Cleaning up the filthy remnants of apartheid

2008-05-03 00:00

THE resistance against apartheid and the oppressive regime that was the architect of the system made the black people of this country one of the most resilient on Earth. They were relentless in rejecting systems and policies that made them second-class citizens to their white brothers and sisters.

With help from some African countries and the rest of the world, the pressure they exerted reached boiling point and the government of the day gave way by abolishing apartheid and releasing all political prisoners.

Time went by, freedom was attained and everyone was equal before the law. Years on and the remnants of apartheid are still very visible among the black people.

Liberation movements, mainly the African National Congress, called for residents not to pay for what was an excuse for services which resulted in a total boycott at one point or another. Under the circumstances, this was a legitimate request as services were dispensed under the guise of “some animals are more equal than others”.

A significant amount of money was spent on suburbs such as Umhlanga Rocks, La Lucia and Umdloti, while a fraction was spent on townships such as Lamontville, Umlazi and Inanda. Black people living in these and other townships took no pride in the places they lived in and they intentionally ran them down to the point of vandalising public areas which were meant to assist them. The streets were filthy, houses were not maintained and community halls resembled buildings in Afghanistan.

When the ANC took over, it had to help the masses it leads by shifting their paradigm on how they look at government and the state because these were always the enemy. This would take some doing, especially because the service levels had not improved and this did not make sense to the masses, a lot of whom were poor and unemployed. Instead, they expected the government to pay for such services on their behalf.

Taxi ranks are some of the most visible remnants of apartheid to date as they are characterised by filth and lawlessness. The Freedom Square Precinct and the Berea Taxi Rank are cases in point. During the day, these taxi ranks represent a sea of rubbish and debris as commuters have no sense of ownership of a platform they should have embraced as their own. Blocked manholes and mounds of dirt on every street corner are the order of the day in most townships, something which should have been buried with our apartheid past. This gives the wrong perception that blacks cannot maintain high levels of cleanliness among themselves. One has to go to rural areas to prove this wrong as every piece of trash is re-used largely due to a lack of resources. The approach should be how townships can be revitalised so that they provide acceptable levels for habitation as opposed to residents running them down before trying to buy the next available house in white suburbia.

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