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'Poverty and injustice is unacceptable, and we should be offended by it'

Lorenzo A Davids writes that obsessions with wealth and status are not sound indicators of good governance, but instead they betray a more significant mandate, which calls on us to serve fight injustice and poverty. Picture: Lorenzo A Davids/Twitter

Lorenzo A Davids writes that obsessions with wealth and status are not sound indicators of good governance, but instead they betray a more significant mandate, which calls on us to serve fight injustice and poverty. Picture: Lorenzo A Davids/Twitter

Published May 10, 2022

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In 1889, over 400 labour delegates from across the world met in Paris on the 100th anniversary of the French revolution at the Marxist International Socialist Congress.

That congress passed a resolution calling for an international demonstration to campaign for an eight-hour working day. It resolved to hold the rally on May 1, 1890. Since then, it has become an annual event to celebrate May 1 as International Workers’ Day.

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Our great and beautiful country is built on the hard work of millions of labourers in diverse industries. Along with those in offices and board rooms, all work hard to make labour justice visible and ensure a growing and thriving economy.

Each May Day, we stand in solidarity with all labour in this country as we thank them for their work in serving our democracy.

The struggle against apartheid was a struggle to usher in a future we all wanted to live in and believed in: a growing, just, prosperous, intelligent and joyful country for all South Africans.

Over the last 28 years, we have recognised that building and growing a sustainable democratic state requires hard work. When we stop doing the hard work of building and growing a flourishing democracy and we opt to embrace the extreme excesses of comfort and wealth with no regard for the others – especially the poor – we must understand from history that such behaviours have caused the fall of empires like the Roman Empire and the Mughal Empire, which ruled Afghanistan and most of the Indian Subcontinent between 1526 and 1857.

This is what is said of the Mughal empire: “Becoming complacent in their military superiority, the Mughal emperors grew less interested in good governance and more interested in maintaining their lavish lifestyles and expensive court.”

Does this not sound warning bells for our great country as well?

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It is clear from many other examples throughout history that by carelessly embracing these obsessions with wealth and status, we betray a more significant mandate, which calls on us to serve and uphold the pillars which underpin the greatness of our systems of governance and institutions of democracy.

Elections are about the advancement of such good governance and visible justice. I am concerned that often the electorate are too easily seduced by clichéd and compromised promises made by politicians.

Voters should peer into the candidate or party’s track record to test its sincerity in embracing a visible justice-orientated interest in the lives of citizens as workers.

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This past week, I travelled through parts of the South Cape and visited Mountain View, a deserted, invaded piece of land where discarded farm workers go to live once they have been dismissed.

These people have nothing to eat and drink once the system they served has no more use for them. The municipality provides no water, ablution or electricity services. As I talked to people in other towns, I learned that there are hundreds of such places across the country where farmworkers live in abandonment.

On the road to Ladismith, I picked up a hitch-hiking retired farmworker, his wife and a friend. His biggest fear was that he might be asked to vacate his house now that he had retired. If that happens, he will have to move to a zinc structure in the local informal settlement, despite his tenure rights.

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Poverty and injustice are unacceptable in any society. We should be offended by it.

Our real crisis is that we have developed a democracy which is almost non-offended by economic exploitation, non-offended by corruption, non-offended by promise-breaking politicians, non-offended by the continuation of spatial apartheid, non-offended by the lack of justice, and the list goes on.

Our lack of offence paves the path to the doorway of political power for these political promise breakers.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

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

Cape Argus

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