South Africa, it would seem, has an entered a perpetual age of restlessness. A number of things have happened in the past few weeks which suggest we are not at peace with ourselves and with each other. Let me point out a few.
Last week Vuwani in Limpopo was on lockdown again. We remember how a shutdown of public services and a restriction on civil movements hit the area last year. Violence in the area spread uncontrollably and more than 20 schools were torched. At the bottom of this are disputes about municipal border boundaries. Apparently, residents refused to join neighbouring Malamulele to form a new municipality.
The biggest losers then were matriculants because they were unable to attend school and prepare themselves adequately for exams. Of course, other learners lost as well because they missed school for days on end.
This time around residents are reportedly upset because a promise that was made by President Jacob Zuma to attach them to the Vhembe District Municipality has not materialized. Again, it seems matriculants in the area will be the biggest losers because they are unable to write their trial exams. The class of 2017 has already missed two exams – Agriculture and tshiVenda.
I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why when residents are unhappy about some administrative or political decisions, learners must suffer. Something much deeper has gone wrong in the area. One can only describe it as self-destructive nihilistic behaviour where nothing actually exists or that existence or values are meaningless. How does one explain a community that, in its anger, sees nothing wrong in destroying the future of its children?
Government, traditional leaders, civil society must get together and resolve the Vuwani issue once and for all. As it is, there are children who are attempting matric for the second time because of last year’s disturbances and it seems there’s no urgency that the same could happen to these learners this year. It’s a tragic!
Then there are the continuous political killings in KwaZulu-Natal. These have been going on for some time now. A number of both councillors and officials, particularly at local government level, have been assasinated. The situation has reached a stage where the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs has warned that these killings could plunge municipalities into a state of ungovernability. It is a sad state of affairs, and quite a serious one, when organs of state admit criminals may be succeeding in making the state dysfunctional.
In a country which seems to have excess capacity in state intelligence and uses it to snoop into people’s private emails, surely the state was supposed to have made a breakthrough by now into the killings in KZN? Again, I don’t seem to get the impression that there is a sense of national urgency about these killings. For his part, KZN Premier Willies Mchunu has established the Moerane Commission to investigate political killings in the province.
But we need more than a provincial commission of inquiry to deal with the matter, one would argue. We need a demonstration of political will at national level to deal with the matter. Also, given the testimonies of witnesses who have so far appeared before the Commission, some of whom have stated that most of the killings were related to competition over political positions, it is clear a law and order approach alone will not resolve the problem. Political parties must reign in on those of their own who are involved in these killings. No political party must knowingly harbour criminals and murderers.
But the flash points are not limited to Limpopo and KZN. Last week Thursday evening the relatively calm Gauteng saw a manifestation of this restlessness in our society as Sandton city streets resembled a war zone. Metered taxi drivers had allegedly petrol bombed two Uber cars outside the Gauteng train station. Uber taxi drivers embarked on a rampage to avenge an attack on the two of their colleagues and allegedly set a metered taxi on fire.
Police had to block off certain roads in Sandton as they tried to contain a feud between the two groups. For a couple of hours that evening, the area around the Gautrain station was a no-go zone as people were openly carrying guns and petrol bombs, much to the inconvenience of road users and hotels and their guests in the area.
Dubbed the richest square mile in Africa, Sandton is one of the most affluent areas in Johannesburg and is the most important business and financial district in South Africa. Also, it has a number of hotels, a world class convention centre and tourist attractions like the large bronze sculpture of our late icon former President Nelson Mandela. There are has an international profile. Footage of cars burning on the streets of Sandton with heavy police presence are not exactly what will attract international business and tourism to the district. In fact, quite the opposite will happen.
Government must resolve the Uber-metered taxis feud before further damage is done. Already, this fight has claimed the life of one Uber driver. God forbid that it claims the life of a passenger.
Unless our Government show some political will to deal with these challenges facing our people anxiety and restlessness will continue in our country
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND CO-CHAIRPERSON OF NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL