A man in Siqalo Informal settlement fixes the roof of his shack after a heavy storm in Cape Town. File picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
A man in Siqalo Informal settlement fixes the roof of his shack after a heavy storm in Cape Town. File picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

The class of ’76 and ’85 are still waiting

By Lorenzo A Davids Time of article published Jun 22, 2021

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With the local government elections looming, conversations with humans from all colours of the South African rainbow often awkwardly stumble around one question: “But who will we vote for?” This question comes from the analysis that the ANC has profoundly disappointed the high school class of ’76 and ’85.

While the youth vote is important, the voting group aged 45 to 60 is critical. They were tear gassed and detained under apartheid. They barricaded townships and led economic boycotts. Their 14 and 16-year-old bodies filled marches and civic centres as they inspired the resistance to apartheid.

Ashley Kriel was 14 when he joined the Bonteheuwel Youth Movement as an activist in 1980. Ashley would have been 55 this year.

Some of the ’76 and ’85s have broken out of deep poverty but thousands are still lingering in township poverty, engulfed by the surrounding conditions of poverty and violence. Others, like Ashley, were killed by the brutality of the apartheid security forces.

Many who survived are living a slow torturous existence, still expecting a better life for all.

They have made huge sacrifices to free this country from oppression.

The saddest part of the journey from apartheid to liberation is for them to ask: “Who must we vote for?”

Their disappointment with the ANC is profound. But they also don’t share a sudden leap of loyalty to the DA.

They have lived in township poverty all their lives. They have suffered economic hardships all their lives.

They have buried children who became victims of gang violence and are raising grandchildren and great-grandchildren because of the housing and unemployment crisis.

They live 15 people to a one-bedroomed house. Or worse, they live in a wood and iron structure or on the streets.

They still see the maintenance of spatial apartheid and the expansion of its evil footprint all over the country.

They see the enormous privileges that white South Africans continue to enjoy while they must struggle to survive in a South Africa that they gave up their education for.

They don’t for one moment buy the DA’s claim to better service delivery as a reason to vote for it. On the contrary, they have felt the jackboot of the City’s law enforcement agents and have seen the lack of sanitation, housing and safety in townships as they try to make a living and educate their children.

They have lived in shacks since ’76 and ’85, and their poverty has increased. Many white people from this era are growing equally disgusted with the lingering economic, spatial and educational injustice that prevails in our democracy.

Whether the national ANC or the provincial DA is to blame for conditions in the Western Cape often results in heated debates.

But the outcome is undisputed: people are fed-up. Well-maintained suburbs and neglected townships have made them fed up. Loss of, and exclusion from, economic opportunities have made them fed up.

Gangsterism has made them fed up. Burying young children to violence has made them fed up. Protection by the system of white exceptionalism, white fragility and white supremacy have made them fed up.

The narrative that the class of ’76 and ’85 stood for states: You cannot build a just, safe, equitable, inclusive and prosperous society for all if you continue to seek ways to maintain the existing privilege of the few.

If your approach to governance is to make nice areas nicer, hoping there will be a trickle-down effect, you are deluded.

Justice demands that townships and informal housing sites become the focus of future health, housing, economic and educational opportunities. Anything else is Reaganesque trickle-down economics that entrenched black poverty in the world’s largest democracy for decades.

The elections 2021 question is: Who will pick up the struggle of ’76 and the battle of ’85 and give us a respectful, safe, just, equitable, inclusive and prosperous democracy?

* Lorenzo A Davids.

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

Cape Argus

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