” If South Africa was a hospital patient, and the GDP the measure of its pulse, the doctor would be telling relatives to get ready for the worst.” That is how Bruce Whitfield uprightly describes the current economic trajectory of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration in his new book simply titled The Upside of Down-How Chaos and Uncertainty Breed Opportunity in South Africa. South Africa’s socioeconomic travails are well-documented, stubbornly high unemployment rate, high levels of inequality, limping economy, failing state-owned enterprises and recently the uncontrollable spreading of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In this educative and informative political economy book, Whitfield is not rehashing nor reminding us of all our problems that our minds are too familiar with, however, he is making a clarion call to every patriotic South Africans to not despair by the current negative picture, but to collectively take appropriate actions to confront all these challenges that are facing and threatening to make South Africa a ‘forgotten country’.
Perusing through the pages of this book, I get a sense that Whitfield like many other patriotic South Africans is tired of forever talking and nursing all the problems confronting us, and he is now pleading with everyone in different sectors, from business, government, civil society, and ordinary South Africans to all come together in finding solutions that will take the country out of its current doldrums. This is public-interest writing at its best.
While the author acknowledges that there were quite a few missteps made in the previous administration of Jacob Zuma, with the sacking of Nhlanhla Nene from the Finance Ministry the backdrop of the current mess, he is adamant that the present crises afford everyone an opportunity to create something good that will benefit the country and her next generation.
Reading this book, I was made to feel like I have a responsibility as a citizen to play my role in seizing up every opportunity to turn around my life for the better. We often cry about how the government is failing to create jobs and rightly so, however, the scribe in no uncertain terms makes it clear that the ball is in our court to create economic opportunities in spaces around us as he provides numerous examples of how other ordinary South Africans and business leaders successfully achieved their goals in the current undesirable economic climate.
Whitfield’s voice in this book is authoritative and one that will require everyone to listen attentively in order to make South Africa great again. The Upside of Down reminds us that we, that is all South Africans, poor and rich, have an opportunity to set our economy and our hard-earned democracy on the path of prosperity once more if we keep a positive mindset and work together. I am glad that the often hilarious Whitfield did not use those economic jargons, but a simple language to put his message across even for Petrus in Papierstad to easily comprehend. A must-read for all patriotic South Africans, who want to see South Africa back to her glory days once more.