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#changethestory: Challenge to MPs – step off the red carpet

Delft and its sister community, Blikkiesdorp, are replicated thousands of times across the South African landscape. This is where South Africa’s poor live – all 31 million of them. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Delft and its sister community, Blikkiesdorp, are replicated thousands of times across the South African landscape. This is where South Africa’s poor live – all 31 million of them. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Sep 8, 2020

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by Lorenzo Davids

I spent time in Delft on the Cape Flats yesterday, celebrating the work done by local NGOs in that community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Driving through Delft, the lingering state of its poverty confronts one everywhere. The township, and its housing areas such as Leiden and Eindhoven, developed in 1989, is a very far cry from its Dutch counterparts.

Delft and its sister community, Blikkiesdorp, are replicated thousands of times across the South African landscape. This is where South Africa’s poor live – all 31 million of them.

The liberation of South Africa was about liberating our people from the stranglehold of apartheid poverty. Instead, we have found the state happily engaged in its own importance – with its acolyte voices – telling the poor that all this important stuff the state is doing is about reducing poverty and creating jobs, when the facts show a preponderance of actions to ensure its own wealth-creation.

When the ministers to visit townships most frequently are the MEC for Safety and Security and the minister of Police, and not the minister of Trade and Industry or the MEC for Economic Development, it is evident that the state’s only engagement with the poor is not about lessening their poverty, but about burying their dead.

Core to this inertia about undoing poverty is the failure to give any prominence to the now almost outdated National Development Plan.

The NDP, launched in February 2013, was to be the road map to reduce poverty and inequality by 2030. The NDP was also to be the core influencer of all state budget allocations from 2013 to 2030. High-quality outputs by the public service, as the lead implementer of the NDP, was regarded as a critical factor.

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Poverty anywhere is a blight on our nation everywhere. When we see our parliamentarians and public servants fill their pockets with state tenders and walk on red carpets, it should fill us with rage. The poor have no signal that the state is listening to them or even moved by their life-threatening poverty.

I challenge every Member of Parliament: at the 2021 opening of Parliament, as a public statement of your anger over persistent poverty and the ongoing corruption, refuse to walk on the red carpet. Step off it and walk on the stone paving next to it as a clear message to the country that you align yourself with those of Delft, Philippi and the poverty of the poor everywhere in our country.

The self-congratulating pomp and ceremony is a nauseating visual experience, knowing what we know about lingering inequality, personal enrichment and poverty.

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Over the last while, we have seen increasing attempts to silence the voices of those who call for justice and equality and to force the narrative to highlight the gains from democracy and steer it away from its failures. From Tazne Van Wyk’s family who are still waiting on a house from the president, to women waiting on justice for the violence perpetrated against them, through to the homeless waiting for a just dispensation, all confirm the notion that the dominant narrative is about institutional power and wealth.

Brazilian educator Paulo Freire said that “to glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce; to discourse on humanism and to negate people is a lie”. We do not have a functioning democracy. We might have functioning elections, but our democracy is broke.

The National Development Plan is in urgent need of review. It must be capacitated to deliver on its promises through adequate budget allocations and an unpaid civil society-constituted oversight body that holds it accountable.

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Thirty-one years after its founding, Delft lingers in poverty. In that same period, the number of South Africans who became millionaires and billionaires grew faster than in any other period.

Dear MEC Fritz and Minister Cele, can you assist in getting the MEC for Economic Development and the minister of Trade and Industry to visit the community next?

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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