Post Heritage Day reflections in the aftermath of UKZN Campus and taxi related violence

2015-09-24 19:23

In the haze of Limpopo and Deputy President Ramaphoza’s address on Heritage Day , I was shocked by the degree or lack thereof of how many local  South Africans in Durban, actually found no occasion to celebrate a milestone marked by a public holiday. I was equally shocked by the predominant emotions, 21 years and counting after the end of apartheid, being   not of hope and expectation, but rather  of fear,revulsion,loathing and despair.

In the past few weeks South Africa has been paralysed by the paroxysm of fear and violence that erupted in the University of KwaZulu-Natal and taxi related killings and people being stranded because the taxis were not running and the public transport system ground to a halt.

Coinciding with Heritage Day was  the Eid Ul Adha  which I as a Muslim celebrated, on 24 September 2015, by emulating the triumph of Prophet Abraham (PBUH) overcoming  the whispering doubt of Satan when God tested Abraham’s faith by calling for the sacrifice of his only son,at the time, Ismael. Of course God seeing how obedient Abraham was towards literally executing that commandment, substituted a ram in the stead of Ismael. The Quran, as is the Bible and the Torah is replete with this episode of faith.

When South Africans voted in 1994 they believed in and expressed their unbridled faith in the ANC  through the neo-prophetic pronouncement of our modern day Moses who led his people to the promised land after he walked out of Pollsmoor prison. In the fading light in February 1992, if my memory serves me (but I stand corrected), I recall Nelson Mandela handing an expectant people a cheque which they could could redeem in a decade or so.

Twenty one years down the line and counting, it seems like a unpaid cheque returned to the people marked “refer to drawer”.

The point of the last two paragraphs is that for much of the indigenous population, fear,revulsion,,loathing and despair arise out of the sense that while South Africa became a democratic nation after apartheid, in many ways very little has changed. Yes, more people have access to health,housing,social grant,education etc but recall these achievements and you would be shocked by their response which is often translated in the language of violence.They are fed up waiting for 21 years as beggars whilst an elite in the ruling party engorge themselves through corruption and pillage.

On this Heritage Day, as Deputy President Ramaphoza oozed eloquence of the grandeur to come,  I wondered if he read the recent cabinet briefing that  almost four in ten people are unemployed and that less than  one-third have piped water in their dwellings, a quarter have no flush toilets; about one in five has no access to electricity. Many of these figures are worse than they were under apartheid; others are little changed.

Yes, in the hazy heat as he droned on we agree that apartheid  had an immensely dehumanizing impact. But it also caused communities to forge powerful social bonds and channel anger into resistance and liberation movements. Now there is no cohesion but the primal anger that often is harnessed into violent confrontation and dissent.

The result of what is happening during President Zuma’s watch epitomised by the destructive,alternatively debilitating effect of contemporary policies, which have clearly not borne the fruits but actually a bitter harvest, has led not to the creation of stronger bonds, but rather to the unraveling of the fabric of society.

Unlike under apartheid,  your reports daily show that there is no obvious target for people’s rage. There are protests, almost daily, against housing conditions, police brutality and political corruption. There is considerable anger against the ruling African National Congress, in both national and local governments.

The confusion about whom to blame for conditions that seem little improved from the days of apartheid has often led people to turn on one other. The explosion of xenophobic violence, directed against migrant workers from other African nations, that swept through South Africa early this year in April, is one expression of this. So is the growing conflict between apartheid-defined categories of people, like indigenous Africans and South Africans of Indian extraction especially in the execution of affirmative action policies and practices.

The situation has been made worse by the issue that dominates South African politics today namely corruption. Almost daily, there is a new scandal. The exposure of people with fake degrees and qualifications occupying high positions impacts on the integrity of our Constitution and the values its espouses. Someone wrote that “corruption expresses the way that state patronage has come to define politics” and “ to win favours from different social groups and factions” thus  helping entrench a dangerous cronyism in national and provincial politics. Tomorrow Durban and surrounds will awake to   streets bereft of commuters stranded by protesting taxi owners and drivers at a time when SA has experienced just over 1% growth and the coming apocalypse in the form of rampant unemployment, poverty and yes,anarchy. What can we do?

I don’t believe we,as an electorate can do nothing. We have at our disposal the power of our vote as well as institutions entrenched under the Constitution and we can call upon government to account for  what has happened so far. We must not be mesmerised by the syrupy comments that we are bound to hear as the 2016 local government elections take place but rather we must unite , as are artists against corruption for instance, against all that impoverish us and we need to realise that all South Africans are victims of misgovernance and maladministration and that we can call government to account by voting or refusing to vote into office those who have failed us.

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