Safety is not a bourgeois concept

2013-06-26 00:00

YET another story of service-delivery protest has ended in chaos and criminality. A councillor’s office in Umlazi was torched at the weekend when about 200 people went on the rampage.

KwaZulu-Natal Transport, Community Safety, and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu, did what politicians do when faced with the situation. He condemned the act.

Then he wagged his finger furiously.

“We cannot tolerate anarchy. What is happening in Glebelands seriously undermines the rule of law and it is a clear act of criminality,” Mchunu was quoted in the media on Monday.

One of the problems with the criminality that pretends to be in aid of a more noble goal is that politicians think they can make grand statements and leave it at that.

I cannot claim to read every newspaper in the country or listen to every news bulletin on every radio station, but cases of individuals being convicted and sent to jail for public violence are too few and far between.

There is simply no political will to deal with criminality that is masquerading as service-delivery protest.

I will never condone state violence and jackboot tactics similar to what occurred during the apartheid era.

There needs to be a balance between the right to protest against the state’s underperformance and the right for other members of the public to enjoy an atmosphere of safety and security in their own neighbourhoods.

The state should not allow itself to be emotionally and politically blackmailed by those who insist that ensuring the safety of individuals and security of their property from random acts of violence are in themselves bourgeois or fascist concepts.

Instead of Mchunu telling us what is not in dispute, he should be using his office to put pressure on the police, who are technically under his political authority in the province, to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the criminals responsible for the Glebelands arson are brought to book.

If Mchunu, and others who wield political power like him, do not curb this tendency, South Africa will reap the whirlwind that follows.

As was the case in the eighties and early nineties when the phenomenon of com-tsotsi (comrade thug) emerged, as criminals took advantage of the legitimate anger against the apartheid oppression, future generations will confuse the legitimacy of expressing their disapproval at how those in power exercise that power, as the right to destroy everything in sight.

All South Africans deserve a government that is responsive to their needs.

This is as true for those who need service delivered as it is for those who do not accept that they should be collateral damage in some political fallout that they had no interest in.

For the state to think it can only serve one at a time is to abdicate its responsibility.

It serves neither the current generations nor the future ones.

It does not do itself any favours, for history will record it as a political amoeba that had no backbone and stood for nothing.

• Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is a freelance journalist and former editor of The Witness.

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