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Neo-liberalism is at the root of all SA’s social ills

Private security officers keep a watchful eye on the UJ campus entrance as students threaten to enter the premises by force. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Private security officers keep a watchful eye on the UJ campus entrance as students threaten to enter the premises by force. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Published Oct 2, 2016

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Security companies pose a threat to children who rise up to claim a free education, writes Gillian Schutte.

As South Africa has become more neo-liberal over the years, so too has the violence against the poor increased. In fact, violence against the poor has become commodified as manifested in the security industrial complex that has developed and flourished in the gaping divide between the rich and the poor.

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The links between this anti-poor narrative and the onslaught on student protesters cannot be overlooked. Neo-liberal policies ensure wealth stays concentrated in the hands of the top 10 percent and relegates every one else to hierarchical pockets of struggle. This means it is the poorest of the poor who carry the biggest burden and are victimised by this system.

The poor are rendered valueless in an economic system designed to work against them. They are dumped like human waste into spaces where the chance to make a living is virtually nil because capital-intense industry has no use for them. The façade of grants has long passed its sell-by date as these amount to possibly one week of food for families that live off them alone.

They do not keep up with inflation. The price of food has doubled because there are no regulations capping prices. Neo-liberalism is a giant, devouring Pac-Man. Whatever it cannot make profits from, it spits out into the wasteland that has become the reality for the majority of black South Africans. This economic system is also increasingly turning the screw on the middle classes. Yet many believe this state of affairs to be democratic and in favour of human rights.

Draconian laws that are engineered to look democratic and which are supposedly there to protect human rights strip the poor of their rights and protect the rich. When the poor, who are unable to bear the burden, rise up to claim their constitutional rights, they are brutally disciplined by the state arms of police and militia.

Neo-liberal states rely on their police force, their military and the massive privatised security industry because they need to protect the rich from the poor. South Africa is a prime example of this and it is clear our ANC-led government is captured by global capital via white monopoly capital and dictated to accordingly. Big business is in charge and they use their ANC shareholders to keep all other citizens in check.

But it is the black body that is most brutally disciplined by the state and institutions. This has been highly visible in the treatment of black students in the past week. An obvious collusion between the police, the private security industrial complex, university management and media played out with the same precision displayed in the collusion formed in 2012 to smash the Marikana strike.

Thus the students are cast by the media as unruly, potentially murderous and a danger to the majority of well-behaved students as well as society. They fail to use language that will muster up outrage when students are attacked by security with batons and bodily grips that injure them.

Private security companies are employed by university management to quell the student exuberance, with the consent of parents who are influenced by the media, which depicts students as savage and out of control. Most media fail to mention the violence meted out to them by the university management through their anti-protest rhetoric and hired in security companies. They fail to mention these companies pose a threat to the safety of the students in that the management has not done background checks on them.

This militia-type presence on campuses is unconstitutional, yet not one has been outraged at the lack of safety these companies pose to the children who rise up to claim their right to a free education.

Perhaps on some level the lack of tangible action from civil society reveals a demographic which is also threatened by an educated black collective. In the meantime, we consume scenes on TV news of battles between armed police and unarmed students - a phenomenon which is fast becoming normalised to the general public who are asked to believe that the students deserve this treatment. They do not.

It is time we recognise neo-liberalism as the number one enemy. When the majority does, it will be impossible to continue to support a neo-liberal government. It is because of our share-hungry government and their capital-drenched partners that students are unable to access their right to a free education - and their parents are unable to pay their loans or afford fees. Twenty-three years of rampant capitalism and neo-liberal policies have rendered many unable to access adequate nutrition, let alone health and education.

We need to resist neo-liberalism and vote for democratic socialism instead. Not the faux Marxism dished up by the SACP and its partner labour movement’s petite bourgeois leadership. What we want is a system that nationalises the mines, gives back the land and redistributes wealth to the people through free education, free health, access to jobs, food security and other social safety nets.

Only then will the people who are rendered nothing by this system be able to experience justice and equality. Neo-liberal capitalism is the root of all the social problems in South Africa. It feeds off the people and profits from their misery.

* Schutte is founding member of Media for Justice, a social justice and media activist and a documentary film-maker.

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

The Sunday Independent

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