As WE wind down 2016, it is only proper to reflect and characterize the year we are about to end.
As a Country we face crisis after crisis mainly because of poor leadership. Bumpy, challenging and full of anxious moments is how one would characterize this year.
On the political front, we had our president pronounced by the Constitutional Court to have violated his oath office. This was the first judgement of this nature in post-apartheid South Africa. In a democracy, one cannot, short of a coup, think of any worse political challenge.
The dislodgement of the ruling party from three metros ushered in moments of anxiety, albeit short-lived. The loss was no doubt a shock to the ruling party and its supporters. At another level, it indicated the maturation of our democracy. The ruling party accepted the defeat and the heavens didn't fall.
But the shock waves of these events are still being felt in the ruling party. Recent attempts to recall President Jacob Zuma can be traced to the ConCourt ruling and the performance of the ANC during the local government elections.
Though the jury is still out on the public protector's state capture report (the president is taking it up on review), its contents crowned our political challenges. Whichever way one looks at it, that report does not make for pleasant reading. If its observations are correct, that should concern every shareholder in SA Incorporated, as it were.
On the economic front, there are own goals we scored. The fiasco surrounding the charging of (Finance) Minister Pravin Gordhan, and the market jitters that went with it, could have been avoided. The country didn't have to go through that anxiety only for the charges to be withdrawn. That was downright silly and there we inflicted an injury upon ourselves.
Growth remains sluggish - the SA Reserve Bank has forecast 0.4percent for this year and slightly more than 1percent next year and 2018. This rate is not big enough to help us tackle our high figures of unemployment. More needs to be done to encourage investment - local and foreign – to stimulate growth.
For the better part of this year, we lived with an economic axe hanging over our heads. We were facing a downgrade to junk status by the rating agencies.
It was a sigh of relief when all of them last week kept South Africa in the international investment grade. While we should celebrate this and commend the collective effort by government, business and labour in staving off a downgrade, there is something about lowering the bar when what we celebrate is beating junk rather than beating unemployment or low economic growth. This is an indication of how low we have come.
Economic inequality, corruption, lack of efficiency in government, especially at municipal level, rising unemployment among our youth and lack of social cohesion are some of the issues that confronted us this year.
And we dare not forget about the funding challenges of higher education which came to a head this year. The fees must fall protests, noble a cause as they may be, nearly brought down our higher education system. The violence and destruction of property that sometimes accompanied the protests were unfortunate.
On the religious front, we saw the emergence of strange phenomena - feeding people with snakes, grass and petrol and of late spraying congregants with insecticide. This is all madness and one cannot wait for the implementation of some of the recommendations contained in the report by the CRL Commission (Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities) following its inquiry into commercialisation of religion.
In spite of all the challenges we faced this year, there are a number of ordinary citizens who have made us proud. These include Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya who brought us gold from the 2016 Olympics, and Mamelodi Sundowns who were crowned African Kings by winning the CAF champions league.
I have hope in my heart there are good men and women in this country who will make sure we do not self-destruct, remain vigilant and protect our democracy whenever we are called to do so.
I also pay tribute to John Robbie who will soon be retiring after an illustrious career in radio. A naturalised South African, Robbie has played his role in advancing our country forward and we wish him a happy retirement.
Pastor Ray McCauley is the president of Rhema Family Churches and co-chairman of the National Religious Leaders Council