Lorenzo A Davids writes that the Western Cape is slowly becoming another enclave of black poverty, while it is also becoming the throne room of white privilege. File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency
Lorenzo A Davids writes that the Western Cape is slowly becoming another enclave of black poverty, while it is also becoming the throne room of white privilege. File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency

The politics of second-hand clothes and cappuccinos in the Western Cape

By Lorenzo A Davids Time of article published Aug 24, 2021

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Politicians struggle with the concepts of equality, equity and justice. None of those words fit into their lexicons of race, privilege and power. The Western Cape is slowly becoming another enclave of black poverty, while it is also becoming the throne room of white privilege.

The City of Cape Town is traditionally the heart of charitableness and “stroopsoet liefdadigheid". A university mentor had said to me: ”be very aware of the good, for good is the enemy of the best".

Black (all ethnicities other than white) poverty in the Western Cape is not about less food and transport than what black people have elsewhere.

Black poverty in Cape Town is about the slow eradication of meaningful existence and the increasing invisibility of the suffering of jobless and landless people.

The powerful Lamborghinis in Llandudno will never meet the fully laden Avanzas (amaphelas) from Mfuleni. Some argue this is the modern construct of cities. It is not. It is so by design and decision of its politicians.

Cape Town's white population make up about 17% of the City's population. The other 83% are ethnicities other than white.

Yet, in virtually every strategically powerful position in this City, a white person determines the future of 83% of the population. And even where black and coloured people are in charge, they have a white person as their lieutenant, their 2IC, to ensure that “nothing goes wrong”.

The narratives of equality, equity and justice have been severely damaged by the incompetence of many ANC leaders, deployed to lead but ended up rather misleading the country. This has given the 83% in the Western Cape a massive paintbrush with which to paint every person of colour.

The Western Cape narrative is now one of race, privilege and power. You either align with the race, privilege and power narratives that operate in this province, or you end up without access opportunities in this province.

While the City and Province render much of the anticipated services any government should provide to its people, the particular problem in the Western Cape is that the dominant constituency that benefits from these efficiencies are not the majority of the local citizens.

The equality, equity, and justice narratives are slowly being strangled to death via policies and by-laws, while race, privilege and power narratives are unashamedly punted from ratepayer and constituency podiums and platforms.

I have seen the poverty of the 83%. I have seen the privilege of the 17%. I have seen the violence of black deaths. I have seen the access to power of white citizens. I have also seen the volumes of white charitableness towards the 83%.

But charity is not justice. Only justice is justice. You can send your used clothes to Langa and your shoes to Tafelsig, but if you do not actively dismantle the narratives of race, privilege and power, you are complicit in maintaining the structures that oppose equality, equity and justice.

For too long, groups in the suburbs have equated sending clothes and food to townships as acts of social justice. Not it's not.

Good deeds without conversations about justice only serve to entrench oppressive patterns. As my mentor said: the good becomes the enemy of the best.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

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

Cape Argus

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