Max du Preez

The powerful poor

2011-05-11 14:04

The poor in South Africa must be very powerful people. All the parties contesting the upcoming local elections are bragging how much they care about the poor and how much they are going to do for them.

In fact, looking after the downtrodden (or not) is the only real issue parties debate in the election campaign.

If a visitor from Mars were to land here and listened to the politicians boast how much they had done for the poor, he would surely believe Diepsloot and Masiphumelele were leafy suburbs with neat houses, all with Jacuzzis and air conditioning.

The point, of course, is that the majority of those eligible to vote are poor, and the poor are angry because after seventeen years of democracy little has changed for them.

The ANC are loudest about their passion for the poor, because they must take most blame for the neglect of those who still struggle to survive - they are the party in power in all but one province and in all but a few local councils. They control the national budget.

But the DA is not far behind with their heartfelt concerns about poverty, because most poor people are black and if the DA is judged as ignoring the poor, they would qualify as ugly white racists, and that would mean they won’t grow the number of black people voting for them.

And that would mean the DA will stagnate, because apart from a few right wingers, all the white people are already voting for them.

The middle classes and the fat cats from all persuasions have now joined in the farce, blaming and boasting, counter-blaming and counter-boasting, as if they really care two hoots about those who live in shacks with no sanitation or running water.

The competition for the title of chief champion of the poor is now so stiff that some politicians are even insulting a large chunk of voters, like Julius Malema calling all whites criminals and Tony Ehrenreich dumping on rich white scumbags at every occasion.

You know the political debate has gone completely bonkers when Ehrenreich starts attacking bicycle lanes and rapid bus systems intended to relieve traffic congestion as racist and further privilege for the rich whites.

Rich people don’t really ride bikes to work or use public transport, comrade, just go and ask your rich buddies Julius, Floyd and Blade. Strictly Mercs, BMWs and Range Rovers.

Poor Tony has the unenviable job to explain to those of the poor formerly classified as coloured why Jimmy Manyi is still the main cheese in the ANC after saying coloureds shouldn’t bitch about unemployment because there are too many of them in the Cape.

How about campaigning for a bicycle lane and a rapid bus system all the way from the Cape Flats to Jozi, Tony?

I live in a very modest middle class suburb. If I did take politicians seriously, I would have been concerned that if all the money went to the poor, our inner cities would deteriorate fast.

When the next local elections come around, political parties will then zoom in on people like me with promises that they will fix the decay and the slums that were once functional suburbs.

Let’s face it, only one thing is certain: after May 18 the poor will be completely forgotten again, irrespective of who wins or loses the elections.

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