Arsonist or Fire Fighter

Arsonist or Fire Fighter

This world is a coin. It has two faces. Both joined together but both different; often the opposite of one another. I am speaking about social media, the coin which on one side has convenience, communication and companionship and on the other, lies, ignorance and hatred. Both made possible by technology which like all technology is value neutral. What we forget is that technology is a knife, which in the hands of a surgeon, can save a life, while in the hands of Macbeth, took one.


One of the plagues of our times is what is being called ‘Fake news’. News with a spin has been around for a long time. The days when journalists were the conscience of society, warriors for justice and the shield of the downtrodden, are long gone. Most journalists are today the willing slaves of their employers and news channels are really ad agencies creating sales spiel. Truthfulness, veracity, integrity and courage have all been sacrificed at the altar of TRP ratings or political leanings. Spin doctors rule the roost. Sales figures are the ultimate criterion for all decision making. Truth be damned.


I am reminded of the story of a farmer named Donaldwho had a donkey which was old, stubborn and lazy. The man got so sick of that donkey that he decided to sell it. Sunday was the market day and so he took his donkey to the market to sell it. As Donald was standing there, a man came and asked him, ‘How much for this donkey?’

Donald replied, ‘One hundred dollars.’

‘It looks like a fine donkey. Good, here’s the money. Let me have him.’

‘Please wait a minute’, said Donald. ‘I am an honest man. I must tell you about this donkey before you take him home. He is old, stubborn and lazy. If you still want him, he is yours.’

The man looked at Donald and said, ‘There are very few people like you in the world, who have the integrity to speak the truth even at their own cost. I greatly appreciate your honesty and will always remember this meeting of ours. Let me see if I can find another donkey. I don’t think I can afford this one.’

This story repeated all day. At the end of the day, Donald had a host of pleasant memories of the good things people told him but he still had his donkey. Sadly, he started to wind his way home with his donkey on its lead.

As he was about to leave the market area, a man came up to him and said, ‘Sir, I am an agent. I sell livestock. I have been watching you all day. I appreciate your honesty but please allow me to tell you that you, will never be able to sell that donkey. I suggest instead, that you allow me to sell the donkey and I will charge you a 10% commission. I am a professional and I have a very good track record. You can ask anyone about me.’

Donald was happy to hear this but said to the agent, ‘I am happy to accept your offer, but I have one condition. You must tell the people about this donkey. I don’t want anyone to buy this donkey under any false impression. It is old, lazy and stubborn and I want whoever buys it, to know this. If you are willing to accept this condition, then I am willing to accept your offer.’ The agent agreed to the condition and promised to pick the donkey up the following Sunday.

Next Sunday the agent arrived early in the morning and led the donkey away to the market. A little later, Donald also decided to go to the market so that he could take the sale proceeds from his donkey and buy another one, because he needed a donkey for his work. As he arrived there, he saw the agent standing on a soap box, with many donkeys tethered behind him and a big crowd of people surrounding him. The man was auctioning the donkeys. Donald joined the crowd, standing at the back where he could get a place.

‘Ladies and gentlemen’, shouted the agent. ‘You saw those before you, buy some excellent donkeys. Many of you bid for them but couldn’t get them. But please don’t worry, I now have a donkey for you which excels them all. But before I open the bidding, please allow me to tell you something about this exceptional animal. He is so special that I hesitate even to call him an animal. He is the greatest donkey that I have ever known in my long years in this profession. He is a donkey with three very special qualities. The first quality is that he has a lot of life experience. He has seen life. He has seen its ups and downs, its joys and tragedies. He knows the morning mists and orange dusks, the turn of the seasons and the fall of rain. He has seen kings and kingdoms, rise and fall and through all this, he learned, he reflected and he accumulated wisdom. As I said, he has a lot of life experience.

His second quality is that he has a mind of his own. He is a willing servant, not a slave. If you say, ‘Jump’, he won’t ask, ‘How high?’ He will ask, ‘Why?’ But once you convince him, nobody can jump higher than he can. What is the good of wisdom if you don’t use it? That is the motto of this donkey; If you have it, use it. He has it and he uses it.

His third quality is that he knows the meaning of leisure. He knows that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Believe me, this donkey is anything but dull. He is spontaneous, humorous and energetic. He knows the importance of relaxation, of meditation and of sleep. There is much that you can learn about your own lifestyle by being in the company of this donkey. For this reason, because we have a very special donkey, I propose we start the bidding at $200.’

Donald was delighted. ‘How fortunate I am’, said Donald to himself. ‘I need a donkey and here is one that seems so full of great things that I must have him.’ The bidding was rapidly going on. Donald joined the bidding and finally the donkey was sold to Donald for $400.

When Donald went to pay the agent, and collect the donkey that he had bought, to his utter disgust, he saw that it was his own donkey that he had bought. He was livid. He said to the agent, ‘You deceived me. You didn’t speak the truth.’ The man replied, ‘But I did. I just said it differently. You said the donkey was old; I said that he was experienced. You said that he was stubborn; I said that he was wise and so needed to be convinced about the need to do your bidding. You said that the donkey was lazy; I said that he knew the value of leisure. How is that lying or cheating?’ Donald was stumped.


Just as our audience is stumped, when our journalists today, spin their yarns and tell their tales in ways that make history vanish and mythology real. They make numbers jump through hoops to show economic growth where there is only ruin and despair. They conduct investigations without police, trials without judges and executions without the hangman, all in their media rooms or newsprint. They are artists and their canvas is the lives of people and nations. Their paint is the blood of innocents diluted with the tears of children who don’t even understand what is going on. They win Pulitzer Prizes for photographs of the starving, the dying and the dead. They make millions, are applauded and toasted, while the starving, starve and the dying, die. Change is not on the agenda. Only TRP ratings and paper sales.

But I am not talking about this. I am talking about another kind of calamity that has befallen us, which is in the hands of everyone with a camera phone. The calamity of fake news. Videos are made and then attributed to others to convey a specific message. A message of hatred. Some of the videos are of real events but are attributed falsely; like the video of Pakistani boys rejoicing at the Pakistani team’s win in an India-Pakistan cricket match. This was spread on social media saying that it was Indian Muslims rejoicing at Pakistan’s win and so it proves that they are anti-national traitors.

Or another of a young woman who was beaten bloody and then set on fire, claiming that she was a Hindu girl who had married a Muslim boy and was being punished for that. Actually, it was a scene from Guatemala where the girl was a member of a motorcycle gang which murdered a man and ran away. The girl got caught and was summarily executed by a mob, with police standing mute witness. Despicable as it is, it was not something that happened in India at all. But it was used to ignite Hindu Muslim hatred. There are many others to the extent that this has become an epidemic which like all epidemics takes its toll. The resultant hatred that has spread all over India is cause of real concern. It is therefore time to sit up and take note.

https://youtu.be/-C0eEvRAyyw Here is someone who made a video about fake news.

What must be done to combat this epidemic of fake news? Here are the steps:

1.   Never forward anything until you have verified its source and are certain about what it really is. For this check http://www.snopes.com/ and http://www.hoaxorfact.com/ and http://altnews.in/

2.     If you still can’t find out if the message or video is fact or fake, DON’T FORWARD IT.

3.     Once you find out the truth, ask yourself why you want to forward it at all. What will happen because of your forwarding? What will happen if you don’t forward it?

4.     Then take a conscious, responsible and informed decision to forward or delete.

5.     Forwarding with the disclaimer, ‘Forwarded as received’, shows that at best you are highly irresponsible and at worst, a mischief maker. In both cases, not fit to associate with. So please think about this before blindly forwarding things.

6.     If you get fake news and have the time to check its veracity, then please inform all you can that it is fake and what the real news is. Let the liars be exposed.

Remember that fake news is a living media and your forwarding, is its oxygen. Stop forwarding and it dies. People who create or propagate fake news (and you may unwittingly be one of them) are like arsonists who go around setting fires. Remember that all fires burn and the result is always ash. It doesn’t matter who set the fire or why. Fire fighters are moral, sensible and responsible and put out fires. 

Ask yourself if you are an arsonist or a fire fighter.
State of the Nation – South Africa (Indian Muslims) in 2005

State of the Nation – South Africa (Indian Muslims) in 2005

At the request of the General Secretary of the Jamiat ul Ulama, South Africa, I am writing this note with the following objectives:
1 .     To present my assessment (SWOT Analysis) of the Muslims in Gauteng
2 .     To present some solutions and courses of action

I would like to state that whatever I say is only from what I was able to observe and does not purport to be a global statement of fact. I did not have an opportunity to interact very much with Muslims in the Cape Province or with black African Muslims. So this assessment is restricted to the Muslims of Indian origin who were my hosts and who I had the privilege to meet and speak to. I tried to see as much as I could and to get as many different opinions and thoughts as I could, but in the end, this is the impression of one man working on his own.
I ask Allah  to put Khair in what I have to say and to protect me and the readers from the evil of that which I don’t know.
SWOT Analysis of South African Muslim society in Gauteng Province
Strengths
1.     Muslims in Gauteng are today in an enviable position that is perhaps unique in the world in terms of Muslim populations living in non-Muslim countries. Muslims totally comprise 1.5% of the population with Muslims of Indian origin being a section of this. Thanks to the fact that many of their elders (some are still alive) took an active and prominent part in the freedom struggle, they enjoy high prestige and position. Their representation in parliament, government and their say in public opinion are far in excess of their number. They are prominent in business, also for the most part a historic legacy and are arguably one of the most affluent population segments of South Africa.
2.     Thanks also to the fact that the majority of the Muslims in Gauteng came originally from Gujarat, there is homogeneity in the population that combined with the segregation enforced by apartheid, led to a strong social structure founded on the ‘family’ and reinforced by ties of marriage. This led to the power of the elders and the teaching of Islamic values of respect for age, knowledge (Islamic) and the power of the Imaam, A’alim and Khateeb.
3.     English language is a very major asset both in terms of it making the South African Muslims global citizens as well as for the doors to knowledge and information it opens.
4.     There is a strong orientation towards helping other Muslims in South Africa as well as in other parts of the world and in supporting religious institutions and so Gauteng Muslims have a strong presence in these areas and are highly respected around the world. This has also led to the establishment of Darul Ulooms which attract many students from around the world. Since the Muslim community has the resources as well as a love for Islam, the Darul Ulooms are for the most part well funded and have good infrastructure. These Darul Ulooms have ensured that there is a much larger percentage of Huffaz and Ulama in the South African Muslim society than in comparative populations in the world. Naturally this adds to the influence of Ulama in this society.
5.     Thanks also to the influence of the Ulama and to the orientation of the South African Muslim towards practicing Islam, South Africa is probably the only nation with such a small percentage of Muslims (1.5%) to have not one but two Halaal certification bodies. India for example, with more than 300 million Muslims (15% of the population) does not have any body of this nature.
6.     The Jamiat ul Ulama South Africa is also a genuinely representative body unlike its counterpart in India which is a one-family enterprise. This gives the Jamiat a level of prestige and acceptability that is unique and enviable.
7.     Thanks to their presence in the world of business, wide travel and the
English language the level of awareness about the world, its politics, its business opportunities and its leadership among South African Muslims is far higher than in Muslims in other parts of the world.
Weaknesses
1.     The homogeneity of the population creates an inward looking mentality that treats most things from outside with suspicion. This inhibits information, cultural and social exchange.
2.     The Jamiat ul Ulama does not control the Darul Uloom education and neither are the heads of the Darul Ulooms, its council members. The other Ulama organizations in the country, mainly the Jamiat, Kwazulu and the MJC also owe no formal allegiance to the Jamiat South Africa (formerly Jamiat Transvaal). As a result, two parallel power structures are created which have the potential for polarizing on important issues. The United Ulama Council of South Africa does exist but has no executive authority over any of the others. It has members from each of the other bodies and can actually be used as the central governing council or Majlis of a federated structure which would make it more powerful and effective. However that is not the case at present.
3.     Since the Darul Ulooms in South Africa were initiated by Ulama from India or those who trained in India/Pakistan, they are overly focused on teaching exactly what is taught in their parent institutions irrespective of the different world that they exist in. A good example is that Arabic books are taught in Urdu which the students who are primarily English speaking have to try to understand in English, doing their best to mentally translate what their teacher is saying, even though many understand little Urdu.
What happens to the sprinkling of students from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia who also study in these Darul Ulooms, is anybody’s guess.
As it stands, since many teachers themselves have little or no knowledge of English or Arabic, they can do no better. Also any suggestion to the contrary raises insecurities as many rightly fear for their own jobs. Many come from India and earn salaries that are unheard of in India and fight to defend anything that threatens their position. That students suffer as a result seems to be of little or no consequence.
There is almost no networking between Darul Ulooms and other Islamic or secular institutions either in the country or worldwide. There are no student or teacher exchanges, no presenting of papers or symposia or seminars given or received. No cross institutional training. External influences are restricted to the periodic visits of Ulama from Indiawhich are mostly ceremonial in nature with almost no real or worthwhile direct contact between them and students/teachers/public. Visits of Ulama from the Middle East, Far East or other parts of the world are fewer and even less useful in any real sense.
4.     As is the case in India, no formal teacher’s training qualification is needed to teach in a Darul Uloom. Nor is there any way of measuring performance of teachers. So quality of teaching is haphazard and person dependent and inconsistent. It is a strange and sad reality that both in Indiaand South Africato teach in the meanest of government schools, a teacher needs a degree in education. But to teach in the most prestigious of Darul Ulooms, he needs nothing. Once again, it is students who suffer, but they have no voice.
5.     The Darul Ulooms and their curricula and qualification are not recognized by the South African university education system. I understand that the Darul Ulooms refused recognition when it was offered; in my view, a big mistake. This puts the students at a serious disadvantage where they find themselves not on par with their fellows qualifying from universities and colleges. They are essentially in a position where after qualifying from the Darul Uloom they are unable to pursue further study in the university system and have no qualification to be able to earn a decent living in society. Their only alternative is to become Imaams in masajid or teachers in Islamic schools or Darul Ulooms. Some of those who come from wealthy families are supported by the family.
Others whose families own businesses are absorbed in the business without any training in business on account only of their lineage. Neither is a satisfactory nor self respecting situation. Still others who have neither of these support systems are left to the mercy of the administrators of whichever masjid or school they join, with no bargaining or influencing power of their own.
It is a sad commentary on the lack of thought in blindly following a system which created exactly the same problems in its parent society in India with disastrous effects to the prestige of the Ulama. A simple look at the situation of Muslims in UP, India which has major Islamic institutions like Darul Uloom, Deoband, Nadwatul Ulama, Mazahirul-Uloom, Sahranpur; Madrassa Da’awatul Haq, Hardoi; still has one of the highest rates of illiteracy, backwardness, unemployment and crime in the country should tell us that something is seriously wrong with the way Muslims are educating themselves. Instead of learning from this experience, the same system is replicated in South Africa with predictable results.
The Darul Ulooms follow a curriculum that is mostly outdated and irrelevant today. There are parts in it relating to Islamic theology that are useful and must be retained. However there are other major parts which need to be discontinued and replaced with subjects and focus that is current and application oriented. This is a desperate need without which we will continue to produce Ulama who find it increasingly difficult to influence others or to bring about change in a society that needs changing very badly.
Strangely like India, there is no scope for post graduate education in theology in the Darul Ulooms. If a student wants to do a PhD, he has to go to a regular university to do it. I have never understood the logic of not creating a complete system of education even in our chosen field. The result is that we create people who are not expert in anything.
6.     The Muslim business community is Gauteng consists mostly of small to medium sized enterprises. (I am using here the universal size classification for industries: Upto $250M = Small; Upto $500M = Medium; $ 1 B+ = Large). There are no Muslim multi-national businesses to the best of my knowledge. There is no Muslim Chamber of Commerce. There is no formal forum for businessmen to network, strategize, influence or bargain. Businessmen as a body have no formal relationship with the universities. They don’t sponsor research or teaching (Chairs) in areas of strategic importance. There are no business sponsored training programs at the universities. Muslim business leaders don’t speak at university sponsored seminars on matters of interest to industry. Muslim businesses don’t sponsor case studies, best practice studies or industry analysis. There seems by and large to be a lack of awareness of the power of higher education in growing businesses and not much emphasis seems to be placed on university degrees or on IT and training as core developmental and investment areas. Consequently there is a general lack of awareness about global business and strategy and a lack of a global perspective.
This dangerously extends to a lack of awareness of the threats that global businesses can pose to the niche areas that Muslim businessmen operate in, in South Africa. Finally a lack of awareness that policy changes are brought about by global corporations, not by mom & pop shops, no matter how profitable they may be in themselves. (Test Questions: What was the last business study/book you read and what did you do after reading it? Which financial, business, corporate publication do you subscribe to and read?)
7.     The culture in business families seems to be of a structure consisting of first or second generation business founders who run a very close shop. The third generation youth are mainly big spenders with little or no visible focus on wealth creation. (Test Question: How many new businesses were started in the last 5 years?) Western pop culture of brand-snob ostentation, and claim to position without earning the ‘respect’ of subordinates, all point to a future that is far from rosy. Predictably this behavior does not inspire trust and so the older generation is reluctant to hand over the reins of business. The older generation tends to rule with an iron fist and businesses are individual driven instead of being process driven.
There is no formal system of people development or of succession planning in most Muslim businesses and there seems to be a lack of awareness of even the danger of this situation. This leads to frustration in the youth and the vicious cycle is complete. (Test Question: How many MBA’s are there per unit population of business families?)
8.     In many ways the political scene is much the same as the business scene. Laurels were earned by the elders who fought for freedom alongside other African leaders and consequently earned for the Muslim community its present status of high respect and visibility in parliament, government and industry. However the next generation seems content to enjoy that benefit with no apparent effort to maintain, much less to take forward the position of influence that the elders earned. They don’t seem to realize that once power is lost and the vacuum is filled, it is almost never regained. The example of India and the short-sighted role that Muslim leadership played in the formation of Pakistan as well as in post-independent India seems either to be unknown, un-reflected on or lesson not learnt. I believe this is a very critical mistake. Social groups that are wealthy but have no power have their wealth taken away from them by force. History is replete with examples. And nations which don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. I sincerely hope the Gauteng Muslims are not among those who have to repeat the history of their own people in India.
Opportunities
1.     South Africais the land of dreams. The cap that apartheid placed on the aspirations of people and on their potential for power and influence has been lifted. The political leadership demonstrated to the world grit and determination to free itself from slavery followed by the magnanimity to forgive those who had oppressed them. It is not an exaggeration to say that a parallel does not exist in recent history. The only parallel to this is 1400 years old when the Prophet (SAS)  entered his own native land of Makkah as a victorious ruler and forgave those who had wronged him.
The land is wide open, to be taken and used for the power of good. In almost every area of social interaction there are virtually unlimited opportunities.
There is a growing buying power in the population as well as a growing awareness of quality, customer rights and the willingness to make choices that will make business fly or sink.
The first and biggest opportunity in this context is to showcase Islam in this new world as the best way to address all social, political and developmental needs of the new nation and make it a leader among nations of the world. A good starting point would be to draw the parallel that I mentioned above. Subsequently working models of the Islamic Way of Life need to be created to demonstrate the power of Islam it solve the real problems of people in this world. Simply lecturing about Islam giving examples that are centuries old does not cut any ice even with today’s young Muslims, let alone with non-Muslims. That is the real challenge and the opportunity. The window to take advantage of it is now open.
South African Muslims have the goodwill where others will listen to them if they speak about Islam. To this end, every means at their disposal should be used. It would be shortsighted in the extreme if they were to shun some of the most powerful means to influence minds and steer thought, like television and other visual media. We must remember that all technology and tools are value neutral. A knife is a knife. It is neither good nor bad. It can be used for either purpose. So controlling its use is important. Not banning its use totally. If we ban the use of the knife, what would we use to perform life critical surgery? So also the television, internet and other visual media.
The single biggest responsibility of the South African Muslims in my opinion is to use every means at their disposal and ensure that the true picture of Islam is communicated to all humanity in general and to all South Africans in particular.
2.     There is a huge opportunity to take Islam into every home in South Africa, especially into the homes of the hitherto deprived people who were forsaken by everyone including their own religion.
After all it was in the name of Christianity that they were oppressed and segregated for more than 50 years. Now is the opportunity to take them from the restriction of man-made laws into the expanse of the law of Islam. But there is one proviso: this will have to be done by action. Not be talk and lecture. If South African Muslims are willing to make the effort the black African population is ready to accept Islam. But the route to their hearts is through their bellies and the bellies of their children. Social, educational, developmental and spiritual work in the black communities, by people who live with them, is the key. Simply visiting Muslims will never have the same impact.
3.     There is a huge business opportunity in the mass buyer and a fortune to be made at the bottom of the pyramid. However coupled with this must come development of people and preparing them to become buyers. 65% of the GDP of South Africa in 2005 came from the Service industry.

There are huge areas that are unexploited. There are opportunities in education, social and economic development, creating small entrepreneurs, introducing micro-credit and strengthening the middle class, the mainstay of any healthy economy. Simply selling boxes will not be successful any more.
4.     Gauteng Muslims are poised with their education, affluence, historical significance and religious ideology to be at the forefront of political leadership. However here also there are some provisos: Muslims of Indian and other origins need to accept that they are ‘black’ and stop using excluding language and include themselves in affirmative action programs. I realize that some water has already flown under the bridge in this aspect and so the task is more of re-including but it is a task that needs to be done with the utmost urgency. The route to that is through aggressively pursuing the development of the black people using all the resources at their disposal. If Muslims make themselves indispensable they will be impossible to ignore. Otherwise it is very easy to ignore 1.5% of the population. India is a classic example where 20% of the population is ignored with impunity because they lack strategically wise leadership. The Muslim population of India is 10 times the entire populationof South Africa. Still they have no voice.
Threats
1.     The biggest threat that South African Muslims face is that the window of opportunity that opened for them 10 years ago is not going to remain open for too much longer. If they don’t take advantage of it, then they too will face the same fate as their counterparts in Uganda and India and be relegated to the garbage pile of history. Speed is of the essence however. Speed and significant action. Not tokenism. Enough effort and investment to make a huge difference that is visible and appreciated all around. The time to do this is fast running out. Once the time runs out it will be a case of too little too late as in the case of Jamiat-ul-Ulama Hind’s efforts to get close to Dalits. Dalits don’t care any more.
2.     Lack of succession planning at all levels of Muslim society; be it in Businesses, Muslim organizations, Jamiat ul Ulama and similar organizations, on the political front and in the Darul Ulooms combined with a marked absence of developmental planning activity. This is a very major threat with an impact that will span at least two generations.
3.     Excluding the Darul Ulooms from the national mainstream educational system is a very serious mistake and will make them redundant in a very short time. Even today the number of local students is dwindling. This is a major danger signal. The Darul Ulooms must and do exist primarily for South African society, not for foreign students who may come there. If local students don’t come then it means that the products of Darul Ulooms are seen as losing relevance in local society. Another major danger sign is the miniscule presence of black African students in the Darul Ulooms and Muslim Schools.
4.     Sticking to a curriculum and teaching methods that are of little relevance in South African society in terms of the ability to create change and make Ulama influential will result in Ulama becoming sidelined from all collective decision making in due course. The fact that they are unable to earn a living on their own will also negatively impact their image as has already happened in India.

India is a classic example of what may well be the face of South Africain 2 decades if corrective action is not taken today. Lessons of history though unpleasant, must be learnt and can only be ignored at great peril.
5.     There is a hardening of stances by Ulama (demonstrated in the Muslim Personal Law issue) where the larger interest of the South African Muslims is being sacrificed at the alter of personal differences of opinion. It is essential not to lose perspective that Muslims are 1.5% of the population of a secular, democratic republic. If necessary ijtihad must be made to find solutions that satisfy the demands of the constitution while maintaining the Muslim position on various issues. For this, it is essential to be inclusive in interpretation and rulings of the Shari’ah and use the rulings of any of the A’aimmah Arba’a or other jurists of the Salaf and not stick to the ruling of any one of them.
The danger of not accepting the ruling of an Imaam of Islam different from the one we follow is that we may be forced to accept the ruling of a non-Muslim judge of the Supreme Court. Once again India is a good example to see what not to do.
6.     Lack of interest among Muslims for higher education will mean that over the years the opinion and decision makers of society (university professors, writers, journalists, judges, administrators, military officers, scientists, doctors, global business leaders and engineers) will be non-Muslims. It is essential that young Muslims aggressively pursue university degrees in science, technology, politics, business and other areas and ensure that the percentage of Muslims in these areas increases. Currently young Muslims who do get business degrees don’t want to join their family businesses due to the restrictive atmosphere of traditional person driven management.
They prefer to work with multinationals or local companies which are more professionally managed. As a temporary post-graduate training exercise this is acceptable, even beneficial but if it is a longer term trend, then it is very debilitating for the community.
7.     The biggest danger that Muslim businesses face is their unwillingness to move from being person driven to becoming process driven. Without this critical change, they are destined to shrivel and die. Lack of awareness of the need to grow, professionalize management, introduce IT, formalize people development and career paths, measure performance and productivity, introduce quality standards and plan succession are all major threats to the future of business in the country.


There is a false sense of comfort basking in the glory of past success and current affluence. Unfortunately these people are either unwilling or unable to understand how the nature of business has changed globally and what threats loom over the future of their businesses unless they take some significant action, fast.
An attendant threat is that since the entire gamut of social work of the Muslims, be it educational institutions, zakat disbursement or help to calamity affected people around the world, is dependent on the health of the Muslim business, its preservation and growth is absolutely essential. If Muslim businesses fail it is not only the owner families who will suffer but a great many more people and institutions which are dependant on them will also be badly affected. Therefore the health and prosperity of the Muslim business is of great importance. But are their owners willing to change their ways?? That is the big question.
8.     Finally a major threat is the sparse population of Muslims in the military, judiciary and police. Especially in the military and police force. This is a very major danger as it gives the impression that Muslims are not patriotic and nationalistic. In the future this can be used to build opinion against the community. Also in times of threat, it is very unsafe to have a force that is commanded and populated exclusively by non-Muslims in whose hands lies the safety of the Muslims. It is very critical to have a strong presence in the forces of overt power. Once again this is an area which needs major action very fast otherwise it will create a self limiting cycle. Remember that it is Generals who make the decisions and a General is not created overnight.


Recommendations: A 4 pronged strategy to become indispensable
Strategy # 1:  Jamiat ul Ummah
1.     The first and most important strategic move will be to create a genuine partnership between all the leaders of the Muslim community. I propose that a body is created which is called the Jamiat ul Ummah. This body must work on the following tasks:
a.     Task Force on Strategic Planning to Project future scenarios that may arise for the Muslims and suggest courses of action.
b.     Task Force on Education which will examine the current curricula in the Darul Ulooms and Muslim Schools and suggest changes in both curriculum and methods of teaching to make them relevant and current. This Task Force will also make sure that the Darul Ulooms are included in the mainstream of education.
c.     Muslim Chamber of Commerce which will be the apex body for all trade and industry related work and which will aggressively follow a course of international networking to promote trade between Muslims worldwide.
d.     Task Force on Thought Steering which will monitor ‘Muslims in the News’ and make sure that the correct picture is projected about Islam and Muslims of both South Africaand the world. This Task Force will also deal with emerging propaganda threats and take preventive action for damage control and retaliation. This task force will also be in charge of publication, research related to it and media management.
e.     Legal Task Force which will take action through the courts on all legal matters relating to legislation and judgments concerning Muslims of South Africa.
f.       Task Force on Social Development which will work actively on projects in the deprived areas concentrating on all issues of health, education and entrepreneurial development.
g.     Task Force of Theologians who will be responsible for interpreting the Shari’ah and guiding all the above bodies in matters relating to Islam.
h.     Task Force for Nurturing Leadership with the responsibility to create a second line of leadership in all aspects of society. This Task Force will run a national talent search among Muslim students and select a small group each year which will be earmarked for various strategically important positions. These students will be personally mentored and nurtured through specially created educational and experiential opportunities to eventually take the leadership positions earmarked for them. (Case in Point: RhodesScholarships)
 Structure of the Jamiat ul Ummah
Key objectives of the Matrix Structure
1.     The policy making body will also be responsible for policy implementation.
2.     All decision making will be collaborative in nature practicing the Islamic principle of shura.
3.     There will be no possibility of power politics and electoral lobbying and position seeking.
4.     A second line of leadership will automatically be created with no chance of a cult being created around the personality of any particular leader.
5.     The central Majlis Ash Shura will be comprised of the Heads of the Task Forces. They will decide policy and then will be responsible for implementing it in their own areas.
Each Task Force will have its own Majlis
1.     The Head of the Majlis Ash Sura, called the Faisal will assume office by rotation. Each Faisal will be in that position for a period not exceeding one year. Every Majlis member will have the opportunity to be the Faisal when his / her chance comes.
2.     In the Majaalis Ash Shura of the Task Forces, the Head of the Task Force will be the permanent head, but for operational purposes the Faisal will also rotate to give each member a chance to learn leadership.
Strategy # 2:  Education: (Muslim Schools & Teachers Training Colleges)
Education is the single most powerful role to achieve the goals of the Jamiat ul Ummah. I propose that one black African child is educated with every one of our own children, at our cost if required. Two routes may be adopted simultaneously for this. Admit one black African child with every Muslim child in all our Muslim Schools.
This will have the dual benefit of not only educating the child but of creating an ‘Old Boy Network’ in the South Africa of the future between Black and Indian South Africans. There are numerous examples of the power of this strategy in the world. Harrow and Eaton in the UKand Doon Schoolin Indiaare classic examples of how the destinies of nations are shaped by shaping the minds of their young.
Simultaneously with this the current Maktab network in the black African townships must be expanded to include regular syllabus subjects. The quality of the Maktab education must be enhanced to create a situation where non-Muslims become interested in sending their children to these Makatib. That will be the route to the winning of their hearts to Islam. Scholarships must be set up to pay for the education of deprived children. A special fund must be created to pay for all this. The current situation of some Muslim schools being starved of funds and being unable to meet their needs is highly dangerous to the community.
An ancillary to this is to start Teacher’s Training Colleges. I propose that Muslims take over the teaching profession in the same way that Christian women from Kerala have taken over the nursing profession in India and many other countries. Muslim men and women must take over the teaching profession. Every teacher of every subject must be a Muslim. The way to do this is to train teachers and to help them to become role models for others. Design the Teacher Training course in such a way that there is an element of the Islamic way of teaching in it. That way the teacher also becomes a dayee. The focus as in everything else must be on quality. These colleges must become role models in teacher training for all others in the field.
Strategy # 3:  Health: (Primary Health Care Centers & Specialty Hospitals)
South Africa has a population of 44 million out of which 5 million are HIV positive and are living with aids. This is a catastrophic situation. That the Muslims are not a major part of it is a matter of some consolation but not a matter to become complacent about. Primary Health Care Centers must be set up in all the deprived areas to provide free medical aid to those who need it. These must be linked to major hospitals, which must be set up where they may not already exist. Funding will be available for such activity from global organizations provided the South African Muslims are willing to take on the implementation. Major medical facilities are also a source of good business, as Indiahas shown. Hyderabadhas become a center of what is beginning to be called, Medical Tourism. However the focus of this strategy must not be lost…to win the hearts of the deprived people. That people who set up such high quality hospitals will also make money is an incidental matter.
Strategy # 4: Entrepreneurial Development: (Training & Micro-credit)
In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Lack of money is the source of all evil.” Whereas we may have a different view of this as Muslims, the axiom is certainly true of all non-Muslim, Western societies. Poverty leads to crime and sin.
Alleviating poverty is not simply a matter of doing good but a matter of survival of those who have more. Also people with more buying power means that the economy will grow stronger for the benefit of all.
Finally nobody is dearer than the one who makes you rich. Once we are seen as such, people will be willing to follow our lead in other matters.
Running entrepreneurial development programs, staring an Entrepreneurship Development Academy (maybe the government will fund that), financing small businesses, creating ancillaries to larger businesses and micro-credit on Islamic financial principles are all ways that can be explored.
Conclusion
It is my belief that if these recommendations are followed we will not only be able to address and positively influence the future of the South African Muslims but we would have put in place a system to ensure enduring leadership.
In my view the Jamiat ul Ulama must take the lead to spearhead this effort. Some of what I am suggesting may come across as a dilution of the position and power of the Jamiat. But let me assure you that India is a classic example of what isolation of the Ulama can do to the Ummah at large and to the Ulama themselves. South Africais in grave danger of replicating the mistakes that Indian Muslims made over more than a century and for which we today are still paying the price, literally in blood and lives.
What I am proposing is a system that will actually strengthen the hands of the Ulama and make them the true leaders of the community while leveraging the considerable strengths and talents of other Muslims in different leadership positions.
Just a no captain can sail any ship alone no matter how knowledgeable he may personally be, neither can the Ulama guide the ship of this Ummah by themselves. It is only with the active cooperation of all the Muslim leadership working together that the ship of this Ummah can remain on course and sail to its final destination of making South African Muslims, Standard Bearers of Islam and role models for the world.
I ask Allah  to help us in this matter and to use the Muslims of South Africa who He has blessed in so many ways to be the leaders for the Muslims of the world, and create a society that will truly reflect the beauty of the Islamic Way of Life from which all those who live in it, can benefit equally.
Of humanity, not airlines

Of humanity, not airlines

I travel all the time, but never on United. I agree with all that has been said in this article. However, my question is not about airlines though I support #neverflyunited. It is about humanity and decency. It is about justice. It is about the maxim, ‘Injustice to one is injustice to all.’ That is why I am not even talking about the race of the passenger whose exit was facilitated. I am not speculating if United would treat a WASP in the same manner. It doesn’t matter. We are all human. Believe me, WASP or not. And injustice to one is injustice to all. Until we understand that, injustice will prevail.
There was a time when people stood up to support one another. What happened to that? Why did all the other passengers simply sit there and watch this horrific thing happen? I am not saying that they should have fought the security guards. They could have simply stood up and walked off the plane in solidarityall including the First Class passengers. But not a single one did that. Why? If they had, United would have had the privilege of flying its own staff and giving them the choice of any seat on the plane.
Try it people. As long as you are willing to take shit, shit shall be dished out to you. That is a law of nature. United didn’t invent it, it’s there, like gravity. United doesn’t enforce it. We do. By our silence in the face of injustice, we permit and support injustice.
Remember the man who said, ‘When the truth must be spoken, silence is culpable’? He too was American. You want to make America great again? Great idea. But then you have to get up and do something. You can’t simply sit on your situpon with your fingers crossed and mumble, ‘Thank God that didn’t happen to me.’ If you do that, one day it will. 
It surely will as the sun rises from the East.

Dilemma of the Revolutionary

Dilemma of the Revolutionary

This is a thought-share primarily for South African leadership who may be interested in an outsider’s view of the changes happening in their country. I have taken the liberty of adding my comments on what I believe will be helpful to do. I am not preaching to anyone. This is a thought-share with anyone who is interested. That’s it.

When I graduated in Political Science in 1975, I never thought that I would live in a world where I would actually be able to see almost everything I studied and some more, happening. My world was a stable place with little change, yet poised to take the dive from there into the maelstrom of change that we have become so familiar with today. Yet that happened and that too in less than two decades.

I was in South Africa last week on my pilgrimage as I like to call my visit to Kruger National Park; truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. As always I also met my old friends, made new ones and watched with interest the changes since my last visit which in this case was in 2014. I have always maintained that there is much for South African leadership to learn from the post-independence history of India which would be learning without the pain of actually repeating that history in their own post-independence development. This article is to help those who are interested to do that.

India also came out of its colonial slavery, though without bloody revolution. We shall not mention the fact that we made up for the bloodletting during partition and the formation of Pakistan. The new leaders, Nehru and gang, who took over from the British White Sahib Bosses faced the same post revolution dilemma – how to make the dream you sold to the people come true.

The Indian National Congress headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister, ‘solved’ the problems of job creation and land distribution by creating huge Public Sector Organizations run by bureaucrats who knew as much about running a commercial operation as I know about flying a plane. The purpose was to create jobs. Not manufacturing efficiency, quality or innovation. And that purpose was achieved by employing at least three people to do the job of one. Worker friendly legislation made it a crime even to frown at a worker who didn’t – hold your breath – work. Trade unions became very strong, backed the political party which made the rules and later became the arbiters of power themselves. As long as nobody asked questions about efficiency, productivity, quality or profitability this completely impossible system continued and Nehru and his successors were able to ‘show’ how they were delivering on the promises made during the Independence Struggle. Nobody asked, ‘How long can this continue?’ It didn’t, as we shall see.

Land distribution was also handled in the same way through legislation which abolished the Zamindari system (feudal system where one person owned the land which was tilled by tenant farmers who were in many if not most cases, bonded laborers) and introduced the Land Ceiling Act. What happened was that large land holdings were divided up into small plots and given away to the tiller. Sounds so nice and cuddly but with it came the problem that the small owner – the erstwhile tiller – had neither the capital for inputs nor the knowhow about cultivation. He had been a poorly paid worker who did what he was told. Suddenly he became a land owner. So two things happened. Land which had been previously cultivated and yielded good crops, lay fallow and barren and the new ‘land owner’ went to work on a construction site in a city as a manual laborer; since that was the only marketable ‘skill’ he had. Others, many if not most of the new ‘land owners’ went back to the old owners and handed in their papers and said, ‘Please give me my job back and you can have the land.’ So officially they remained owners on paper. But the old status quo of the land owner returned. Militancy also came into being with some of the newly liberated bonded laborers wanting to keep their land and till it. Old owners tried to throw them out with the help of the police and the Naxalite Movement was born. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxalite
On the industrial front, Public Sector Corporations reached their size of self-implosion and simply got too unprofitable to run. Government ran out of money to pay salaries and mandatory increments. Labor laws originally created to protect the worker became means of encouraging non-productive behavior. Unions went over the top and in states likes Kerala and West Bengal literally paralyzed business and industry. Voting-in another party did nothing to change the situation. Finally, Government brought in what they called ‘Liberalization’ – liberating themselves from their false promises. The back of the trade union movement was broken. Today there are no unions in the entire IT and ITES industry in India. Privatization of many areas took place. Manufacturing became more efficient but the ranks of the unemployed increased. Problem still not solved. In India what helped was the intrinsic entrepreneurial nature of the Indian which resulted in a lot of small and medium enterprise happening all over. Credit became easier to get with nationalization of banks. And the strong family system helped to keep people alive and kicking.

Huge numbers of Indians went to work in Gulf countries and their inward remittances supported their families. Indians by nature are fatalistic and not militant and so no major public unrest happened though public misery is all too visible. We’re far from being out of the woods because we are now going on the track of fast becoming an oligarchy – with too many millionaires and too many poor people. And the future looks bleak, especially for the poor.

Naxalite militancy is on the increase though not in cities yet. Crime is rampant though since the media is the mouthpiece of the establishment, goes unreported. Rampant farmer suicides are one major indicator of a very sick society. Corruption at an unprecedented scale is another. From being something that existed quietly and was indulged in clandestinely, corruption is now an aspirational goal, indulged in totally without shame. The industrialist – politician – bureaucrat nexus is working very well to corner resources for the few at the expense of the many. Fear rules and life is cheap and easily lost.

India is a notoriously corrupt country, with Transparency International giving it a rank of 76/168 (USA is 16/168) where crony capitalism thrives (On the World Bank Groups “ease of doing business index”, India is 130/168 and the USA is 7/168) and where inequality reins with extreme poverty (GINI index of 33.9, along with a HDI rank of 135/168).  India is also a thriving democracy.  All of these things combine into the one obvious conclusion:  one of several established parties compete on the best way to manipulate elections using money and muscle-power. (Source: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/05/02/1484829/-Bernie-Sanders-and-Arvind-Kejriwal
But India is a big country and as they say, ‘Even a dead elephant weighs five tons.’ So the effects of all this are not yet crippling. But we are getting there, fear not. We are getting there.
In 1995 I went to South Africa soon after they became independent but the only black people I saw were the waiters in my hotel and the servants in the houses of white people, who invited me to a braai. I stood on the viewing deck at the top of the Sun in Sandton at night, the city bright with lights except one big black hole in the distance. I asked someone if there was a power outage. The white man smirked and said, ‘This is not India. We don’t have power outages. That is Soweto. They have no power.’ Very interesting, I thought – arrogance apart. In India we have power outages and still do double digit growth while in Apartheid South Africa not giving power to the majority of citizens was state policy.

I went back to South Africa in 2005 and since then have been going there almost annually for what I call my ‘pilgrimage’ to the Kruger National Park. A journey of love which I look forward to for the eleven months that separate one from the next. I also meet lots of people, businessmen (have I met any businesswomen?), politicians, academics, educationists, farmers, doctors and other professionals, game rangers, students, professors (aren’t they academics?); Blacks, Whites, Indian, Colored, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, I-don’t-know-what-I-am; you name it and I’ve met it. They talk and I listen. I talk of course and sometimes they don’t like what I have to say but that is the risk of being an analyst – distance gives perspective because perspective is a function of distance but people who are close to the ground, who don’t like the diagnosis you give them, say, ‘You don’t live here. You don’t understand our reality’. Forgetting that it is precisely for that reason – because I don’t live in South Africa – that I can see and understand the reality of what is going on.

As I have said before, it is cheaper to learn from other’s mistakes than to make your own. South Africa is in the unique position to learn from the mistakes of India but seems unable or unwilling to do so. I have been trying to convince all those I speak to when I visit there, to study post-independence India and learn lessons to apply in post-independence South Africa. They all listen respectfully, agree with me entirely about the need to learn, feed me great food, take me to Kruger Park, I put on weight and come home. Nothing changes. I love the hospitality of course and thank my hosts but remind them that I can afford my meals and didn’t go there for free food. If they don’t change their ways, then I shudder to think about what will happen. And I can’t stop that from happening. There are enough examples in Africa itself to look at.

So what is going on in South Africa? A revolution is taking place. It is in progress. It is happening as we speak. But it is a revolution without formal leadership, without clear ideology, without a strategic game plan. It is a revolution of nature. Of human nature to do what it considers best for its own survival, without sometime bothering about any long term results of precipitate action. It is very dangerous.

‘Ha! Wrong again’, you say. ‘Our revolution ended in 1995 when we became free of the apartheid regime. Now it is payment time.’

‘No’, I gently remind you. ‘1995 was the first stage in that revolution to become free. You reached that step. The revolution continues and depending on what you do; it can make you truly free or enslave you once again.’ The choice is yours. I am the analyst, remember? Also remember, shooting the messenger doesn’t turn bad news into good. South Africa is poised on the brink. It can become a case study of what to do or what not to do. It is your choice.

Let me talk some theory first – Revolution 101.

Oppression is oppressive and sows the seeds of its own destruction at its inception. Those seeds germinate in thoughts of freedom. Grow in the atmosphere of yearning for freedom seeing others becoming free. Are watered with the blood of martyrs. Martyrs die and more are needed so those running the revolution have to sell a dream. A dream where in effect the oppressed get everything the oppressors have today. Streets paved with gold, big cars, bigger homes, jobs for everyone, food galore. As the lyrics of the song go, ‘Money for nothing and the chicks for free.’

Nobody asks the real question, ‘How likely is all this?’ Nobody asks and nobody cares, because dreams are supposed to be unrealistic. And let’s face it, if it was not attractive enough, why would I leave my family to go and die in the street? I didn’t go to die. But I went and I died. And that was some more irrigation for the dream to grow.

Finally, it comes true. We are free. Now what?

Now I am waiting for my job, new car, home, food, 24-hour power supply, clean water, hospitals – you name it and I want it. But it doesn’t come. Why not? Because the dream was a dream and dreams have an inconvenient way of coming true with strings attached. But nobody told me that. Well, let’s face it. If someone told you that you would have all of the above and more but that it would take two generations of hard work to get it, would you have fought to throw off apartheid? If someone had told you that you would have to go to school and college, study very hard, compete for jobs like everyone in every other country does, would you have died to give others a chance at that? If someone had told you that there’s no free meal and no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, would you have endured the suffering of the revolution? But that is the reality. Like it or not. So the chickens do come home to roost. The promises have to be fulfilled. People will hold you to them, Mr. Revolutionary Leader. And you can’t say, ‘They are not realistic.’ Because you made those promises and at that time you didn’t tell me that they were not realistic. You sold the dream. Now deliver. Or help me understand what to do to get it.

Every revolutionary party faces this. The let-down at the end of the revolution, when you expect to be in a permanent state of high in your dreamland come true. But instead face disillusionment, disappointment and even despair. This is the crucial threshold that all political parties who run revolutions have to face and cross if they want to succeed and actually give the people the beautiful life they promised them.

If this is not done, what’s the next step in this cycle?

Another party arises and sells another dream. ‘We will give you everything that these liars promised and failed to deliver. Jobs, electricity, water, homes, cars, everything. And you need do nothing except to support us. Support us and you will have it all.’ And believe it or not, people are ready to believe this story once again. They don’t ask the crucial question which they should have asked in the first place – “HOW?” And the cycle repeats. Until of course one day you get a new leader who decides that he can’t really give people what they want but also doesn’t want to give up power and so a new dictator is born. There are plenty of examples of this in Africa itself – Uganda under Idi Amin for example and others which I am sure I don’t need to name.

But as I said earlier, in our world of change you don’t have to go that far back to see this cycle come full circle. Look at Egypt. As they say, ‘Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Hosni Mubarak was oppressive to put it politely, for decades. Then came Morsi and the Ikhwaan. Sold the dream of freedom, jobs, food and won an election that nobody thought they would win. But once again the people were not prepared to face the reality, that it is not magic. Everything will happen but not overnight. I was in Cairo and Marsa Alam in April and May that year and saw people sitting in roadside cafes, drinking tea and discussing politics. I knew this was a very ominous sign. Disgruntled people with real woes, sitting around in tea shops or bars talking politics in a free country is always dangerous. Sadly, my fears came true and Morsi’s government fell and Sisi came to power; even more oppressive than Mubarak. Circle is complete. The future is bleak.

Another good illustration of this process is that of growing up from childhood. A small child is dependent entirely on its parents. So it ascribes all its life experiences to them. If it is happy, parents are good. If it is unhappy, it the fault of the parents. To an extent this is correct because parents have power and the child doesn’t. However, when the child grows up, this equation changes. Parents are no longer powerful or even present. However, many people fail to grow up mentally and simply transfer this attitude of ‘Someone else is responsible for my happiness’, to their spouses or bosses and go through life blaming others for whatever happens to them. True growing up is to own responsibility for yourself. Not merely to grow facial hair or other indicators of physical maturity. Real maturity is when the individual takes charge of his or her own life and says, ‘This is my life and I am responsible and I will do what it takes to make it the most productive and beautiful life possible.’ Only then is the person truly grown up and not simply a 30 or 40-year-old child. And this transformation can happen at any age. Not only at 30 or 40.

The same is the case with countries that are under the yoke of oppression. People get used to being powerless and to blaming the ruling class for their problems. As in the case of the child, this is true because they are powerless. But oppression fuels rebellion so some take ownership for this powerlessness and decide to change it and the revolution is born. But what happens is that in the heat of the struggle, nothing is done to enable others to grow up also. And so when independence is won, others merely view the new leaders in the same role as the old – i.e. ruling class – and look up to them in the same way – they are responsible for my happiness. Same chairs, different bottoms. This is dangerous for the ‘ruling’ party especially as they will be held responsible for the dream not coming true. And the cycle which I mentioned above happens.

Nobody tells the people that there is no ‘ruling class’ now. That they are the rulers. So if they don’t like something they have to change it. They can’t any longer blame someone else. They have to collaborate with government to make it productive. Not cop out and sulk or attempt to run away. There is nowhere to run. One can’t really run away from oneself, can one? Same logic.

This is exactly what is happening in South Africa today. I don’t need to describe what is happening there. It is all too visible. Hubris at the success of the struggle. Then like kids in a toy shop filling the pockets with all the toys you can get your hands on. Forgetting that now you own the shop and so you can’t steal from yourself. You can only harm yourself by filling your pockets. Meanwhile the people who followed you are still used to the ‘ruling class’ attitude. Nobody told them that there is no ruling class any longer. They are the rulers and so they get to carry the can. They supported you in the revolution – they believed that they were working for you, not themselves. They believed your sales talk about what they would get when they won the revolution. You forgot to tell them that it would take time, investment, sacrifice, hard work and still more time. So they are now waiting to get it.

“I am entitled to it. So give it to me.”
“Work? I already did that. I fought in the revolution (or my father or grandfather did) and so I am entitled to the candy. Where is it?”
“On top of that, I see the toys you put into your pocket. I see the candy (corruption, privilege) that you are eating. So why can’t I also eat it?”
But enough of diagnosis. Let us look at solutions. So what is the solution?

Two things:
  1.     Leadership: Put your own house in order.
  2.      Change the mindset from ‘Entitlement to Contribution.’

Here’s a more detailed explanation:

     Put your own house in order:

Take the candy out of your pocket and put it back on the shelf. And apologize for taking it out of turn. Help your friends also to do that. The sooner this is done the easier and less painful it is. Delay is suicidal. Corruption is a cancer that is infectious and kills as surely as the real thing. You have to look after your cow. You can’t milk it and not feed it. You can’t cut out a piece of meat because you are hungry. The cow will die and you will die with it. Corruption is suicide. Root it out ruthlessly and quickly, needless to say, starting at the top. If the head is sick the body can’t be healthy. So do whatever it takes to cure the sickness. Swallow bitter pills, perform surgery, cut out the cancer before it kills you. I don’t think it’s necessary to say anything more.

Tackle crime urgently. Investigate, prosecute and sentence. Sayings like, ‘South Africa’s national sport is rape’, are not funny and indicate a very sick society.

Year
Sexual Offences
Murder
Robbery
2015
53,617
17,805
54, 927
2014
62,267
16,914
53,424
2013
66,197
16,211
53, 439
Cumulative since 2004
7,83,687
2,12,312
7,83,680
The figures are horrific and I can perhaps safely say that they don’t include a single politician of any hue. It is only poor people who have no protection who die and are raped. More people die violently in South Africa than in many war zones. And remember that it is safe to say that in all these cases the number of crimes actually committed is more than those reported.

I personally know of two cases of major robbery and one where a person was shot through the leg that were never reported. The reason, which I was amazed to hear, was that people have no faith in the police. This is a very serious matter, where the citizenry has lost faith in Government. Sad to say that there appears to be very little, if anything done by the Government about it. This is something that sits squarely in the lap of the Government and must be dealt with urgently. If necessary, reinstitute the death penalty. Criminals can’t have more human rights than victims.

South Africa’s crime is the single biggest deterrent for foreign investment. The apathy of the Government in tackling it is impossible to understand. It appears that there is a high level of collusion between police and criminals without which such levels of crime would be impossible.  

The second biggest deterrent for foreign investment is the general lack of skills, the result of a failed education system. This again is something that is critical to address and correct without which South Africa will not be able to attract large investors who would be very happy to invest there and set up manufacturing facilities. South Africa needs vocational schools that can train people in marketable skills that can enable them to earn a living. This would directly impact the job market and provide jobs and enhance the quality of life but it can happen only when the country can offer a high level of skills in the workforce. South Africa is the gateway to Africa but at present this seems to be used mostly by the drug trade. Control of crime, drug cartels and skill development to provide good jobs is the key. I have suggested some ways below.

Change the mindset of people from ‘Entitlement to Contribution’.

Educate people on the steps forward and show them a realistic plan where they can see how to succeed and taste that success in a reasonable period of time. It is essential that people see results in their main pain areas and see them fast. Government must be seen to be doing things. Saying, ‘We won freedom for you’, is not enough especially for a generation which didn’t see apartheid. This requires the following:

The public education system needs major overhauling. That is a subject in itself so I won’t talk about it here, except to mention the need to address this urgently. The current system is designed to create failures. It must change.

Introduce Vocational Training in all schools. Every child must learn a trade or skill by the time they complete schooling. That way they will have a marketable skill which they can use to earn a living. It is critical to develop a thriving middle class. Give people something to lose. The problem today is that people have nothing to lose.

Rejuvenate the Farm Schools and train children in farming while completing their primary, secondary and high school education. Get them connected to the earth. That is the best education and will prepare them for the real thing later. The Afrikaners knew what their Farm Schools produced. Just replicate that and you will get the same results. People connected to the soil are people who are interested in the development of the country.

Ministry of Small Business: The Right Step Forward – But…
o   It is completely untenable that the Government is the biggest employer in South Africa employing over 45% of the employed population. No government has the money to pay that salary bill or to take care of inevitable increments, social welfare expenses and so on. There is a critical need in South Africa to create a robust class of self-employed people who not only take care of themselves but provide employment for others.
o   As the sub-heading of this section says, the initiative to set up a Minister of Small Business is an excellent step. This must be supported and results measured. A good idea is to seek ‘Customer feedback’ to see how Government’s initiatives are being experienced by those for whom they are meant. In my own search on the net, I have seen some excellent articles. One is here: http://bit.ly/1rAOIo0 And another one: http://www.sacsis.org.za/site/article/2020 So listen to people and recruit them in enabling small businesses to succeed.
o   Provide training in all aspects of entrepreneurship. In my view this is the key to development, eradication of crime, handling the food and energy crisis and education in South Africa. Enforce entrepreneurship.
o   Set up a Venture Capital Fund to provide prospective entrepreneurs with interest free loans. These must be given after a rigorous selection process of examining business plans and ensuring that they have a high likelihood of success.
o   The capital for this fund can come from major multinational companies operating in South Africa as part of their CSR. I know this is being done by some progressive CEO’s but it must be hugely boosted. I believe that the way to do that is by creating a full-fledged Venture Capital Fund that is available to all aspiring entrepreneurs. Business CEO’s will recognize the value of such a fund and will fully support it. Invite them to sit on the Board and run it – not government bureaucrats. We need businessmen/women to run this Fund.
o   Pair new entrepreneurs with established businessmen and women who can coach and mentor them.
o   Set up a National Entrepreneurship University that trains in all kinds of vocational skills and starting up businesses.
o   Award Prizes for successful startup ventures in all provinces and at the national level. These should be significant monetary awards that encourage people to participate and are worth working for.
o   Institute special prizes for entrepreneurial initiatives in key areas like poverty eradication, alternate energy, education, food production, transportation, health management and other high need areas. Prizes must take into account, innovativeness, social consciousness, creativity.

A vibrant middle class is essential to survival in any economy. The bigger the middle class the bigger the market for goods and services and more money flows into the economy and is available for public services like healthcare, education, transport and so on. Contrary to the myth of trickle down, money doesn’t flow down from the superrich or from global multinational corporations into local economies. The superrich don’t use local services, live in ivory tower isolation and are generally unaffected by local conditions as they are surrounded by cordons of insulation. Multinational corporations are answerable to their shareholders who don’t live in Soweto (so to speak) and so they don’t care what happens in local economies. Many don’t even employ local people, except in menial jobs because locals may not have the education and skills that they need.

Countries like India and China score over South Africa in this regard because we have a very strong education and skill base and can actually provide potential employers, people of equal competence at a much lower cost. That’s not the best USP – buy me because I am cheap – but it works for a while anyway to build a middle class. South Africa has a lot of catching up to do. However, I believe that if the things that I have mentioned above are done and done urgently, then South Africa will be able to solve its problems of crime, unemployment and political unrest and create a stable, vibrant middle class with a high standard of living.