Despite celebrations of freedom on 27 April every year, severe and widespread poverty persists in South Africa. Our education system is in tatters, the future of many black kids has been declared futureless. Unemployment is sky rocketing, wasting the talents of many young people who are condemned to a life of permanent poverty. Many black people continue to lack access to electricity, clean water and proper sanitation. Many are under nourished.
All these things are happening when the elite and the government officials are living affluent lives. The president has just built a mansion in Enkandla to the tune of more than R400m. Malema has also built a house to the tune of R16m. Every weekend the elite host parties and weddings that cost no less than a million while the people they claim to represent go to bed on an empty stomach and live in absolute poverty. They do not find this morally troubling. They have no conscience, otherwise they would not shoot us with rubber bullets when we protest because they have neglected us. Power and wealth forms a hard shell around their consciousness so that they do not see that it is fellow human beings suffering in the poverty around them.
We live in a society where the unemployment rate is said to be 23% while the truth is different but the government is committed to falsifying figures. The real unemployment rate is closer to 40%. We live in a society where to be black and unemployed is held to mean only one thing - laziness and expecting too much from the government. We live in a society where to speak out against government injustice is said to mean that you are lazy and ungrateful. We live in a society where people that speak out against the injustice that we live with every day means that we are told that we are being used by someone else. We live in a society where the poor are denied basic health care because of our inability to pay. Every time the poor go to the clinics we are certain of getting a Panadol pill regardless of our illness. We live in a society where the affluent elite live in their fortress and bubbles and see nothing wrong with the excessive amount of poverty and inequalities. They see the poor majority as a threat to society. They do not see this society as a threat to the majority. Yes we live in a society where slavery, colonialism and apartheid were abolished and yet the majority of black people live below the poverty line.
Apartheid was only abolished on paper not in real life. What is the difference between the secrecy act of apartheid and the current protection of the information bill? What is the difference between the apartheid homeland leaders and chiefs and the current traditional courts bill? What is the difference between the death of Hector Peterson in 1976 uprising and the recent murder of Andries Tatane? What is the difference between the corrupt apartheid government and the current government that is corrupt beyond repair. Think of the arms deals and all the local municipalities that have become milking cows for the leadership of the ruling party, and then spot the difference. Think of Zuma’s mansion in Enkandla, paid for by the taxpayer’s money and think of the mud house that are surrounding his mansion, mud houses that are crumbling down.
Our leaders are part of the machine that is oppressing us today. They have become stooges of capital. They have not confronted white racism seriously. We are important as far as voting is concerned to them but all they see in us is that we are voting cattle. Our new elite has taken the old masks of the colonialists and is proudly wearing them. The new elite has nothing to do with transforming the nation except to camoflage capitalism.
This whole society needs to be transformed. It needs to be opened up to the participation of the people. Political power and control over resources must be shared. We need revolutionary change. Our unity has never been as urgent a necessity as it is today. The students and the youth, the rural and the poor, the Unemployed People’s Movement and other movements such as Abahlali base Mjondolo, Ilizwi Lamafama, etc. need to unite and form once progressive bloc. We are the agents of change not the new elite that has betrayed the struggle. We need to unite outside their movements because they have privatised our struggle. Like the formation of the Black Consciousness Movement did in the 1970s, we need to unite in our own space, define our own struggle and politics and shake the foundations of capitalism. Forging a real unity of poor people’s movements. The Unemployed People’s Movement was formed in August 2009 to respond to the crisis of unemployment and the commoditization of essential services in a society dominated by corruption and greed. As Steve Biko said, we blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that we should be playing. We want to do things for ourselves and all by ourselves. This is a realisation that we are the protagonists of our lives and nobody will free us but ourselves; we – the unemployed - will have to be our own liberators.
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” - Karl Marx. Apartheid was the tragedy, the post-apartheid economic divide is the farce.
Taken and adapted from