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Natives Land Act: The trauma of black indignity relived

Lorenzo A Davids writes that when the Union government adopted the Natives Land Act on June 19, 1913, it dealt a savage blow to the dignity and prosperity of black people. File picture: Neil Baynes/African News Agency (ANA) Archive

Lorenzo A Davids writes that when the Union government adopted the Natives Land Act on June 19, 1913, it dealt a savage blow to the dignity and prosperity of black people. File picture: Neil Baynes/African News Agency (ANA) Archive

Published Jun 21, 2022

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What do our politicians not get about the state of South Africa today? South Africa has faced a series of crises since the dawn of our democracy.

The firing of Jacob Zuma on June 4, 2005, and the later removal of Thabo Mbeki from office on September 20, 2008, however, do not come close to the current crisis.

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The current crisis is that an entire Cabinet and Parliament are in free fall, having resigned themselves to their inability to lead a country facing political and economic challenges that appear, based on the government inertia we see, to be way above the ability of our leaders to solve.

When the Union government of Louis Botha adopted the Natives Land Act on June 19, 1913, it dealt a savage blow to the dignity and prosperity of black people. Today, 109 years and one day later, black people are still living in unacceptable conditions in the land of their birth.

Our politicians don’t reflect on this day as a call to deepen service to the people of South Africa. It simply passes them by.

Many of our politicians have reached their sell-by date, and their uselessness is irreparable. They only feed their ever-growing bellies, drive around in luxury at our expense, and do as little as possible.

They are found in meetings. They have no visibility in fixing the collapsing system we live in.

June 19 each year should be a moment of sacred reflection on our call to serve the people. We are sick and tired of the grandiosity associated with our leaders.

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Many of them are just paid ribbon-cutters. Nothing more. They don’t read. They don’t know history. They are putrid at execution. They are never available to the public. Yet, at each election, they storm into our communities and hog our phones lines with calls and requests. It’s time to end this charade. It’s time to end the buffet, the chauffeured cars and the associated freebies.

The enslavement that the Natives Land Act wrought on the lives of black people is now seen in the subservience that today’s leaders require of that same population.

You may not offend your political leaders lest they invoke their powers to prevent you from accessing the services you need to live.

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People wait for toilets, for housing, for trains and for land for decades.

South Africa can no longer afford to keep on being shown the lowest expressions of service delivery as “look, something is happening”.

We need an earnestness from our elected officials that will be greater than the sum of all the efforts of our politicians over the last 28 years. Louis Botha’s 1913 Parliament stripped black South Africans of their land.

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The 1994 Government has, over time, stripped South Africans of their dignity. The black poor of 1913 continue to live in horrible conditions of poverty and landlessness in 2022.

I was reading SAA whistle-blower Cynthia Stimpel’s book Hijackers On Board, where she reflects on a meeting where SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni said, “I don’t even have enough outfits to wear” when she reflected on the number of meetings she had to attend.

We no longer recognise our leaders. They have betrayed the people’s trust. For 28 years, they have lived off the fat of the land, while for the same 28 years, children have died in gang violence and pit latrines, and our hospitals have collapsed. On their watch. We, the people, have been tardy to call them out.

We have re-elected and allowed them to be in office while they were incapable of leading anything and culpable in the slow destruction of our great democracy.

In 1913 black people suffered an indignity that took 81 years to undo. In 1994 black people embraced a democracy that promised to restore that lost dignity. In 2022 black people again face the indignity of broken promises and betrayed trust.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

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

Cape Argus

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