“This is the same kind of vanity that enables a provincial police commissioner to dare take a four kilometer trip to go have tea or breakfast at a Wimpy in an official helicopter. A whole government helicopter, just to go have a cup of tea at some chain restaurant?”
A certain, most disturbing trend is sweeping through the length and breath of South Africa. Pomp, it seems, has become the new measure of delivery and success. The way things are done, one would swear that the more pompous the act is, the better the rewards will be. The country has been turned into a hive of excessive ceremony. Pomp, it seems, surpasses essence by a long mile
This disturbing trend can be traced from as far back as the birthing process. For example, you will find that even in the midst of abject poverty, an expectant mother would be thrown a lavish baby shower. Even though the mother-to-be will be unable to afford regular visits to a gynecologist, a baby shower worth more than the total cost of all the prenatal gynecologist visits may, somehow, still find accommodation. This pomp and ceremony is all done in the name of celebrating the wonder of conception as well as preparation for the arrival of the baby. Without doubt, a very noble idea.
However, more often than not, the expecting parents will still need to spend lots of money on baby essentials before and after birth, despite the presents that came with the ceremonial baby shower and the cost attached thereto. Why not tone down significantly on the baby shower hosting expenditure and save that money so that it can be directly invested in the newborn? Pomp over essence right there, I dare say.
Then the child gets born and once more, celebration after celebration becomes the order of the day. A ceremony gets organised for every conceivable milestone. Mind you, all these ceremonies are, naturally, accompanied by huge expenses.
There also is this new trend to have what is called a baby launch. Yes, you heard correctly, a baby launch. This is another ceremony of pomp where the baby is “unveiled” to the world. Family, friends, acquaintances and random folk, are invited and entertained. At this event, well wishes and sometimes blessings, are directed at the newborn. There may also be presents that accompany the well wishes. Once again – and more often than not – the gifts received are outstripped by the costs of organising the actual do. Pomp over purpose right there.
Birthdays will follow the same trend. Grand parties will be organised at great cost throughout the childhood. An example would be a third year birthday celebration that will out price the yearly fees to a good kindergarten by a mile. Yet, the parents will cry poverty when they lament the inability of their precious toddlers to benefit when the parents find that they cannot afford to send their brood to these progressive preschool facilities. Pomp, once again, would have outshone purpose.
The sweet-sixteen birthday bash has the same effect. Huge amounts are, yet again, spent on ceremonial splendour. Then follows the all important matriculation dance. During this single event, money gets splurged on designer, once-of apparel. Outfits are procured that are so gorgeous, they turn our teenagers into instant princess and princesses. Then, together with a high-end hosting venue, we throw an exotic form of transportation into the mix and voila` – the ultimate scene is set for the most perfect high school farewell function. The exorbitant cost of all this pomp only gets fully realised when the parents of the now successful matriculant fail to advance the first year tertiary education registration fees. Yeah, yeah, yeah – by now you know – pomp over essence. We shall talk about how we jealously defend and justify the need for this vanity some other day.
Our governance is the same. In many cases, the cost of the planning as well as the launching ceremonies of developmental projects are found to outweigh by far, the monetary investment into the delivery of said projects. Endless road shows, plenaries, iindaba, conferences and iimbizo would be held for projects without any tangible results. After all this costly pomp and ceremony, projects will fall flat because of depleted funds.
The wastage on the 2022 Durban Commonwealth games bid is a case in point. After spending millions of rands to successfully bid for the right to host the games, South Africa got stripped of the right to host the games due to poor planning and the inability to come up with the hosting finances. Why go through an extravagant bidding process when you know that your pockets are not that deep? All the pomp and pretending to be able to deliver, once again, came to nought.
In retrospect, it will be determined that had the administration scaled down on the pretentiousness and concentrated more on the essence of the project, a lot more could have been done. In short, these ceremonial tendencies cost money that could be better used in the actual implementation and the successful completion of projects. They also create fertile grounds for corruption and maladministration.
This is the same kind of vanity that enables a provincial police commissioner to dare take a four kilometer trip to go have tea or breakfast at a Wimpy in an official helicopter. A whole government helicopter just to go have a cup of tea at some chain restaurant? Wow! What audacity?
It comes as no wonder then, that we have a state president that boasts the controversial iNkandla and a country that has already been relegated to sub-investment sovereign grade by two rating agencies – with the third one likely to follow suit soon.
We are in trouble – sisenjeni!