Hi, my name is Avuyile Tu, I hail from Khayelitsha, originally from the Eastern Cape from a small town called Lady Frere. I studied a B Com degree from the University of the Western Cape, majored in Economics and management. Currently I am employed as an assistant finance manager here in Cape Town. I am the first born son at home; I am a Christian, passionate about Christ and serving my people. I write poetry on the side for relaxation and trying to voice out the pain of the nation.
In today’s South Africa, everyone is deemed to be free and lives in a democratic society. To be free means freedom of speech, one can enter places which were specifically classified for different races under the regime of apartheid.
Now that is all said and done, but the real question is, are we all really free? This now presents a challenging and very sensitive topic to many, who assume if one brings this topic up; they push an agenda of violence and racism. Put bluntly, South Africa today is a free country as compared to the apartheid era and that is a commendable achievement, however, the disheartening factor is that a large majority of the population still live in sub-standard and poor conditions.
It is a phenomenon which one cannot easily miss as it is a big problem for the country. After two decades of freedom and democracy, many of the country’s residents (mainly black), still live in poor conditions. Everywhere around the country you will find people living in unhygienic conditions, without electricity, proper housing, water and sanitation. They struggle to make ends meet and they live in informal settlements so as to be closer to their places of employment.
This brings us to a statement that may seem biased, however, to many it may ring true (many referring to the majority of the people in question). While the whole world may see South Africa as a free country, not all its citizens are free entirely free. Freedom is no freedom if one is inhibited and limited to only certain and few choices and liberties in life. It is commendable that today people from all races are able to mix; it is commendable that we all have access to the same institutions of higher learning but for some it requires more sacrifice to just gain access to such liberties. While the South African constitution lists a whole lot of human rights, many can barely enjoy benefits to basic health, proper housing and sanitation. If one could take a tour through Khayelitsha, one can really begin to understand and to experience the atrocities left behind by the apartheid legacy.
Furthermore, some parts around Khayelitsha still have no proper houses; service delivery is so slow that these areas are prone to violent service delivery protest all year round. Now others may view this as hooliganism but if one would take a moment so as to understand the heart and pain felt by the black living in these conditions, one cannot help but feel their pain. The plight of the people living in these conditions is so dire it can be likened to those suffered and experienced by the people of Zimbabwe during their recent economic recession. (No offence to Zim citizens)
In contrast to the standard of living and the conditions in which the people of Khayelitsha are facing, one would find that the residents of a place like Camps Bay for example, live in a world totally different to that of Khayelitsha. Now the question arises, why would you make a comparison between these two areas? The answer is simple; one is “predominantly” a white area and the other a black area. According to Poswa (2008), “it is estimated that the proportion of people living in poverty in South Africa has not changed significantly between 1996 and 2001. In fact, households living in poverty and the gap between rich and poor have widened.” We all know that the majority of the country’s race is black (about 72% and about 6% white, check stassa) which then translate to a large proportion of the country’s poor. So the above said further encapsulates the main focal point, that white people and black people are still not equal, especially when it comes to economic freedom.
If one could conduct a quick study of the richest people in the country, you will notice that list of those people is dominated by white people. We do acknowledge the growth in the number of black people climbing out of poverty, but what about the vast majority that still has to go through the vicious cycle left behind by the apartheid legacy? Now whether we choose to be ignorant and say that black South Africans are lazy or look at the real factor, that one can never attain total freedom without economic freedom. Furthermore, with the current government, it does not help in the plight of the black nation as it acts in ways that further entrench the legacy and the institutions left behind by the apartheid legacy.
It is sad to be stopped by an armed response patrol unit in a white suburb area and asked what is your business in the area but take the very same person you went to visit to a black community that person will not even once be stopped and searched or asked. It is also disturbing that you have a mother of 4, leaving the house every day at 4:30 just to be at the workplace at 7am. She has to contend with muggers along the way, public transport delays just to make it on time and work 8-12 hours just to R100 for the day but the employer is able to pay that same minimum wage for a meal and pay the waiter R50 tip. From that money she has to have transport fare, food for the kids and other household essentials, there is also tuition and school uniform that she also has to factor in.
Poswa (2008) further argues:
In the City of Cape Town, like the rest of South Africa, there are vast disparities between the wealthiest communities comfortable first world conditions and the poorest, who live in conditions similar to the worst found in developing countries mainly determined by broad socio-economic and environmental factors such as income, sanitation, rather than the availability of health services, it is not surprising that there are gross health inequalities resulting from the history of apartheid. (.p.3)
Now the violent service delivery protests that are showed on the news almost every day are a culmination of the black people’s frustrations with regards to their living conditions. If we continue to ignore all the warning signs, if we continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of the black nation, many atrocities will continue to happen. It is much like the West in helping the African nations affected by the Ebola pandemic, no one has moved because it will not benefit them in any way. We may have the majority seats in parliament but that does not to absolute power as the white many still holds economic power. We have inherited a system that supports and drives the ideas of a white, which ensures he lives a life of comfort at the expense of the black nation.
To rectify and eradicate all the inequity between the people, proper justice should be done which is land restitution. In that way we shall fulfil a section of the constitution that says the people of this country shall share in the wealth of this country. Ideas as to how this can be done I have not formulated yet, however, let us give each other true justice. One needs to remember that with true justice there is pain and sacrifice. As the other party gains what was lost, the other lets go of what they gained unfairly. This does not purport violence against the white people but rather that the white man can listen and hear the cry of the black man. It is preconceived ideas and the feeling of superiority that led to this mess, now it is time to enter through the veil of neutrality and level the playing field.