It is a province where abject poverty is personified.
A province that has the lowest matric results.
A province where roads and infrastructure are in dire straits.
A province so big, you feel sorry for its administrators.
Yet, it's a province filled with dreamers.
Dreamers who at the mere smell or sight of money will make sure it is hard-laboured on material.
Because, after all, its citizens have struggled and know poverty first hand, and therefore must enjoy life to the fullest when money comes. I am thinking deeply about these things as I stand on the side of Oxford Street in East London typing this on my phone.
It is a Friday. January 12, 2018. A day before the delivery of the ANC’s January 8 Statement. I stand in awe of all the luxury SUVs, German sedans and Italian machines that abound.
Pot-bellies, gold teeth, jewellery, designer clothing and boisterous My-Million-This-My-Million-That talk and laughter aplenty. At the airport there stand no less than three private jets before sunset. As it sets, road closures are the order of the day. Our people drive beautiful cars. Expensive cars. There must be money in the ANC. I think. To myself. Who are these people?
As I make my way to my office in Vincent I pass more gaudy characters in ANC regalia. Bottlestores are brimming; with staff having to haul out ladders to yank down dusty 20-and-upward-year-old whisky bottles. Who are these people?
As evening sets in I head on down to a new trendy establishment near the East London airport. Debauchery looms in the air as scantily clad ladies make their way in numbers and we the men smile at one another. My-Million-This-My-Million-That talk gets louder.
Who are these people? A part of me wants to say inokuba ndibhuqwa ngumona (jealousy is having its way with me) but a part of me cannot accept that. When people died for this freedom we now enjoy today, I doubt very much it was for these conspicuous consumption reasons.
When we now speak of radical economic transformation, are we not perhaps trying to say accelerated access to money to buy a luxury vehicle or to travel to an international jazz festival abroad and brag about? In our zealous pursuit of wealth have we stopped to think of the inequalities that still exist as we, individuals, progress? How, as a minority of blacks make money, the economy actually closes its doors on the poorest of the poor.
Have we thought about that?
No, we are not thinking on that level. We are currently behaving like deeply depraved beings who are playing catch-up with their former oppressors at the expense of a majority poor citizenry.
There is nothing wrong with purchasing R12000-or-more per month vehicles. There is nothing wrong with getting R2million or more home loans. Nothing. But I can assure you that people who are busy servicing such debt, living from one salary to the next, will not have adequate time to do social good nor change the circumstances of those beyond the scope of what they define as family.
What are we doing to change the order of things? How are we all contributing towards the genuine eradication of poverty? Is equality something we truly aspire to or just a catchphrase?
We should be fighting for lower house prices for the previously disadvantaged, land in urban areas, decent roads, rebuilding manufacturing firms, giving students education for free.
These are all possible. But we choose to spend money elsewhere.
Ours should be a humanitarian fight, as we know very well what it feels like to be dehumanised. Why is it so hard to fight for a better life for all. But no, we are fighting for who gets that SUV first. That is us. Please do not question us. We only live once.
As this weekend comes to an end I am deeply disappointed by the ANC I saw in East London. Projecting illusions of wealth in the midst of dire poverty. When the dust settles and the SUVs are 800km away or so, we will remain as we were. Poor. And perhaps with stories of how much noise a Maserati actually makes...
Is that what the ANC has become?
* Unathi Kondile is the editor of I’solezwe lesiXhosa in the Eastern Cape.