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Ending social neglect

21 August 2012, 11:33

Thousands of angry and protesting black South African citizens are regularly expressing their frustration with the conditions in which they have to live and work in their country of birth.

They take to the streets, marching, chanting, dancing, burning tires and setting fire to public buildings. Some tragically lost their lives over low wages and poor living conditions in the recent skirmishes with police at a mine in North-West province. People had arrived at a space in their lives where their desperation with the suffering and squalor in their environment had become unbearable.

This is making them angry and driving them into the streets. They had been observing how the new elite were coming into possession of assets, money, shares in mines and best in class homes and vehicles, without sharing with them the fruits of the new democracy for which they had also struggled and voted. They are feeling cheated and doomed to live their lives in the same conditions that had surrounded them for decades before the advent of democracy in 1994. The hope of a better life for all, a dream that their hero Mandela had inspired in them, had vanished.

The only thing they sense, is the appalling conditions in which they live and work, the greed and extravagance of the ruling elite and employers, failing infrastructure, poor services, violence, poor schools, poor wages and work scarcity. Those in government, who have the authority and the means to eradicate and change the dismal conditions in which more than a million households in South Africa live every day, are not taking radical action to turn the situation around.

They have been making plans to grow the economy and create eleven million more jobs by 2030, trusting in the power and resonance of capitalism. Until then, people must be willing to tolerate the social neglect. Social neglect is the absence of self-respect, inclusiveness, generosity, kindness, caring, fairness and meaningful intervention in the lives of people living in the more than two thousand informal settlements in South Africa.

Social negligence is at the heart of our broken social fabric, with thousands of homeless children on the streets, thousands of single-parent families and hundreds of thousands living their lives in shacks or derelict buildings that don’t offer any convenience or shelter against the elements. Millions people go to work tired everyday, without the benefit of a nutritious meal or sound sleep the night before. Our prisons are full to the hilt, so much so that people have to be set free. Young children don’t experience engaged parenting, safe homes, nutrition, proper schooling and playgrounds. Their birthdays are not celebrated and their development is not nurtured.

They are not taught individual responsibility, self-reliance, achievement, excellence, values, selflessness, enterprise, which lead to social equity and inclusiveness in communities, factors that induce a progressive, harmonious and engaged society. They grow up in neighborhoods invested and intimidated by gangs and drug dependants.

Many people in government know the factors that induce poverty first hand, such as the life in ghettos and slums and the pathologies that feed off poverty. But the aspiration, desire, will and commitment to bring about radical change to social neglect is not there. Radical change would require that every ghetto, slum area and informal settlement in South Africa, be targeted for evacuation and destruction, be made a no-go area for new residents, with present residents evacuated according to a evacuation time-line and budget to new suburbs and homes that offer the conditions that will inspire cohesive and progressive families and engaged communities, the roots of a new society. Social negligence is the central issue to be resolved, the brain cancer to be removed, far more critical than job creation and enterprise development. J

Job creation, enterprise development and prosperity will be the fruits of a central strategy and war to end social neglect.

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