South Africa continues to be a hazardous place for the Black poor. You don’t have to be a Marikana mineworker to die a death that is undignified, if not brutal and terrifying. The daily security concerns of the majority have never been further from the minds of politicians, who are either gripped with Mangaung mania, or – in the case of the DA - feverishly plotting the jingles and publicity stunts that they think will win them another metro city in the 2014 elections. COPE’s only recent claim to fame is its elderly MP who tried to open an aeroplane door in mid-flight, later escaping with a slap on the wrist after successfully arguing (with the support of the DA) that the combination of one alcoholic drink and one sleeping tablet made him lose his senses.
You know you are living in the most unequal country in the world when the mayor of a major metropolitan city can issue a self-congratulatory press statement – as the DA’s Patricia de Lille did recently – about the installation of less than 30 high-mast lights to be spread across numerous unlit informal settlements.
It is well known that in Cape Town’s townships and informal settlements, street lighting is almost non-existent, and as a result, that crime is rife. The complaint has been raised by residents at nearly every community meeting for years, no matter who organized the meeting or what else the meeting was supposed to be about. The DA likes to claim that communities vandalise every street light that ever gets installed but the truth is that street lighting has hardly been installed in the informal settlements and light bulbs are never replaced in the townships street lights. In Cape Town’s white suburbs, on the other hand, the DA city administration will send technicians out at 10pm to fix a streetlight bulb that died the same evening.
It emerged in a recent City of Cape Town press statement that poor, Black areas are not set to receive proper street lighting anytime soon. The DA city is instead going to rely on national government’s urban settlement development grant to install four lights here and there over the next two years. While the cost of keeping the streetlights on in white suburbs is part of the city’s normal budget, lighting the Black areas depends on donations.
The DA has already claimed that it is powerless to protect poor people on the Cape Flats from being caught in the crossfire between warring gangs, and that only the army would be able to do this. But with the re-emergence of necklacing in Khayelitsha as a community response to crime, the recent killings of four Cape Town metro police in the townships and the increase in the number of young people involved in violent gangs, it is clear that the DA is powerless on many more fronts and that things are unravelling fast in the “mother city”.
The concentration of public funds on white suburbs means the different races live totally different lives. White Capetonians can expect to wake up on the weekend and buy some beers for the night without incident. But for the past two Christmases, Khayelitsha residents have reported that police of all the different forces set up ad-hoc roadblocks on the pavements and ask residents returning from the bottle stores to show receipts for the beer they have purchased. If the residents have failed to keep their slips, or never got one, they are knocked around a bit and their alcohol confiscated. This is nothing to do with drinking in public but happens to ordinary people walking home after shopping.
More disturbingly, Black township residents are increasingly being subjected to the sight of public group killings, which increase the fear and insecurity in those areas. Several Khayelitsha residents vented their shock on Facebook just this past weekend at seeing groups of 14 year old youths killing each other in Makhaza Park.
"The park is full...it's blood everywhere. These boys are carrying weapons I have never seen in (my) life. This is too painful to see. We have been calling the police over and over but they haven't come," wrote one person. She later posted an update that two police had arrived, watched for a while and then left. "These kids are continuing", her desperate update read. Less than two hours later, another update read: "Sad to say, we have lost two young boys and others are injured...am numb".
Such horrific practices would be unthinkable in one of Cape Town’s white suburban parks. But in the townships, the government has allowed these incidents to become part of "normal" life.
It was only last week that Cape Town’s largest shack area, the Enkanini informal settlement, was provided with 452 electricity points – for 11 000 homes. How 24 families are going to share one power point is a mystery. The DA says another 2000 electricity connections will be turned on before May 2013 but that the rest of the electricity will be installed in phases. It is still not clear whether every home will eventually have its own electricity point or not. This informal settlement is situated in a highly urbanised city, which recently won the title of “World Design Capital”, yet its high school only got electricity last week!
Townships in the rest of the country are equally under-developed and crime plagued. Rural areas are also experiencing a spike in crime. The situation will continue to worsen rapidly until the DA and ANC abandon their practice of maintaining the living areas set up by apartheid’s Group Areas Act.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen. The parties are two sides of the same coin. The ANC’s outdated neo-liberal economic policies were drawn up by the same international economists who wrote the policies of the DA. Successive ministers of Finance have focussed for 18 years now on pumping billions in public funds into tax breaks and incentives for overseas investors to set up factories that have never materialised.
Former president Thabo Mbeki said last week in a speech at Fort Hare university that South Africa was progressing “towards a costly disaster”, and was in a “dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift”.
This is rich coming from someone who, when he was in power, oversaw the arms deal; withheld anti-retroviral treatment from thousands of women living with HIV; set up the practice of wasting hundreds of millions of rands in public funds on hiring useless consultants for local and national government, and started the now defunct practice of paying retention bonuses to parastatal managers.
After 18 years, the DA and ANC have missed all opportunities to end apartheid in South Africa and improve the lives of the Black majority. The rapidly worsening situation, where more and more Black people are living without water, electricity, houses and schools as if in 17th century England, won’t be alleviated by either the DA or ANC. Their time has past.
This is really talking truth to power!
Protecting the Poor
A good article writien by a racist. Only attacking white people. Nothing mentioned about provinces run by ANC and how townships and informal settlements also lack services.