Let me start of by saying, that I do not agree with a violent route for you to be heard. You can never gain anything by breaking down, or worse still killing someone else to further your cause.
Over the past few years I have noticed with much anticipation and interest the growing number of service delivery strikes, the number of dissatisfied South Africans grow steadily as the price of basic necessities increases; while the amount of income remains the same.
Let’s start with some unfortunate truths. Back in 1994 when we finally drank from that first cup of freedom, and we ate from the harvest that the struggle had borne; the architects of our new republic were eager to repay and further strengthen ties with the rest of the continent who had stood by us, we the South African people during the times of Apartheid.
We opened our borders to welcome and encourage free trade, but also to honour the deals and agreements that had been made that helped usher in this new freedom. I cannot in all honesty blame the architects of this new Republic, however these mistakes would set the ball rolling for what we are witnessing now.
When South Africa welcomed our brothers and sisters from neighbouring and far away countries, we did not at the time foresee that twenty years into the democracy the cracks would start showing, as the plaster started to splinter and reveal a nasty side of our country.
Twenty years ago, the country was birthed out of the ashes of our past. However, we did not allocate enough time for the citizens of this country to take a breath and acclimatise themselves to the new order of things. Before we could conceptualise re-writing the wrongs of the past and re-constructing a new South Africa we also had to acclimatise to the influx of our brethren from the other African countries.
Think of it like this, you are a young couple moving into your new home, and before you know it not only are you dealing having to learn how to live with each other’s unfamiliar habits, but on the other hand you must do that while taking care of an influx of relatives desperately needing your help. This begins to place strain on your relationship, and sooner or later tempers will flair, there will be disagreements because you are unable to clearly understand and nor can you fulfil each other’s needs adequately.
This is an antiquated example, however if you loosely apply it to the South African context you can see that we should have tried to get our own house in order before inviting guests to move in with us permanently.
Twenty years later we are still plagued with many of the same issues, unemployment, education, a struggling health system and poverty are still high on the agenda of needs. People are still living in substandard or no housing, we have a high unemployment rate and worse there are more and more people living on less that $1 a day.
It is not our foreign brethren’s fault that they were also leaving their countries looking for a better life for them and their families. They came here looking for prosperity and many other cases a safe haven.
Where I do believe we went wrong in this narrative is not clearly and effectively relaying the legacy and importance that the rest of the Afrikan continent played in our liberation story. Not enough has been told of the refuge and kindness that was shown to those who were exiled from this, their country of birth.
Tell us more on how Mozambique welcomed and housed leaders of the struggle and many other Mkhonto we Sizwe cadres, tell us how Tanzania was the training base for the MK. Narrate to us how Zimbabwe has always been the underground highway through which many of the cadres were ferried into exile from. Remind us how Ethiopia, Ghana, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia, and many other countries on this continent stood with us during the fight for the liberation of this country. Not forgetting many other countries across the globe, most notably Cuba.
Before my sense of history gets me carried away, it is important to reflect that what we are seeing now is a result of bread and butter issues. People are hungry, people are unemployed, people are feeling disenfranchised.
Liberation was fought for, we may no longer be enslaved and persecuted because of the colour of our skin, but now we are looking a new type of discrimination a segregation of sorts – based solely on Economic inequalities.
The violence that we have seen of late has been building for some time, the signs have been there. It was unnecessary for people to have lost their lives in such a senseless way. It is unfortunate that when we are discussing the violence of the past few weeks, that those on the ground who are committing these acts are not involved in this discourse.
I have tried to look at this matter from all angles. There is much that needs to be addressed, particularly by government. People need to feel as though they are being heard and understood. That when they X a particular political party at the polls, their voices will be heard, and their expectations met.
I have purposefully not explored, in this article, the matter from the side of our foreign brethren. They are the victim in this instance, unduly blamed for the gross misadministration and non-fulfilment of promises.
The next step in this narrative is plotting a way forward, putting in place measures that protect the lives off all who wish to and make South Africa their home. I am not only disappointed at what has happened, but it deeply saddens me that we as a nation we have the ability to be so crass and brutal when the opportunity arises. After all, it could have been anyone one of us armed with knives, guns, sjamboks and knobkerries if our circumstances were different.
However, I still maintain, violence yields nothing but disdain and horror. The message gets lost in the carnage. Now it is time for us to rebuild our relationships and our country.
Photographer: Khumbelo Makungo