USE THE POWER OF THE VOTE
It is completely understandable why many South Africans would support the idea of a total shutdown as proposed by one of the political parties represented in parliament.
Already one of the major trade union federations, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) has thrown its weight behind the planned mass protest. According to its General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, the planned political strike should not be sectarian but should be the convergence of political forces of the left against a government that has failed the working class and the poor.
South Africans have more than one good reason to be angry. Very angry. One thing that makes South Africans hot under the collar is load shedding. Since the beginning of this year, there has been load shedding every day. Sometimes power would be off three times in a day. This has decimated small businesses and wreaked havoc to the economy that was recovering from the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the official stats, more than 42% of South Africans are unemployed. This means that almost half of the population is unemployed. Of those working, there is a category of the working poor, that constitutes more than 60% of those employed, earning less than R5 000 a month. Most of them stay far from their places of work, as per apartheid spatial planning, and spend more than 50% of their earnings on transport.
The fact that townships such as Soweto owe Eskom billions of rands in unpaid electricity bills is not an act of defiance. Many of the township residents are poor and cannot afford to pay. Many of them are struggling to pay their municipal rates and water.
Unemployment, just like poverty, has a Black face. It is worse among young people. More than 70% of young people are unemployed. In the past, parents used to break an arm and a leg to take their children to university as they believed that education was indeed a potent weapon to fight poverty. Not anymore. There are hundreds of thousands of university graduates who are without jobs. The situation is not different even for some specialised professions such as engineering and medicine. There are no jobs.
Crime is out of control. Despite the public relations gymnastics of the Police Minister, crime is out of control. On average, 84 people get murdered in the country each day. In a year, more than 30 000 people get murdered. This number of people can fill Orlando stadium to capacity.
There are at least 115 rapes that are reported each day. The number is much higher as the majority of the rape cases do not get reported to the police.
Anarchy is taking route in the country. There are reports that taxi operators and drivers are harassing motorists who have more than two passengers in their cars. Private cars are stopped, and the motorists are told that they should not allow their cars to become “taxis”.
Truck drivers are stopped at random by people who demand to know their nationalities. In some instances, trucks are burnt as some people demand the employment of South African citizens in the trucking industry.
There is illegal mining throughout the country. Police know about it, but little is done to stop it.
There is vandalism of public infrastructure throughout the country. Railway lines have been removed and the steel sold to those dealing with scrap metal. Cable theft has become so common that City Power spends hundreds of millions of rands to replace stolen cables.
Corruption in the State is the new normal. While the law enforcement agencies are going after the lizards, the crocodiles in the criminal syndicates are left alone because of their political connections.
Corruption and poor governance have affected service delivery. For instance, the Giyani water project was launched in 2014 at a cost of R2.2 billion. Almost ten years later, the residents of Giyani and the surrounding villages still do not have water despite the fact that the project has ballooned by more than R1 billion to more than R3.2 billion.
It is understandable why South Africans would be nostalgic about the Biblical Egypt. “Yes, we lived under oppression, but we did not starve” as the Biblical children of Israel are reported to have told Moses as they complained about their suffering and lack of food and water on their way to the promised land of Canaan.
In 1989 the rate of unemployment in South Africa was 17,8 percent. Today it is more than 42 percent. In the same year, you would need R2,53 to buy the US dollar. Today you will need R18,30.
As painful as it is, people are being forced to compare the past and the present. Given the fact that South Africa is fast drifting towards a failed State, it is understandable why many people would be angry and would want to support a shutdown.
But what will a shutdown achieve? How different will the planned shutdown be to the service delivery protests that occur virtually on a daily basis in different parts of the country?
It is a worthwhile exercise for the people to voice their anger at the government for failing to serve the people. That is why there is value in the planned protest. However, South Africans should be reminded that despite all the daunting challenges the country is facing, we live in a democracy. We should not take that for granted.
With all its imperfections, the ruling party has not banned free political association and activity. The most effective weapon that citizens have to change the government is their vote. It appears that people do not fully appreciate the power that they wield through the vote.
In the last election, just over 30 percent of registered voters cast their votes. The vast majority of the registered voters did not vote. There is a high number of citizens who have not even registered. The majority of the unregistered voters are young people. And it is these young people, 70 percent of them, who are unemployed. Those who are sincere about saving South Africa from becoming a failed State should opt for a ballot and not mayhem to remove the current government from office.
The first step is to convince young people to register for elections and then ask them to vote for change. Political parties that are part of the law-making process in parliament should take the lead in encouraging people to use the vote to effect change. The law allows that. More importantly, South Africa is fragile as we saw with the July 2021 riots. Any spark can start a fire that may not be extinguishable. Given our fragile democracy, there is no telling if the country cannot become another Somalia.
It is easy to destroy and much more difficult to build.
NETANYAHU: THE CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST
More than 160 000 Israelis have been staging demonstrations in Tel Aviv to protest against the proposed constitutional amendment that will give the Israeli parliament the power to overrule decisions of the Supreme Court.
If the amendment goes through, the right-wing dominated parliament will only require a 50 percent plus one majority to overrule decisions of the Supreme Court. The plan has been designed to shield Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from prosecution on corruption charges.
The protests are gaining support as ordinary Israelis are opposed to what they call a plan to introduce dictatorship in their country by Netanyahu.
Many of the protesters said they were opposed to the plan because their country was a democracy, and they should not allow it to become a dictatorship. Noble cause indeed. But what about the fact that they have voted for the government that has sustained occupation of Palestine? Do Palestinian people not deserve democracy and a right to self-determination?
Over the past few weeks, there has been an escalation of terror on the civilian population of the occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli army, leading to the deaths of dozens of people.
The Israeli regime, buttressed by the United States, has been terrorising the Palestinian people for decades. Occupied Palestinian land has been shrinking as the Israeli government continued to annex more territory to build new Jewish settlements. The world has simply looked away.
The irony is that while the Israeli population clamour for democracy and are staging huge protests to demand the protection of democracy and the supremacy of the Supreme Court, they support a regime that keeps Palestinian people in bondage.
EULOGY BY MATHATHA TSEDU AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR CDE PETER PC JONES AT ORLANDO COMMUNITY HALL, SOWETO FEBRUARY 26, 2023.
I have chosen to title my short talk, The Meaning of PC Jones.
Firstly, let me thank the Jones family for allowing us to gather in their name and PC’s name to pay tribute to an unassuming Hero, a Hero with a capital H. Also, thanks to our organisation in action AZAPO, for organising this and other memorials around the country. PC deserved no less.
As a rural based farmer myself, PC and I shared the same passion of trying to live out the mantra of Thomas Sankara – Produce what you eat, and eat what you produce. At the heart of Is’baya, which Cde Pandelani Nefolovhodwe will hopefully speak more about, was an attempt to ensure that the rural and neglected poorest of the poor could pool their little lands over which they held Permissions To Occupy (PTO) – not Title Deeds because rural Black folk have only permission to occupy and not ownership – so that they can produce for themselves food to eat and sell the surplus to ensure sustainability.
That was because PC was an activist of the old mould, the type that got their fingers dirty in the work that the theory of rural development spoke about. He was also online but not just online. He, together with his other comrades in Is’baya, used technology to unlock ground-based work.
However, for me, the most awe-inspiring trait about PC related to the question: How does one carry the burden of the Biko legacy? When people see you and they see Steve, and they expect from you what they think normally Steve would have provided, how heavy is that? Nkosinathi and Samora are Steve’s children, and there would be a familial expectation, but PC was with him almost to the end. It is an impossible load because the expectation is that you have become Biko. Your behaviour in public, your utterances, your politics, and your everything are viewed through the prism of Steve and you therefore have to live up to that legacy.
PC lived and carried that legacy to the end, not betraying Steve even on death. The torture, the beatings, the taunts post September 12 are difficult to imagine even for some of us who have had a taste of what it feels like lying naked, wet from suffocation and with electric shocks to your genitals.
Having failed to get what they thought they should get from Steve, leading them to beat him fatally, they would turn to PC to tell them.
PC didn’t break, and we know that because when you break in there, it shows when you come out. PC remained PC to the end. And that speaks to the consciousness and commitment that defined him.
Therefore, for me, and I am sure for many of you here and elsewhere, PC meant and represented the highest form of consciousness, defined by practical involvement as opposed to the pure social media legions. PC also represented for me the clearest of thought and analysis of our condition as Black people in this, our land.
And for that, I salute him as he taught us, by raising my clenched fist high, just as PC’s comrade Sadeque Variava described in his poem published in the 70’s in the magazine of the People’s Experimental Theatre (PET), “The Black Fist. The Black clenched fist uprated, veins taut, with blood oozing spasmodically…..”