An Angry Nation rages over inequality

2011-07-02 09:19

Some weeks ago City Press ran a series of articles called the Phuza Nation to highlight South Africa’s dangerous love affair with alcohol.

It now seems timeous to run a similar series, but this time a series focusing on our anger. We are an angry people and fast becoming even angrier.

We are an angry people with a lot to be angry about.

Communities and individuals are lashing out in various ways. In many instances the anger is disproportionate to the crime supposedly committed.

Unhappily, in many more cases the angry seek out the weakest and most marginalised in society.

Just this week the people of Zandspruit, northwest of Johannesburg, took to the streets to protest against a councillor they had elected only six weeks ago. Surely they could not have expected that their councillor would dramatically change their lives in such a short time.

As is the case in many incidents of what pass for “service delivery” protests, it is very likely that the Zandspruit situation was a consequence of a community that knows it is angry, but is struggling to find and name the object of its ire.

In Port Elizabeth it has become something of a sport to stone alleged criminals to death. People do these things as their children watch.
What is more sickening is that locals are happy to appear on national television to talk about how they sorted out the troublesome criminals.

All over the country expatriates are attacked and murdered for no other reason than that they originate from a different country. Their killers show no fear of reprisal.

Young women are brutally raped and mercilessly slaughtered just because they fall in love with other women. As with those who murder foreigners, there does not appear to be a sense that those who commit these crimes will ever face ­justice.

In Cape Town a community stoned a pack of dogs to death.

Admittedly the dogs had dragged a young child off and mauled it to death. The community’s reaction of taking puppies born of one of the dogs and leaving them on a rail line so that they would be run over by a train revealed a vindictive spirit that went beyond the mere seeking of justice for the injured child.

This week Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that nearly three quarters of all children in primary school could not read or write in keeping with the expectations of the classes they were in.

Without a proper educational foundation these children are doomed to go through their lives on a wing and a prayer.

In the event that they do get to matric they are not likely to have the requirements to meet the rigorous demands of a higher education.

It is no great wonder that we have an ever-growing group of young people who are angry and disaffected.

About 40% of people under the age of 30 have never been in formal employment.

One in 30 young people who have passed matric are at home looking after younger siblings while many of those with FET qualifications and other post-matric education and training sit at home with ever-dwindling hopes of finding a job in their chosen vocation.

What is to be done?

Instead of treating the various episodes of ­angry outbursts separately it would help if we as a nation tackled the root causes of our anger. The state has to lead the line in addressing this anger before it becomes a defining feature of being South African.

This national anger is a greater threat than any cross-border foe. It is a powder keg waiting for the smallest flicker to cause an explosion that we will all find difficult to recover from.

It is also fertile organising ground for petty fascists and demagogues who see a people’s anger as an exploitable political opportunity.

In the main, relative inequality is to blame for why so many of our compatriots are as angry as they are. It is of course no reason nor justification for them to commit egregious acts of terror against their fellow human beings.

The state, the private sector and civil society must come together to find lasting solutions to the spreading cancer of anger.

And while the country searches for the grand solution to the problem, each one of us must watch their tongue and take personal responsibility for their actions.

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