Dear Mr President
RE: 2019 SONA ADDRESS
My name is Henriette Abrahams, an unemployed post graduate student with almost three decades of experience in civil society organisations, serving poor and marginalised communities passionately and diligently. You see Mr President, I have been on what you call the Thuma Mina campaign since my teens and am continuing in my community today.
I live in a working class area on the Cape Flats called Bonteheuwel. Our community was once a proud and peaceful community that has produced many successful and outstanding citizens in various fields, servicing our country proudly at home and abroad. The list of our role models, heroes and heroines include names such as Christopher Truter, Ashley Kriel, Anton Fransch, Coline Williams, Anwa Dramat, Prof Daniel Plaatjies, Dr Leon Scott, Mr Shahied Daniels, Ms Pearl Jansen and many, many others. Apart from some of these better-known names, our community has produced many other local heroes and heroines of our own, some making strides and differences quietly in their own little nooks and crannies in our communities.
Mr President, Bonteheuwel was once a place of learning, development of the mind and, a place where we as youth had lively debates, and could roam our streets free from violence and crime. Today our beloved community, like many other working class communities, has become a place of fear, a place where the billboards on your way from the airport warns road users not to stop as they are in a danger zone, a place where our children must be kept indoors all day for fear of stray bullets, a place where outsiders fear to enter.
Bonteheuwel, like many Cape Flats communities, is synonymous with high violent crime, drug addiction and poverty. Our challenges are truancy, high school dropout rates, unemployment, gangsterism, drug addiction, hunger and trauma, gang and gender-based violence, overcrowding and a lack of decent housing, continued apartheid-style spatial development strategies in our province, access to quality and decent health care services, etc. Our issues are not unique to Bonteheuwel, our issues are the same as many working class communities around our country.
My fear, Mr President, is that we are the forgotten communities, the communities that political parties make promises to every five years when they come begging for our votes. My fear, Mr President, is that currently in our community and others such as ours, our children are dropping out of school and the recruitment pool for gangsters is growing bigger by the day, we are losing fathers due to gang violence and we are having more and more children growing up without father figures, more and more young men and women are becoming addicted to drugs and more and more grandparents and family members are becoming foster parents to their children. putting a burden on grandparents’ meagre social grant.
Our lived reality is that those lucky enough to have a job have to dodge bullets on their way to and from work. In addition to this, our people get robbed on their way to work or the taxi gets pulled off and its passengers are robbed by gangsters on the taxi route or en route to the train stations. The reality of many of our working class using the unreliable Metrorail service is that many of our people risk their lives on these overcrowded trains, which is often not running on schedule and this causes people to get reprimanded at work for late coming with the end result being people losing their jobs or their contracts not being renewed as they are deemed unreliable and have terrible records of late coming.
Mr President, the odds are stacked against us be it at home, at school or at work. We are not safe, our right to safety and security is not the same as yours, parliamentarians’ or those living in gated communities and in the leafy suburbs. We are poor and hungry. We are either jobless or working low-earning jobs - if not EPW jobs - how can we still afford to move to a leafy suburbs if we are not even earning a living wage? No, Mr President, not the National Minimum Wage but a Living Wage as prescribed in the ILO Convention.
Mr President, it does not take a genius to figure out that gangsterism and crime is but a symptom of a bigger and more evil problem in our community, which is poverty and inequality brought about by capitalism and its global neo-liberal policies. So from my side I would like to hear how your office, cabinet and all spheres of government are planning to solve our working class issues, how in your SONA every year government plans to make our working class life safe, affordable and do away with poverty, inequality and capitalism and how government will be working in the interest of the working class and not for the corrupt, elite and business. Mr President, may I remind you of what our late former president Nelson Mandela said: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world none of us can truly rest.” …….”Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Now Mr President please let us put shoulder to the wheel and talk real and meaningful change and transformation for the majority of our people.
Dr Cornel West says: “If your success is defined by being well adapted to injustice and well adapted to indifference, then we don't want successful leaders, we want great leaders - who love the people enough and respect the people enough to be unbought, unbound, unafraid, and unintimidated to tell the truth.” Mr President, in our community I try my best to be what Dr West demands and I humbly request that you, our number one citizen, our head of state, our leader, heed the advice of Mandela and Dr West and lead in eradicating poverty, injustice and gross inequality by being unbought, unbound, unafraid and unintimidated, to tell the truth and act in the interest of our majority citizens and clean up government, prosecute and jail those involved in any form of corruption because stealing from the state is stealing from the poor and undermining the state which is tantamount to treason in my book.
Mr President, please stand up and be counted and show our nation that it is not only the poor who steals to feed their hunger because they are unemployed who gets prosecuted and goes to jail, show them that we are truly equal before the law and that no amount of wealth, influential networks and corruption will keep them from going to jail if found guilty. All funds and assets stolen from the poor should be recouped from these individuals, groups and companies and spent on bringing down the cost of living, safety and security, housing, sustainable job creation, education, and health, etc, for our working class communities across our country.
Mr President, we the poor, the people dodging the bullets, the people who have to share our last with our neighbours and children in need, the people who can’t afford the high cost of living and municipal tariff charges, the people who political parties are using as a political football are begging you to be bold, to leave no stone unturned, to take no prisoners and lead, lead by example, lead by not selling us out for a few pieces of silver around the global neo-liberalist tables, lead by protecting and advancing our working class interest or else we have to continue building our organs of peoples power and take our power back from the political elite who are serving the interest of capital instead of the interest of the people who put you into power.
BE THAT PRESIDENT MR PRESIDENT!!!
YOU SERVE AT OUR BEHEST
THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE IS STRONGER THAN THE PEOPLE IN POWER!!!!
WE ARE THE PEOPLE AND WE ARE SUFFERING!!!