With election 2024 looming, it is obvious that every conversation about politics, people, problems or progress will be filtered through the election lens. As it should be. Last week I wrote about how the apartheid government prioritised and addressed white poverty with the urgency it promised at the 1948 ballot box.
Lingering collective black poverty should be the number one election conversation at the 2024 ballot box. Since 1994, white wealth has grown, and black poverty has become worse. Despite the nauseating rise of the black billionaires’ club in South Africa, the people living and dying in squalor have increased in number and invisibility.
With black poverty, collective black violence has also increased. It’s an expected outcome. Whenever poverty is left unaddressed, violence is born as its brother. Violence and poverty will always co-exist. The government’s response to this twin phenomenon is always to address the violence and not the poverty. Any sociologist can tell them that they are wasting money on addressing violence if they are not also addressing poverty. Aristotle said “Poverty is the parent to revolution and crime”.
In the Western Cape, collective black poverty has remained unchanged. With 82% of the Western Cape’s population being collectively black, it is also the group with the highest poverty data. From housing to employment, the collective black population in the Western Cape has not benefited from the Province and the City of Cape Town’s global accolades for being one of the best destinations.
The poverty in informal settlements and townships remains at levels equal to other provinces across the country. There is no better life for poor people, not in the Western Cape nor in any of the other provinces.
The fact that poor people are still pariahs in the land of their birth, with no prospect of generational poverty ending any time soon, must become the message of the 2024 election. With chronic poverty far outnumbering wealth in South Africa, it is time for the poor to make their voices heard at the ballot box. The 30 million people living in chronic poverty should no longer be ignored. We can no longer have our elected governors only police our bodies but do nothing to alleviate our poverty. We can no longer have our elected governors not prioritise addressing collective black poverty from Day 1 of their time in office.
For too long have we had promises and not delivery. When the Nationalists of 1948 addressed white poverty, they ensured that the white poor had decent jobs, access, attention, and power. We want to see a 2024 plan to address black poverty. Nedlac and other state institutions have been significant disappointments in their task of equitably addressing the needs of business and the needs of black poverty and black wealth creation.
It is interesting that when black progress is talked about in economic and political circles, it is spoken of only in terms of poverty alleviation and poverty reduction. There is no talk of black wealth creation. The black politicians, in particular, have failed to prioritise black wealth creation, other than for themselves and their families.
Our collective black population must use the 2024 election to tell politicians to stop policing the black body as its primary engagement with poor people. The government must provide opportunities for the black individual to participate in the economy in full. Violence and poverty will not go away by policing black people. Violence and poverty are done away with through economic engagement and progress. What percentage of the Western Cape and City of Cape Town’s capital expenditure budget is allocated to advance collective black economic progress and inclusion?
It is sad that in 2024 we must still write about the neglect of black economic progress. We have seen enough of the corruption, self-enrichment, and obfuscation by politicians over the last 30 years. We need a plan to address black poverty. Not only black violence.
* Lorenzo A. Davids.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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