Gugulethu: A dream deferred

2015-06-04 06:00



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I once sat at a meeting in Gugulethu,in 1995, although almost everything about that meeting has since faded away.

The names and faces of the people in that room have also faded away with time.

The details about that meeting are murky, but what I recall is that the participants all shared the vision of an alternative society.

“Our vision is to turn Gugulethu into a suburb in the next ten years.”

Twenty years later, Gugulethu prides itself of being the only township to have a fully-fledged mall in their doorstep.

We will not go into the intricacies of who has real ownership of the Gugulethu shopping mall and the economy of extraction which leaves townships poorer, all in the name of infrastructural development and job creation.

Langa the oldest township has none, the closest shopping mall for the Langa residents is Vangate Mall, catering to the needs of Heideveld, Surrey Estate, Bontehuewel and the adjacent communities.

Khayelitsha has a string of shops connected at the hip; I don’t know if that qualifies for a shopping mall.

When Cape Town is viciously wet and cold customers in the so-called mall, bear the brunt.

A dream deferred

Unfortunately, with Gugulethu Mall towering over the community, Gugulethu has not become a suburb, in fact, Gugulethu is worse off today than it was when we were sitting in that room twenty years ago.

Uluntu Centre, where the meeting was held two decades ago, is today a symbol of what has become of Gugulethu in the last twenty years.

The centre was once the beacon of light with service providers, from computer schools, youth development organizations, an Early Childhood Development Centre, doctor’s consulting rooms including an optometrist.

Today, Uluntu is a ghost of its former self.

Ravaged by poverty, unemployment, crime and many other social ills, Gugulethu and many other townships were historically designed as socially engineered hubs of cheap labour.

Gugulethu was established in the 1960’s as an extension of Langa. Townships are suffering accumulative effects of almost one hundred years of separate development, underdevelopment and decades of being under resourced.

With the lack of integrated town planning by officialdom, and because of migration, South African townships like Gugulethu are bursting at the seams.

Sibling rivalry is rife on house inheritances.

In South Africa today, a child as young as twelve can legally terminate her pregnancy without the consent of her parents, and consensual sex between children aged 12 to 16 is legal.

Government proposes to give access to condoms to kids as young as 10.

This is a symptom of how black society has disintegrated. It is statistically argued that every 26 seconds a woman or girl child is raped somewhere in South Africa.

An estimated of 500,000 rape cases take place in the country every year.

In 1998, one in three of the 4,000 women surveyed in Johannesburg was a rape victim.

It cannot be disputed that black women, particularly townships and in informal settlements, experience random rape at an alarming rate.

The courage to stop the carnage in black society does not lie only on moralizing people but lies in the courage to dismantle white power and the preservation of white privilege , whose direct consequence is black pain in all its dimensions and manifestations

The response of the South African Council of Churches to the education minister’s proposal to distribute condoms at primary schools is not enough to stop the carnage and assault on black life.

The very structure of human settlement is flawed to the core and parents, mostly women who are raising children under extreme set of circumstances, are left with very little option not to consider extreme measures in order to save the lives of their children even at the risk of robbing them of their innocent childhood.

Townships are a war zone where the most vulnerable: children, women, the disabled and the so called foreigners, are all at the mercy of men whose social engineering has driven them to primal instincts.

Thus turning entire sections of the community to no go areas, primitive societies where reasoning and sensibility has no room.

Here lies the racial and economic fault lines in the South African political landscape through which millions of black people fall and disappear into statistics, a sort of a systemic cleansing of South African society of the impure race; the black people.

This state of affairs in South African townships must be laid squarely at the feet of policy makers, politicians who preside over and manage the resources on behalf of our people.

It is their tolerance of white power and the preservation of white privilege which is at the heart of separate development.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.

I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.

So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey

Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers.

They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, took pity on him.

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.

Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper.

“Look after him,” he said,

And when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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