As Experienced by the Poor
This is a friendly note from eighty percent of the under represented South Africans who have no voice and are powerless, who are constantly living in fear and poverty. We are the millions who have been excluded from sharing the wealth of the country and the fruits of the freedom struggle.
Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Hector Peterson, Mahatma Gandhi and millions others, who remain nameless and faceless, have made sacrifices, at times the ultimate sacrifice, to bring about a free and just society. A society where the people of the land are guaranteed safety, security, social justice, jobs, law and order, all the basic requirements for a fair society. This is what we all struggled for and yearned for.
But it all remains a fantasy, a mirage, a dream, a utopia, because sadly, this has not materialised.
We have not seen the fruits of our struggles, nor an improvement in the quality of our lives, in most cases it has worsened. Sadly, only a small percentage of the population, largely opportunists, have reaped the benefits of the new South Africa, living in sinful luxury, while their fellow countrymen wallow in poverty and fear. The white oppressor has been replaced by the black oppressor, by financial and economic oppression, by fear, by the breakdown of law and order, by the inequitable distribution of wealth, where bribery and corruption are the order of the day.
The honeymoon is over for the African National Congress (ANC), and the ruling government, which is one and the same. They have failed to deliver the goods.
The government of the day is one for the rich and privileged, for the well connected and not for the man in the street. The reality is poverty is increasing - people are struggling to make ends meet - with a large percentage of the population spending their earnings on food alone.
The following short list has been compiled to highlight some of the problems and potential solutions:
1. Crime and Violence is the number one issue on every person’s mind. It has become a daily occurrence in the country, ruined lives, broken homes and families, maimed and injured victims. All the results of crime and violence are taking a toll on the people of the country. However, the government is ignoring this issue completely as if it doesn’t exist. The ridiculous aspect of this is that the government has no master plan to combat crime. The criminal has no deterrent and therefore will continue on with the crime spree.
We have to study the causes of crime to combat it - one of the most important factors is the absence of jobs. Job creation should be the number one priority for the government and private industry, creating more jobs will have a ripple effect on communities and crime will subsequently decrease.
Effective police work will also help to lessen crime but the high rate of bribery and corruption in the police force has reduced the effectiveness of policing.
2. The South African Army at present is larger and more powerful than all of the northern neighbours combined, a powerful and large military force was deemed to be necessary by the past regime to subjugate and oppress its own people. This is no longer necessary. It is time to stop wasting money on the armed forces, the size of the army, navy and air force and it’s budget should be reduced by more than fifty percent, the remaining resources should be redirected to mass housing projects, hospitals and schools.
3. Education and learning have made tremendous progress and have empowered many children and adults to secure a decent education. However, there is still room for improvement. No amount of technology and computers can contribute to learning and education like the basics of reading books and empowering teachers to deliver good quality education. The country has a dire shortage of libraries and books. This trend has to be reversed. Again, we reiterate that redirecting the military budget to more sensible projects will reap untold benefits.
4. The country needs more skilled workers and graduates to be able to grow the economy and compete on the global market. We can increase the number of trained professionals by building at least five new universities and colleges around major centres in South Africa. Let us build patriotism and nationalism, train locally, hire locally.
5. Inflation has to be managed and controlled. Runaway inflation through bad fiscal policy and governance, largely due to exorbitant salary increases and price hikes without the equivalent increase in productivity is counter productive, translates into the government printing money without value behind it. Inflation figures released by the government do not really reflect reality, high prices and reduced value is the proof that it is out of control.
6. The parliament is filled with incompetent people. There must be checks and balances to ensure that only legitimate and responsible candidates are selected. Incompetence in the parliament is immediately mirrored in the nation and affects all aspects of life.
Non-performing politicians and civil servants must be removed from office, there is no free ride. An incompetent government, has ill effects that ripple through society and the economy, and is a waste of tax-payers’ valuable money. Honesty, morality, wisdom and trustworthiness are what we expect from our elected leaders, nothing less. We have the necessary qualified people to fill these posts, why settle for less, why choose second best. Incompetence is a heavy loss and burden to the nation.
7. The practice of ‘gravy train rides’ and ‘golden hand-shakes’ has to be stopped, never in the history of our country have we seen such wanton distribution of wealth where the country’s mineral riches and entire corporations have been transferred to friends and family of the well connected, this at the expense of the poor and deprived, this has to reversed. A more equitable and just distribution of the wealth of the country is necessary.
8. The government should initiate new mega civil building projects like national roads, bridges, highways, this will create new jobs and spur the economy and further develop the country.
9. The country is evolving into a one party state, with no real parliamentary opposition, no checks and balances.
We must ensure that South Africa maintains a multi-party state, with a strong opposition party in parliament. Currently only one party is in power, with no real checks and balance. This is a recipe for a dictatorship and a totalitarian state.
10. The growth of ‘squatter camp’ settlements all over the country is a short term solution for the housing crisis. There are a myriad of problems in these settlements, the government must plan for low cost housing using sound urban planning principles.
11. Agriculture and farming are the lifeblood of our nation. We must ensure that this sector is further developed and safeguarded, natural farming and organic farming methods must be practiced.
12. While more pressing issues are addressed by the government, nature conservation, environmental and ecological issues and animal preservation efforts must not be forgotten, dedicated efforts must be spent to conserve our lands for future generations and for a sustainable future. Our forests and trees must be conserved by continuous mass planting and the reversal of deforestation and desertification. A good practice would be to plant at least three tree saplings for every tree that is cut down, this has to be done to maintain a fair balance. We should initiate tree planting projects in areas that are traditionally arid like the Karoo and other parts of the Cape to reverse desertification.
In summary, what do we want?
Many years of colonisation have distorted the true African way of life, this has to be reversed, remember we are in Africa. Historians have distorted and suppressed African history. Now you can see the consequences, a devastated people, lost cultures, greed and fear, brother cheating brother, uncontrollable crime and violence, broken families, environmental and ecological disasters, this is not what we asked for, it was forced on us.
We demand that irrespective of the type of political system that we have, irrespective of the leaders who are in power, we want social justice, jobs, fair wages, no worker exploitation, safety, security, housing, education, leisure, equal opportunity, freedom of speech and press, honest and truthful leaders with vision, law and order, an opportunity for growth, peace, love, respect, wisdom, dignity, morality, freedom, social and medical systems, hospitals, transparency and checks and balances to ensure that there is no bribery and corruption. We want an equitable share in the fruits of the land.
To the leaders of the country, let it be known that we are watching, observing and recording your every move, to those with hidden and false agenda’s, to the greedy and corrupt, to those who are carving up the country’s wealth amongst leaders of the ruling party, friends and family, at the expense of the poor, take note that we are aware, we may be powerless, voiceless and silent at the moment, but remember, history will be the judge.
We, the silent and powerless majority of the people of South Africa, the poor, the downtrodden, the hungry, the sick, victims of crime and violence, victims of greed and unfairness, we shall overcome. We will continue to struggle and one day, we will be a free nation, to enjoy peace, prosperity, safety and fairness in a just society, to enjoy what truly belongs to us.
- Written by Sipho Tshabalala from Gauteng, Beevee Khoza from the Western Cape and Thandi Khumalo from KwaZulu-Natal email@example.com.