It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
People queue for water at Newlands Spring, Cape Town. (Nazeem Davids, file)
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It is winter time and we are warm and snug in our beds. Some
of us are having a hot bath (even though we're not meant to) or a shower and a
warm cup of tea before we retire at night.
Did you ever stop to think about what it would be like if we
did not have that bath, the toilet and a warm, dry comfortable bed?
The Cape Town water crisis has highlighted the challenges of
the marginalised in a way more acute than perhaps anything else. While many
people on Twitter and Facebook were complaining about how people in the
townships waste water because they leave taps running and continue operations
at car washes, many have not given a thought to the fact that informal
settlements only use 4% of the water in the Western Cape.
These communities are already using the bucket system in
their daily lives. Those ranting on social media, while perhaps lying in their
baths and enjoying the dignity and comfort of flushing toilets inside their
homes, do not understand how the challenge of accessing a basic need and human
right – the very fundamentals of human dignity – like clean, drinking water
reflects the deep inequality that still exists between communities.
Fetching water for drinking, washing and cleaning in most formal
and informal settlements and walking long distances to a toilet is a norm that has
had fatal consequences for women like Sinoxolo
Mafevuka, who was raped, killed and left in a toilet. Many women are raped,
attacked and even killed while walking to these toilets or fetching water. The
danger and challenges faced by women and children, like Sinoxolo and six-year-old
Mbango, whose body was never found after she walked to the toilet in
Khayelitsha informal settlement, are unfathomable to many of us.
Can we even imagine our lives being taken because we needed
some water or the toilet? I don't think we can, nor do we want to.
The start of the winter months has again echoed the
inequality we experience in South Africa and made it reverberate across our
minds and souls. Although we're grateful for the long prayed for rain in Cape
Town, the warnings of having downpours and flooding signal a cold, difficult
winter for people in our townships. So many homes and streets will be flooded
and so many will be left homeless as shacks are washed away.
And to add insult to injury, the violent
evictions of people in the informal settlement, Emsindweni, by the City of Cape
Town, will worsen the crisis. Again, can we as the privileged even begin to
imagine what it must be like to be without the very basics, or even homeless?
of Cape Town's disaster risk management centre representative reports that
the downpours will affect formal and informal settlements and they will respond
to the affected areas. But they fail to say how the City will improve the lives
of the people in these areas. Being reactive is not good enough. Our City must
be working toward improving the quality of life for all people living Cape
Town. How much longer will we allow this inequality to continue?
than half of South Africans are living below the poverty line, not because
it is their choice but because we are one of the most unequal societies in the
world; economic exclusion and a systematic lack of access to quality education
on the back of unjust systems have seen to this. A mere 1% holds 70% of the
Bank has announced South Africa as the most unequal country in the world out
of 149 nations, saying that it is because of the "enduring legacy of
apartheid". Enduring means "to continue to exist". How has our
country, after 23 years, managed to "endure the legacy of apartheid",
even under a new dispensation? How is it possible that we are perpetuating the
systemic violence of our undesired economic past, the very system we fought to dismantle?
Dismantling begins firstly in our minds. We must think
differently if we want different results. Who needs to think differently?
Building a better life for all involves everyone, our government, private sector,
NGOs and NPOs and the citizens. Each one needs to contribute by being active in
reducing inequality and being empathetic, caring and kind citizens. We need to
cultivate the true spirit of Ubuntu, a community that works together and grows
South Africans need to move from a mentality of blaming to
acknowledgement and accountability. We need to respect each other's differences
and nurture our humanness and commonness. In so doing, we realise that the other
person deserves to be treated with dignity, that they deserve, as a human, to
receive the right to life, security, food, a home with running water and a
toilet, clean streets, respect and dignity, among others.
When we start to address these things and bring about a more
equal society, we begin to restore dignity to others. Only then can we prosper.
People will then feel valued and respected and act in that manner.
Societal trauma manifests in violence and degradation. We
need to work together to change that. We need to, in our spheres of influence,
begin to think of how we can help to reduce inequality in the communities so
that all South Africans feel dignified in their homes.
- Lucretia Arendse is the project leader for the Education for
Reconciliation project at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).
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