Twenty years into democracy and we are at each other’s throats. Levels of dissatisfaction go far beyond the high crime rate and unemployment figures. I could list the issues which have caused most despair and conflict over the past few years, but they’re old news now.
South Africa is not the only country whose government appears to fail at every turn, nor are we the only society bursting with violence. But we are part of a country which is still trying to transform itself into a “rainbow nation”. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for that to be realised now.
I’m tired of apartheid. I’m tired of reading about people who had to get violent to get access to basic human rights. I’m tired of judging, being judged, and feeding off a never-ending stream of negativity.
I think you’re tired too. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a call to arms. The message I’m trying to impart is this: I do believe that, despite the undeniable challenges still to be faced, we are actually halfway there.
“For a long time, our history has formed a very real part of our present, but we are moving away from it now in a very real way.”
Unfortunately, in many ways our parents’ view of South Africa and other races and cultures will continue to follow us as we carve out our future. The misconceptions and cruel beliefs we’ve had to see them struggle with and try to impart on us are a part of who we are, whether we like it or not.
I don’t want to go on a tangent about how we should make more of an effort to get along and accept each other – we’ve all heard about that. Ironically, it’s also what we’ve been taught alongside being taught to be cautious of the ‘other race’. We already know that we have to do better. We know that we want better.
There are issues that we must still face and they are serious issues with the potential to cripple the country. But our generation is nonetheless achieving what anti-apartheid activists fought for: we’re standing as one, despite our differences. For a long time, our history has formed a very real part of our present, but we are moving away from it now in a very real way.
Yes, it sounds dreamy and romantic but for the first time I feel that, despite every horrible twist and unbelievable turn, we are getting where we’ve always wanted to be. The very fact that our government has let us down time and again means that we’ve been forced to deal with what’s truly important. When we look back one day, we may realise that it’s the sole reason we’ve moved forward.
It would be dangerous and wrong to say the strikes, the protests, and the general apathy of our government have all been a good thing. But at least our generation is moving South Africa into a space where we can talk about uncomfortable things and accept each other for who and what we are.
There’s no doubt that things will get worse before they get better, and we all have a lot of work to do on ourselves, but at least we have reason to hope.
During the first 90 days of 2014, South Africa experienced nearly 3000 protest actions, more than 30 a day, involving nearly one million people.
Protests and strike action are characteristic of a democratic South Africa, for better or for worse. In this show we look at the facts around protests in SA, and we look at the role of crowd psychology. And in light of recent unrest in the platinum belt, we look at platinum as a commodity.
The Science Inside, the show that goes inside the science of major news events, is produced by Paul McNally, Anina Mumm, DJ Keyez and Lutfiyah Suliman for The Wits Radio Academy.
Tune in live to VowFM every Monday at 6pm.
If the full podcast does not load automatically, please click here.
Students are encouraged to donate food items to the striking miners of Marikana and their families. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.
Approximately 70 000 workers from platinum mines in the North West and Limpopo provinces remain on strike in the effort to secure a basic salary of R12 500.
And while the strike enters its 16th week, the families of the miners are looking to welfare organisations and donors from across the country for food they can no longer afford.
In an effort to help those affected, the Marikana Support Committee and the Wits Sociology department have brought the initiative to Wits University to allow staff and students to make a contribution.
Prof Noor Nieftagodien, who is involved in the Marikana Support Committee, says the situation is becoming “increasingly desperate”, especially in terms of a “worsening humanitarian crisis.”
Nieftagoden says the response at Wits has been “very slow” but students who are aware of the campaign have been “very enthusiastic.”
At present, Wits has only collected R3000 and two food parcels. Nieftagodien hopes that the Student Representative Council (SRC) and student organisations will begin to mobilise support this week and that students will help raise awareness about the situation.
He says that the main aim of this initiative is “to make a humanitarian intervention” and provide food and other basic necessities. The project was initiated by two Masters students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Marikana Support Committee. Last week UJ delivered approximately 90 food parcels to the area and is set to make a second delivery this week.
The 70 000 striking workers provide support to approximately 150 000 to 200 000 people. “We cannot allow poor people to go hungry, especially not in the year that we celebrate 20 years of democracy,” said Nieftagodien.
Students are encouraged to donate what they can (food, clothes or monetary) and donations can be sent to Ingrid Chunilal or Sedzani Malada in the Wits Sociology department.
Alternatively, the School of Literature, Language and Media Studies has arranged for students to drop off food and/or clothing parcels in Room SH3159 on Friday, May 23, between 8am and 1pm.
By Jay Caboz
IN THE Wits Vuvuzela newsroom, for whatever reason, there is a collective sigh from the journalists when the sounds of hundreds of marchers begin their chanting near Mary Fitzgerald Square.
When there is strike in Johannesburg, I can almost guarantee you a journalist will know about it.
There is nothing quite like a strike. You never know when someone is going to start throwing rubble. You never know if a journalist is going to be attacked. You never know if Julius Malema is going to rock up.
As someone who may not have such tentative ears, you might think to yourself, “Oh what? Another strike today?” Before you simply move on and forget about it.
How is it that we as South Africans are so used to the idea that striking is normal? I think, most importantly, we as a nation are becoming very nonchalant about the seriousness of the reasons people protest. We dismiss it, thinking that the strike will never go beyond affecting our traffic route.
But more and more, strike season is becoming strike year. According to Wikipedia, South Africa has one of the highest rates of public protest in the world. If you look back over 2012, we have seen some of the most violent protests in our democratic history. Who could forget the Marikana strike? And, in the Western Cape alone, 179 violent strikes were reported last year. I dread to think of the amount of service delivery strikes that occurred in Gauteng over the same period.
Is it your problem if farm workers down in the Western Cape are paid R69 a day? And should you care if a small township in the middle of who-knows-where has any public toilets? What about youth wage subsidies? What about our own Wits lecturers and staff protesting about low wages?
But, suddenly, it is your problem when you have to pay e-tolls.
Stop and think for a minute. Why are people so angry that they have to take to the streets on a regular basis to have their demands heard? I want you to ask yourself, “how many stories have I heard about strikes and how many of them have been resolved?”
The way things are going, striking is only going to get worse. So maybe it’s time we stopped and listened to the anger in those chants and realised that these protests affect more than just the people willing to stand up. It affects all South Africans in one way or another.