Opinion piece by: Russel Morena, SAIGA Chief Executive Officer

One side of each paper note of the South African currency has a famous smile emblazoned. So, paired with the twinkle are the happy eyes of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. From the beam of his peepers, something of a reflection could get sighted. Without a doubt, the wishes and a vision rise deep from the heart of a doyen of leadership. That is a man that gave twenty-seven years and more of his life to fighting for the freedoms of all South Africans. 

His hope of human ascending is a dream of a South Africa where all who live in it prosper. It is a sight closer to the line of thinking associated with the father of the nation. Therefore, as we celebrate Nelson Mandela International Month, the Southern African Institute of Government Auditors (SAIGA) says let us strive to uphold one of Mandela’s views. Such reverie is of a South Africa whose private and public assets contribute towards improving the lives of all who live in the beloved country of breathtaking scenery. Equally, his sight is of a nation of peace and well-being.

In the early 1990s, Mandela spoke of developing a South African economy whose resources would uproot the majority from poverty, diseases, illiteracy and joblessness. Moreover, in a 1994 pre-election debate, the former president said South Africa is not a resources lacking country. He promised the absence of a gravy train in his administration. On top of that, he declared the end of the endemic corruption of apartheid. 

“We have committed to having leaders that live lives similar to those of (people in) the community. We are not going to live like fat cats,” said the first democratically elected South African President in an all-inclusive poll.

Thus presently becoming paramount is the matter of how public funds get spent. How much of a gain can citizens point to as worthy public benefiting expenditure?

It is heartbreaking that political and private business patronage, among others, have resulted in millions hardly enjoying the prosperous and peaceful vision of Tata Mandela.

According to tradingeconomics.com, as of December 2021, the South African government debt stands at 69.90 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. It is a pity such high debt is, to a certain degree, owing to holes created by corruption, looting and mismanagement. Meanwhile, the household debt stands at 67 per cent.

Still, not all hope should get lost in despair. Because to do so will be to accept defeat when there is light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, the glimmer of hope referred to is in the shape of the collective embrace. Yes, a citizen’s adoption of responsibility for their affairs and that of the South African state.

Now, July is also known as savings month. That being the case, the citizens who come and should come first ought to be the ones taking initial steps to mend the dire situation of indebtedness. Citizens have a role to play in saving the nation from the social indispositions of wasteful expenditure.

They could lead from the front in taking a stand to, first themselves, use the money at their disposal for reasons deliberate in desire for progressive change. 

SAIGA encourages that where there are government and state-owned enterprises spend, such should happen sensibly and responsibly. South Africa and its people should strive for the pride of place in the list of nations that save the most. Currently, African countries hardly appear on the list. A safety net comes in handy to cushion in times of economic hardships.

In conclusion, a set-up of one vision, mission and commitment to action leading towards a better life should help bring peace, security and prosperity in our communities. Each must help bring about the development to reflect the Mandela smile rising, like the never failing sun of Mpumalanga, on the South African paper note currency.