R. Rose
December 17, 2013
LIAT accountability and post-Mandela

In relation to the late Nelson Mandela, I confess that I subscribe to Winston Soso’s kaiso claim that ” too much is not enough”. Thus, this week, I intend to follow up last week’s column with another look at South Africa in the challenging post-Mandela era.{{more}}

However, I divert slightly at the beginning, responding to a request of a fellow-traveller who was enduring the usual LIAT experience in trying to get home on the weekend. That fate is one very familiar to all Vincentians who fly in or out of our beloved land, so there is no need for me to give details; it was just another of the customary frustrations. Many of the other home-bound Vincies were not so stoic or tolerant and my fellow-traveller was quite vocal about it, exhorting me to “put something in the paper” about it.

But what more can we say about LIAT and the frustrations that its customers suffer all too often, not always the fault of the airline? How do you ask for further patience and understanding, given the long history? What is clear to me is that both management of the airline and its shareholders, the government of SVG in particular, have a herculean task in trying to improve the tainted image of LIAT and to get the travelling public to understand the circumstances under which the airline operates.

A very BIG effort is needed in the New Year, but this must be accompanied by demonstrable improvements in communication with customers, level of service, accountability and transparency. The more the frustrations build up, the more are customers likely to forget objectivity and subscribe to all, kinds of counter-productive demands. Everyone talks of the need for “competition for LIAT,” but how is this to materialize? Who is willing to make the level of investment in such a venture in which so many others have failed? Even the long-desired inter-island ferry service is still awaiting investors.

This, of course, is no excuse for poor service and lack of regard for the customers. Busy seasons like these create many difficulties and it is the duty of management and shareholders to rise to the occasion. Please, let us see some concrete steps in the New Year; our patience has been exhausted!


Now that Mandela has been laid to rest, South Africa, and indeed the rest of the African continent must face up squarely to life without his larger-than-life presence. With his powerful stabilizing force gone, how will his people fare? Who will provide the leadership necessary to accomplish the multiple tasks of keeping the country together, developing the economy and, above all, making a huge dent in the blatant manifestations of inequality, racism and abject poverty, the continuing plight of millions of black South Africans?

It is true, as some are quick to remind us, that Mandela has not been at the helm of leadership for more than a decade now, and it is equally true that his five-year tenure in the presidency did not bring the type of progress in the economic field for blacks as anticipated. This has caused some writers and commentators to speak of Mandela being over-praised, pointing out that he was only “human”, with all the frailties and weaknesses that plague humankind. That fact, however, demonstrates that Mandela’s achievements were all the more remarkable for those of a mere mortal.

There are some who lament Mandela’s failure to resolve the lop-sided land issue in South Africa and to bring about reparation for the gross injustices in depriving the Africans of land ownership in their own homeland. Calls are being made for a solution along the lines of the Zimbabwe experience, where Robert Mugabe has moved to put that country’s resources largely into black hands. However, South Africa is a far different case from Zimbabwe. Yes, the inequality in land and resource ownership must be addressed, but one must forever be mindful of the specific situation in South Africa and ending up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Leadership is going to be a critical element in the South African equation. Mandela was the glue of wisdom which kept the racially divided country together, whose respect was such that not only blacks and whites could unite under his banner, but also the various tribes and political strands could co-exist without tearing the nation apart. Can Jacob Zuma do this? Can the ANC survive intact and continue to provide the type of leadership required?

To its credit, Mandela’s ANC has kept the South African economy afloat and has, while not enough, brought about positive social changes in the South African landscape. But the past week has again revealed huge chinks in its once impregnable armour. The booing of President Zuma during the memorial service, while disrespectful of Mandela, was itself an indication of how he is regarded in some circles, not a very worthy successor to the great man. The squalor existing in the townships and rural areas clearly indicates the economic apartheid that still exists.

In the face of this, there is a growing sentiment that many in the leadership of the ANC are placing personal enrichment and advancement above the lofty ideals for which Mandela and Sisulu fought and for which thousands died. President Zuma himself is the subject of a damning enquiry into the alleged use of public funds to build a luxury compound at a cost of over US $ 200 million. The preliminary report speaks of him having to repay the state and explain to Parliament.

The ANC was almost a sacred force in fighting apartheid, but its credentials are now being severely tested. Sadly, it will no longer have Tata’s tremendous stature to lean on. It must show its true mettle.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com- mentator.