When I first saw this, I thought we had our very own George Floyd. Like South Africa’s very own Black Lives Matter moment. This story encapsulates everything that is wrong with government. But it highlights the intersectionality of skin colour and the Black Lives Matter Campaign. One of the first major Constitutional Court cases I got to work on was a case known in the legal fraternity as “Blue Moonlight.”
And I would be remiss not to mention what happened to Collins Khoza. The latest news is that the army members were exonerated for their part in Khoza’s death. People like Khoza and the naked man were not part of the national lockdown. They were the people the police and army were called to protect the rest of us from.
I realised something about the lockdown, after my cousin mentioned that lockdown rules were not being obeyed in a major township, called Eldorado Park. This township forms part of Soweto (South Western Townships), an apartheid construct. There was no cigarette and/or alcohol ban in the townships.
Apparently, if you knew the right people and were willing to pay backstreet prices, you were set to enjoy life as normal during a global pandemic. This was the wild wild westrand. Untameable. So the State President imposed a lockdown on the good people of South Africa. He called in the army and police to protect the taxpayers.
It’s a theory. But I’m sure you must confess, it does make one think, nonetheless. I recall a podcast I put together late last year. I learnt that about a quarter of South Africans (prior to the lockdown) lived on the poverty line. Some nights they go to bed hungry. Yet Supermarkets systematically throw away “expired” food. Where is our humanity?
This lockdown has pitted humanity against each other. The Have’s versus the Have Nots. Natural Selection? Survival of the fittest? Surely not. These are far too simple in terms of explanations. Allow me, if you will, to invite you into the home of the naked man. His is a one room dwelling. One corner has been designated the kitchen area, the place where he prepares his meals.
In a corner near the back is the bed, possibly on bricks. They say the naked man was bathing. Others claim it was a stunt to avoid being evicted. He banked on humanity. He lost everything. I mean its ridiculous to imagine that we live in a world where a man’s home can be destroyed on the whim of a city official who hopes to build proper housing on the land.
Our Constitutional Court has set its face firmly against such evictions. While recognising property rights, the court made it obligatory for municipal officials to provide temporary emergency accommodation for people they are evicting. The city keeps ducking and diving its obligations. And I’m not even pointing fingers. The DA lead Johannesburg Municipality committed similar atrocities under the leadership of Herman Mashaba.
The ANC has taken much of the slack. But it was a grave miscalculation by the DA lead municipality to sanction the eviction of any person during a pandemic.
This week I launched an interesting podcast from Wesley Pepper, exploring the topic of Black Lives Matter. The speakers, both American activists, warn of the dangers of technology. How social media and google satellites are being used to unveil the leadership behind the independence protests in Hong Kong. They discussed how it might be difficult for activists to remain hidden. How difficult it might be to apply for work.
These are stark warnings. Are they the murmurings of doomsayers?! Conspiracy theories, perhaps? Maybe. But all of this has me thinking. These incidents happening in the world today. Police Brutality. Protests against the icons of slavery and colonialism. A change in the American penal code, and the adoption of a total ban on the use of the stranglehold in police enforcement.
Closer to home we have police brutality, sure. But we also have a deeply divided society. And palpable fear that the tax payers need to be protected. The army was deployed to enforce the lockdown. They killed a man because he had a beer in his fridge. No action was taken against any of them. They were exonerated. Their job was to keep the have-not’s away from the table.
Were you under lockdown? I was. Today marks 100 days since the start of lockdown in South Africa. I returned to work and so did hubby. Me and my family can finally sit down at a restaurant again (subject of course to social distancing and mask wearing). And the army is deployed. But you never see them in the suburbs. That’s because they are curbing and insurrection in the townships. Whose lockdown is it anyway?
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