It has become routine for “protesters” to destroy crucial infrastructure, directly worsening the lives of the poor, says Murray Williams.
Cape Town - All too often, it feels as if this country is tearing itself apart. This week, again, we experienced this extraordinary phenomenon of protesters who show their alleged frustration at their poverty-stricken circumstances by breaking things. By setting a train alight.
Metrorail was left tearing its hair out, understandably.
Spokeswoman Riana Scott pleaded: “It’s misdirected, self-defeating destruction. How can you destroy today what you’re going to need tomorrow?
“How do those lucky enough to have jobs get to work? How do kids get to school?”
The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry was even harsher: “It is time for all community leaders, unions and business organisations to stand together to expose the perverted logic behind the fire-bombing of trains and other disruptive protest action.
“Nobody gains anything from these attacks but everybody, including the perpetrators, are left poorer,” said Dr Ruben Richards, executive director.
“The people who suffer most are those who are trying to help themselves and their families by going to work and to colleges and universities.
“There are many who claim concern and have raised their voices about commuters and public transport in this city,” charged the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for Transport, Brett Herron
“Their silence at a time when the services that are provided are under attack is deafening and it is becoming increasingly obvious that they are more interested in political opportunity than the mobility of our residents.”
The attack on the train service would not be calamitous on its own if it was an isolated incident.
But it’s not.
Instead, it has now become routine for “protesters” to destroy crucial infrastructure that immediately and directly worsen the lives of the poor.
It’s called a society self-destructing.
Herron asks: “Where is Cosatu’s condemnation of this vandalism and sabotage?
Herron added: “Most of all, where are the local ANC councillors and where is the ANC leadership?
“When will they condemn the destruction of public infrastructure and call for respect and restraint?”
Cosatu and the ANC have both, in the past, damned the attacks.
And both will hopefully exercise their right of reply, again, in response to Herron.
But perhaps that won’t be enough.
Perhaps there’s a far greater urgency here.
And perhaps that’s called “bipartisanship”.
Political parties will and must continue to contest the political space – to fight for their constituents’ needs.
But have we not yet reached the point at which this city, this province and this country’s leaders can – for a moment – share a public space, in unified support of common ground?
It would take a degree of political maturity.
It would take a degree of organisational maturity.
And it might even take a degree of personal maturity, to stand, together, and say: “Our economy is too precious, our poor are too fragile, our country is too vulnerable, to allow violent thugs to relentlessly sabotage our slender gains.
“We disagree on a whole lot.
“But on this – and on crime, and on violence against women and children, on these crucial few fundamentals – we stand together.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.
“And on these, we speak as one.”
Will anyone take the lead?
* Murray Williams’ weekly column Shooting from the Lip appears in the Cape Argus every Friday.