It took a taxi strike to reveal the dark underbelly of what living in Cape Town is really like.
If social media and talk radio is any barometer of the views of society, then Cape Town can be summed up like this: “The taxis are an illegal, non-tax paying lawless Mafia cartel, led by violent thugs and we want them crushed. We don’t care about them, we hate them, and if you don’t like this, you are an idiot who knows nothing, so go live in another province.”
The privileged Karens and Kevins told us all the horror stories of how bad the taxi industry is. The odd thing is that these people never use this form of transport, and their encounters are limited to being road users. Their nannies, gardeners, shop assistants and general workforce use taxis every day.
The Province and City’s political leadership joined this narrative by framing the taxi industry as lawless and guilty of thuggery. What emerged is that in the Western Cape, the voters who put the DA in power have a deepseated hatred for the taxi industry and its employees, but still want their workers to come to work daily.
Premier Alan Winde and mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis are two of the most decent, trustworthy and justice-focused politicians in South Africa today.
The fact that they are put in power and their party is funded by a voter base that consists of privileged Karens and Kevins that want the rest of the people who disagree with their worldviews (and it’s a very small world, I can confirm) to leave the Western Cape on the next taxi out, means they have a very hard time going against their voter base. The corner they have painted themselves in is getting smaller.
Do they finally stand up for Freddie, Farieda, and Fikile from the Flats or continue to obey the flood of emails and calls they get from Karen and Kevin?
During this taxi conflict, Premier Winde and mayor Hill-Lewis missed a golden opportunity to show the people of South Africa a new way to build a unified, caring City.
When thousands of citizens were walking home on Thursday night or sleeping in offices and had no means of contacting their loved ones, they should have opened the City Hall and other government facilities along the route for people who needed a place to wait for family to fetch them.
They should have set up staff with mobile phones along key intersections where stranded or walking commuters could call their families from. They should have told the men, women and children to wait where they were, and directed them to facilities close by to wait.
They should have asked food outlets to hand out coffees and basic sandwiches to people walking home, for the government’s account. But they did not. Instead the city and the province, in their conflict with the taxi industry, acted like a couple who has a fight and when their children ask either of them for food, the mother says, “Go ask your father for food.”
The taxi industry also acted irresponsibly by calling for an immediate strike. They, too, cared nothing for the workforce that they transported to work earlier on Thursday. How did Santaco think their loyal customer base would get home? They did not value the safety of their customers. They should have started their strike with 24-hours notice.
What they put the workers through was reprehensible.
The raw underbelly of Cape Town is a city that really understands nothing about how the other half lives. Our arrogant lifestyles have become enclaves of self-righteous seclusion, and we have a provincial and local government that has done very little to build integration of consciousness as a core part of their duties. It serves their voter base to not let Karen and Kevin know about how Freddie, Farieda and Fikile are struggling.
* Lorenzo A. Davids.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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