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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Day 675: Criminal Governance

Having lived my whole life in South Africa I am no stranger to seeing and experiencing the effects of an incompetent and short sighted government. Aside from the frequent tax-funded luxury houses, cars, travel and parties, it seems at times as if the government is not trying to make like better or easier for the citizens of the nation, but that they are actively trying to spread misery and inequality.

Let's take the recent changes in the visa laws. If someone marries a South African citizen, you used to be able to get a spousal visa and renew it from inside or outside the country. Now, and visa that you apply for must be done from your country of citizenship. You can renew your spousal visa from inside South Africa, but no one seems to really know how to do it, so majority of the applications since the implementation of the new law have been declined. This means that people who are living in South Africa with their spouse and children are faced
with 3 choices:
  1. Appeal - if unsuccessful and your visa expired in the process of the appeal you will be forced to leave the country and be banned from reentry for 5 years.
  2. Leave the country and try again from the country where you are a citizen.
  3. Stay in the country illegally. If caught, you will be deported and banned from reentry for 5 years.
During the application process, you are likely to be misinformed of the required documents and the nature of the procedure more than once. Every person within the government working in the immigration/visa department will probably give you different information and contradict one another. You will also have to contend with the slow service of any government institution from which you must obtain documentation. Don't forget the forever imminent postal services strike - South Africa experiences at least one postal service strike per year.

As if it's not enough that no one knows how the procedure works, every one of them also appears to be completely incompetent and lacking in any kind of compassion. This particular visa application requires a minimum of 8 - 10 weeks to process. If you do it in another country it will take about 10 working days. Somehow that's supposed to make sense.

The government also seems to believe that outsourcing every service is the best solution, which means that if you pay a few hundred Rands you can skip queues when applying for your visa and sit in the executive lounge. Obviously this indicates what the real priorities of the government are - especially considering that every time you have to re-apply for something you have to pay all the fees again. This holds true for all branches of government - and most often the need to re-apply is directly caused by incompetence on the part of officials.

This is merely one example of the current state of governance in South Africa - it is not the only one and I am sure that this is not the only country that has a government that makes you want to carve your leg off with a fork after having to deal with them.

Governments should not be making our lives more difficult. We should not dread dealing with them. The people who choose public service should not despise and resent the public. Government officials should want to be guardians of peoples' rights. The leaders of a government should not be greedy and "lose" public funds in big houses, fast cars and fancy parties. Public servants should live by principles that value the needs and rights of people more than their personal advancement or wealth.

It's easy to say what the government should and shouldn't do. The reality is that all governments are made up of people, and it will be the morals and principles of those people that will determine the nature of the government. It is currently the presiding norms of society will be reflected in the actions of governments - so it is time for us to take a good look at what our governments are showing us about the world we create and participate in. We may not each be able to make a large difference on our own, but when we stand together within certain principles we can truly create the world we would like to live in.

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