Monday 4 May 2015

South Africa: Enter the soapbox European

We expect and intend
One thing that fills me with pride as a European is the embracing sense of humanity that we tend to have that tends to seek to treat others with respect and dignity. Sometimes, in our rush to help situations we might miss out on essential elements of custom, tradition, beliefs, setting or understanding that could make our intrusiveness and interventions in the quest for the greater good unwelcome. We mean well, even if we are naïve.
I have a tendency to carry around my European world-view wherever I go and where I do observe situations I find somewhat intolerable, you will find me doing something about it.
I returned to my hotel to meet a sense of unhelpfulness that I tolerated until we were hit with load shedding that led to a power outage of almost two hours. I am sure, I read somewhere in the hotel about banishing the inconvenience of load shedding which has been a problem in South Africa recently.
Serving the lights out
When the generators were switched on, only single lights in the apartments were powered, the sockets were dead and well, the emergency lightings and lifts were still operational.
This meant my laptop ran until it conked out, there was no television to watch, but the complimentary wireless Internet service was still operational. Going down to the restaurant, the tables had candlelight, this was not going to be a romantic dinner for one.
The waiter had torches and the kitchen had no hot food to offer. Not a situation I liked at all. I returned to my room to have biscuits when the reception were not as helpful as would have expected in helping me order a takeaway meal.
I was ready to go to bed on an empty stomach when the lights were restored, it gave me time to fix my South African phone and contemplate a second visit to the restaurant. After sitting for about 10 minutes, I got to remonstrate with the waiters to attend to me promptly before I got the service I went there for.
Trying for a pass
The starter I wanted yesterday was again not available today, but the mushroom soup starter and ostrich fillet main course appeared to make up for the unfortunate showing yesterday. By my rating, this is NOT a 5-star hotel, it does not even aspire to be anywhere near a good 4-star hotel either.
Yet, it might appear that I am blinkered by my First World problems mind-set, but knowing what comfort and convenience along with good customer service is, verdict comes in at below par, they are trying, but this leaves many of us in a quite trying situation, whether this redeemable, we’ll just have to see.
The day at work was ordinary and hectic, signing in myself, my computers and other extraneous activities and protocols that tested my patience almost to the point of exasperation. The indignities people suffer in these climes will not be attempted in Europe.
This is not us
However, it was visiting a venue where we engage a number of technical personnel down a convoluted contract chain that left me utterly appalled.
The room had no natural light, the air-conditioning was barely functions, and the air reeked of ozone emissions from an overcrowded computer building facility where the owners or the building had pasted signs prohibiting any kind of recording equipment for recording videos or photographs.
We were watched intently from each corner by cameras in what was essentially a sweatshop by generous assessment. It might have lacked sewing machines, but with my European eyes, I did not believe anyone should be working in those conditions.
More pertinently, I do not believe anyone engaged by my company to deliver the kind of critical infrastructure they deliver for us should be working in those conditions.
Use your leverage for good not for cost alone
It behoves my organisation it impress on the contractual chain to either move this activity to other premises, or make it more habitable. In the first 5 minutes, I was beginning to feel claustrophobic.
Yet, much as the people working there might not have the clout or say in determining the conditions in which they work, we should be ashamed of ourselves that some of my colleagues from the UK had seen these premises have never had the gumption to make this a matter of decency and dignity above the issue of cost.
This is why I hate politics in all its ramifications, from the government to the office, people are pandering and genuflecting, in personal quests for position and authority no matter whose ox is gored, forgetting their humanity and sense of empathy and compassion. It ought not be so, and I will be make representations to my line management to facilitate necessary change with the leverage we have got to make things good for those who are our partners, even if by an arm’s length, to making a success of what we do.
We owe them that much and much more, we lift people up not tread on them like grass, because whatever comes at the end of that, no matter how successful is done on the backs of others without and sense of nobility or honour. That is why, I am proud to be a European and I am proud of the values that has imparted to me and my world view.

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