In our view

Citizens will find their world 'very slightly changed' after May 18 - SATURDAY WEEKEND ARGUS, Life Etc 14 May 2011

SOUTH AFRICANS will next week to be flocking to the voting stations and in the remaining days political parties are sure to pull out all the stops to woo voters one last time. Not surprisingly, and like the previous years, the poor and the marginalised in our country are again the objects of politicians' feigned affection. Around the country, the election campaigns of the ANC and DA alike have been devised around promises to the indigent. In Cape Town, things have been no different and the city's two most well-known mayoral candidates, Tony Ehrenreich for the ANC and Patricia de Lille for the DA, have made many - and often perilous - undertakings to the poor communities since the beginning of their campaigns.

 

As in war, one of the first casualties during an election is often the truth and Ehrenreich and De Lille's promises seem somewhat elusive. Ehrenreich, for example, has promised, if elected mayor, that he would build social housing in Constantia, the most affluent neighbourhood in Cape Town. De Lille, in turn, said backyard dwellers and the homeless would be a priority if she gets the thumbs-up. He would be a "special friend" to the poor; Ehrenreich fired away She has always been pro-poor, De Lille hit back. And so it goes. Whether the new mayor will actually fulfil election promises remains to be seen.

Capetonians should not hold their breaths, though. As political analyst Nic Borain so aptly remarked in his recent blog, we will find a world "very slightly changed" after all the electioneering of the past few months. It is not the intention of this article to discourage South Africans from making their crosses on Wednesday. On the contrary The notion that non-voters should not complain about the government is, in my opinion, spot-on. As much as voting is "the right thing to do", it is the elected government's responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its citizens through delivering basic services and so forth. The real question is: where does the state's responsibility end and where does it begin for the citizenry?

The answer to this question was given at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF), held in Cape Town last week. At the three-day event, attended by business and government leaders from over the world, the Africa Progress Report for 2011, themed "The transformative power of partnerships", was hunched. Partnerships are, according to the report, a volmtary relationship between various organisations. Partnerships make it possible to overcome challaiges that are too difficult or complex for one sector to address alone.

Partnerships between government, donors, tip private sector and civil society are crucial if Africa wants to solve it many developmental problems, such as poverty reduction, health, echcation and service delivery. Similarly, SoLth Africa will only be able to solve its own dilemmas, which are manifold, through partnerships between the government, business, civil s)ciety, private philanthropy and individuals on the ground. Who should do what in such a partnership?

First, government: good governance is key to progress and the government is therefore obliged to structure proper polices and frameworks, as well as provide financial incentives that will make partnerships attractive. Second, business: the private sector could play its part by developing business models in such a way that it embraces corporate social responsibility for example by including the poor and local communities in their value chain and by sharing knowledge and expertise.

Third, civil society: whether a faith-based, non-profit, or citizen organisation, civil society is the "main ingredient" in partnerships. Civil society often acts as the glue that holds partnerships together by mediating and facilitating them. The fourth partner sector is private philanthropy. Through gifts of money or time, private philan- thropists express support for causes or issues that are worthy of attention, to the benefit of the public good. Finally, individual citizens have a key role to play and there needs to be a greater emphasis on self-reliance, with citizens playing a part in their own advancement. This can include small changes such as ensuring that children get to school on time, or larger commitments such as participating in community endeavours.

The formation of partnerships should not remain as proverbial pie in the sky. Speaking at the WEF, Graca Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development in Mozambique, gave an example of how well partnerships between civil society, business and government could work. "In Mozambique, where I come from, we have our own `G20'," she told delegates. The "G20" she referred to was 20 networks of civil society and business people. These networks have annual meetings with the Mozambican government and together they discuss and exchange ideas about policy development. In this way, citizens have the opportunity to participate in the government's decision-making processes, she explained.

Imagine what such partnerships could mean for South Africa. While electioneering towards voting day, the real work begins after the election when we must establish how best to structure partnerships to place South Africa on an exponential growth path once and for all. Gastrow is the CEO for Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement.