Residents queue at a supermarket which was closed after violence and widespread looting. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters
Residents queue at a supermarket which was closed after violence and widespread looting. Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters

We have to put people first

By Lechesa Tsenoli Time of article published Jul 25, 2021

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This bitter cold winter, including parts of the country such as KwaZulu-Natal which used to be warm throughout the year, but now the climate has changed!

The warm and fuzzy climes have changed - extremes of the weather are taking place. But change they still do. Spring and summer will soon be beckoning.

Similarly, the recent failed insurrection and counter revolutionary activity has had a terrible impact - over two hundred people are dead.

Unlike the weather, and the destruction of property which may be repaired, these people have gone permanently. Their families and neighbourhoods are distraught, and will be mourning them for a long time to come.

Yet, these communities and others elsewhere have taken things in their own hands, stopping some of the attempted destructive activity.

People, rightly said: ‘not in our neighbourhood’. Where destruction took place, many have, without resistance, returned stolen goods, others are cleaning up voluntarily.

The president joined in the campaign to clean up, urging residents to do so regularly, as it is done in other countries.

We support this call fully because it enlivens the constitutional provision for not only representative democracy, but participatory democracy as well.

The police and army received huge support. Arrests have also taken place, and soon in the courts their roles and their significance will be heard.

As in the past, attempts to use tribal affiliation to mobilise, has failed. Instead, some poor and unemployed and the criminal, experienced and opportunistic, took advantage and destroyed many dreams. They have been condemned in KZN and in Gauteng where the mayhem largely occurred.

In an environment of deepening poverty, unemployment and inequality, the rampaging crowds added to these dangerous levels.

Some have already been given retrenchment letters. For others it will be difficult to rebuild.

The defence ultimately of the country lies with its people. We have already seen how many organised communities sprang into action, effectively preventing the mayhem from spreading beyond parts of KZN and Gauteng.

Some creative solutions were deployed to foil the destruction of businesses, such as using cooking oil and water to prevent the rampaging looters from gaining access to stores.

For small traders and businesses on the streets, their livelihoods were set back terribly.

During the recent Budget Review Report Recommendation debates, concerns were raised about the budget cuts on the security cluster in general, and the risks such underfunding represents.

The president’s acknowledgement that they responded late is serious, but clearly once they got going, things were brought under control.

The damage was serious, although geographically limited to parts of KZN and Gauteng. The state of poverty, unemployment and inequality is unsustainable.

This is especially so because Covid-19 is wreaking havoc, and the logistical disruption of the vaccination programme was itself particularly senseless, given the deaths already registered amid growing infections.

This open defiance of regulations must be punished! We can’t agree with chaos and anarchy.

The impact of delaying the already slow recovery by the huge economic and social transformation sabotage is unpardonable, surely?

The army and the police intervention is, and can only be, to stabilise the environment so that the fundamental changes to the political economy must take place urgently.

We have to put people first.

Pursuing policies that may delay, or predictably fail to improve the quality of life and people’s lived experience, is a greater risk than anything at this moment.

This crisis is a huge opportunity to deploy public resources urgently, in an integrated manner, especially in a strategic way to reverse de-industrialisation. The state must coordinate its work better, to effectively pool our limited resources.

We have to speed up cleaning the state and society of corruption and maladministration.

Rebuilding, repairing and building new infrastructure for the national health insurance must be a priority if we are to deal properly with the current pandemic.

The State Capture commission report is likely to produce path-breaking results. All of the state must be readying itself to respond with agility.

We must unequivocally confirm too, the independence of the judiciary, and not allow the courts to be intimidated in any form, shape or size!

The constitutional values that say we are all equal before the law, must be made clear, if it ever needed to be made so.

We must ensure we urgently rollout technology infrastructure - integrated across the three arms of the state - and capacity-building for workers, especially women, who the pandemic is said to have impacted more than men, and professionals, to draw in both urban and rural areas, so that ‘nobody is left behind’.

In conclusion, we agree with the president fully when he says that:

The imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma following the ruling of the Constitutional Court, is really a sad moment in the history of our movement.

Regardless of one’s views on the Constitutional Court’s decision and the appropriateness, or lack thereof, of the sentence, many within our movement and broader society feel this pain.

* Tsenoli is a member of the SACP central committee. He is also Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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