We’ve had another week where it felt like our country was being slapped around by bad news. We had continuing gang violence on the Cape Flats, court challenges to the public protector, and a damning Constitutional Court verdict against her. And we once again had sickening testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture of corruption in the Free State.
It was a week when I found myself thinking of Smuts Ngonyama’s comment that “we did not struggle to be poor”. I found myself asking: What did we struggle for?
It was very clear in the dark days of apartheid that we wanted a different and better society. One in which all people would be treated with dignity and respect; inequality would be eradicated or at least, seriously diminished; everyone would feel that they have equal opportunities to achieve their potential; everyone would feel safe, and enjoy the beauty of our country.
What we have seen since we have become a democracy has been almost the opposite.
I was one of those optimistic people who have always held out high hopes for our country, and in many ways I still do. But it is becoming more and more difficult to remain positive when you are surrounded by so much negativity.
I visit townships on the Cape Flats often, and I try to understand what is happening and how one can resolve the complex issues there. I always leave feeling more despondent.
Last Friday, I drove through Hanover Park and I was shocked at how the place has degenerated. I entered via Athwood Road and was confronted by piles of dirt lying in and next to the road. As we drove down Derwent Lane, with Derwent and Como courts on our left, I became aware of the number of able-bodied young men standing around on street corners.
I am used to seeing young men idling on street corners in Hanover Park. It was the same when I grew up in the area, but it seems to have become worse. People look dejected, like they have given up hope of their miserable lives ever changing. The unemployment rate here is clearly much higher than the official 27.6%.
Just about every bit of space in people’s backyards has been taken up by one, two or three Wendy houses, leaving no space for washing lines. As a result, people hang their washing on the wire-fences around the courts.
It is difficult to remember what we told people about the society we want to live in when we were doing door-to-door work or having house meetings in the 1980s, when we were trying to build community organisations in areas such as Hanover Park. I doubt whether anyone still believes in the future that we were trying to convince them of.
Instead of all the things we dreamt of, we now have a society where politicians think they are more important than the people they are supposed to represent; where faux revolutionaries wear designer watches and bags, and drink expensive liquor while trying to attack white monopoly capital, the same people who benefit when they buy their watches, bags and liquor.
But I have also been thinking about the people who complain about white monopoly capital. Does it mean that they are okay with black monopoly capital? Do they want to replace white capitalists with black capitalists?
South Africa will only become a better place if those of us who try to serve the people, whether we get paid for it or not, begin to listen to the people we are trying to serve. We need to remember what we promised people in the Struggle years, and deliver on it.
* Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.