$500 000 gift to UWSA’s chairman Thabang Tawarima. Corporates play a big role in supporting UWSA, partnering in development programmes. For example, Cummins Africa, IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Kellogg SA are partnering with UWSA in education, skills, economic mobility, health and nutrition programmes. Other partners also contributing are Accelerate Performance, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Fluor, Nova Leadership Development, YBK Consulting and 3M. However, from a global perspective, contributions from individuals make up 70% of United Way’s funding, and South Africans are sure to emulate this – go to www.unitedway.org.za for more information.