Let’s get busy cleaning up, rebuilding and solving the long term underlying socio-economic problems that affect all of us. That’s what truly makes us South African. That is our character.” – Mandy Wiener
Johannesburg, South Africa (14 July 2021) – Mandy Wiener writes that now is the time to shift! Now is the time to show our South African character!
“We are all juggling conflicting emotions, trying to digest and understand and comprehend the images we have seen over the past few days. The looting and violence in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has been extreme – at least 72 lives have been lost.”
There is still no real clarity on what is driving it. Ostensibly, the catalyst was former President Jacob Zuma’s incarceration.
Reports from News24 today say that investigations are under way to determine if ex-State Security Agency agents close to former president Jacob Zuma are fanning the unrest. If that is indeed true then that is insurrection, terrorism against the state and those responsible must be held to account.
There is undoubtedly a criminal element involved, leveraging the situation.
To destroy a blood bank, clinics, vaccines, radio stations, water treatment plants, cellphone towers is pure anarchy and targeted terrorism.
But we have to also understand and appreciate that this has also been the spark for a tinder box of unemployment, hunger, disenfranchisement and disillusionment with the government.
As Isobel Frye, Director at the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute told me, if there is a sense that if you’ve got no hope in the future, you’ve got nothing to lose today.
The unemployment rate among youth aged 15-34 years was 46,3% in the first quarter of 2021. There are 7.2 million people without jobs in South Africa.
Lockdown, without sufficient support for the unemployed, has exacerbated hunger and desperation.
Last weeks’ Nids-Cram survey reminded us of this too. According to the study, child hunger remains extremely high. In April/May 2021 14% of households indicated a child had gone hungry in the past 7 days.
Sadly what is really upsetting is that the township economy will be the hardest hit by this looting and destruction. Local entrepreneurs who have poured blood, sweat and tears into starting businesses and creating jobs have lost everything.
Those of us in the suburbs may have supply chain issues for a little while, our grocery stores may not be fully stocked, but it’s those in poorer communities that will feel it hardest and for the longest.
I am also really concerned about the impact on the fight against Covid, the rollout of vaccinations as sites have had to close, the superspreader events, the added burden on the healthcare system from those injured in the riots.
The images of devastation have left us all reeling, feeling negative and disillusioned about the country. I totally appreciate and acknowledge that. We are also disappointed at the political leadership and the apparent inability of law enforcement to both pre-empt the attacks and contain them.
I hear the conversations about emigrating from those who are in a position to do so and the lamenting from those who have left, who are watching from afar.
But now is the time to shift.
Over the last day, we have seen communities rally to protect their shopping centers and their livelihoods. Taxi drivers taking a stand. Active citizens mobilizing neighbours to work together.
Last night I watched an interview with a local Sowetan resident Nhlanhla Lux who had mobilized his community to protect Maponya Mall. ‘If we have the dependency syndrome of always waiting for a saviour to come and save the township, we will keep dilapidating the way we are. It’s our responsibility to ensure we protect the infrastructure and economy,” he told Newzroom Afrika.
Nick Hedley, communications consultant tweeted, ‘This is an uprising of the poor, the forgotten, and those with little to lose. The short-term solution is peaceful intervention by the SANDF and SAPS. The long term solution is to uplift these communities. If the government keeps failing them, the rest of us must find a way.’
Entrepreneur and business incubator Allon Raiz tweeted, ‘Pick up your chins, pick up your brooms, take a breath and let’s start again. We will begin to see green shoots emerging from this catastrophe. People who would never dream of working together in the past, will join hands to work toward rebuilding. Everyone everyone everyone knows that something has shifted.’
We are already seeing networks of people getting together on social media offering assistance, to help clean up and rebuild. Construction companies are offering services for free. Groups are rallying together to assist and provide services.
Brand South Africa’s Sithembile Ntombela told me today that it’s time to do introspection as a nation. ‘People must now take charge, people must play their part because clearly the future is in our hands. If we don’t do anything as the citizens of South Africa then who will do it for us. Let’s build brand advocacy amongst us, get South Africans to rally behind the brand that we love so much. We stand for ubuntu and resilience. It’s those qualities and our character when we are faced with difficult times that come alive.’
So don’t worry about posting cry my beloved country images or changing your profile pictures to teary eyes. There are a lot of South Africans who need support right now. Building the beloved country is far more helpful.
Let’s get busy cleaning up, rebuilding and solving the long term underlying socio-economic problems that affect all of us. That’s what truly makes us South African. That is our character.