Defend Truth


Mr President, please make #SONA2020 promises a reality on the Cape Flats


Faiez Jacobs is an ANC Member of Parliament for Greater Athlone and whip for the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development. He is visiting Germany for a five-day parliamentary exchange programme with fellow MPs from the ANC, the DA and the EFF.

This is a plea for the pledges by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address to be felt among the marginalised and neglected who are living in Tafelsig, Beacon Valley, Ottery and Lavender Hill. 

Cape Town featured large in the 2020 State of The Nation Address (SONA) with the mention of the historic address by Nelson Mandela from the balcony of the City Hall to masses of people gathered on the Grand Parade on 11 February 1990, the day of his release.

A renowned son of District Six, Cape Town, Basil February, also featured in the opening paragraphs for his bravery and death in the Wankie Campaign on his way back to South Africa from Zimbabwe.

Madiba’s quote cited by President Ramaphosa, “Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way,” was spot-on but one couldn’t miss the irony as many residents of the Cape Flats were left wondering about the reversal of their fortunes and the erosion of their hard-won freedoms. 

For many of these citizens, living in fear is a daily reality: fear for their lives, fear of grinding poverty, fear for the safety of their children in public schools, and fear of violence, rape, and murder.

While the contribution and sacrifice of Basil February have never been forgotten, the dozens of aunties and boetas that gave us shelter, fed us and hid us from the Special Branch in Wynberg, Lotus River, Crawford, Elsies River, Primrose Park and Rocklands have long faded from our collective memory. It is perhaps to such men and women that Ramaphosa was referring to when he said: “There are times when we have fallen short, there are times when we have made mistakes, but we remain unwavering in our determination to build a society that is free and equal and at peace.”

For many on the Cape Flats who have carried the burden of this failure, life has been characterised by unemployment, rising living costs, inability to escape the poverty or crime trap and lack of support to reach their potential. This has defined coloured apathy and marginalisation from the political mainstream.

For the majority on the Cape Flats, there are very few signs of progress. Not since Manenberg produced Ashwin Willemse has there been hope here. Now the army patrols where children once played and gunfire punctuates the night.

Mandela promised in his inaugural address in 1994 that South Africans could now  “walk tall, without fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity”. It is not only the economic failure that is a reality for the Cape Flats coloured communities; the social and political dysfunction, marginalisation and disillusion have reached epic proportions interspersed with flash pre-election walkabouts and door-to-door campaigns not to be seen until the next election looms.

For many such working-class communities whose fast-depleting prepaid meters rarely go above 20 units, the “debilitating effects of load shedding” mean very little.

Rather than the Eskom failures of the past decade and the quest to restore generation capacity, the communities of the Cape Flats would be impressed if we retrofitted the roofs of all those double and triple storey walk-up flats that litter these ghettos with solar panels generating sustainable energy and creating employment. This could be done within three to 12 months. Perhaps then we could be open to listening to the “inevitable climate change impacts” and the promise that no coloured child “will be left behind in a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable society”.

We don’t care about the government department budget cuts and austerity measures, only that more funds should be spent where we live and where our children school and play.

Many of us have worked long enough for Telkom, Eskom, Transnet, Acsa and Mossgas, among others, to know that these SOEs are untransformed and a law unto themselves. What has changed since the DBSA-funded Bantu-homelands and now an SAA that can barely fly?

Mr President, far from “building an environment that is favourable to doing business”, the DA-run City of Cape Town is waging a war on informal trade, and our hawkers who once were a defining feature of life on the Cape Flats face heavy fines and confiscation of produce.

Mr President, we need national support to investigate how the City is wasting money, its unspent housing budgets and crumbling public transport infrastructure while Blouberg, Milnerton and Rondebosch get dedicated bicycle lanes.

Yes, the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) has seen the demolition of the dilapidated prefab buildings at Portia Primary, Hazendal and Battswood, and new modern school halls have taken pride of place in our communities, but the only tablets we hear of are the “buttons” the school mert sells. Wouldn’t it be great if some of the clever kids of the Cape Flats could also make it on to the Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro Medical Training Programme in Cuba? After all, it’s every coloured home’s dream to have a doctor in the family.

While we welcome the work of the anti-gang unit and the training of 7,000 new police recruits, unless we change the socio-economic conditions that give birth to ghettos,  ganglands and drug-infested neighbourhoods, we are just pissing against the south-easter. These phenomena, along with rampant domestic violence, foetal alcohol syndrome and the burgeoning problem of school bullying have become defining features of life on the Cape Flats.

Mr President, help us with rehabilitation centres and second chances.  Recruit us away from gangs and into jobs.

We welcome you, Mr President, to come and launch the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention so our youngsters can help to make this country work for all of us, creating pathways into the economy, improving work readiness, supporting youth entrepreneurship and self-employment, improving incomes and opportunities to help build our communities and neighbourhoods.

Come and visit Hanover and Valhalla Park and see the ingenuity of women and the myriad micro-enterprises they have built without state support: dressmakers, caterers, welders, builders, mechanics and master confectioners. Together, we can do more.

We also need new factories, as Atlantis, Athlone, Epping, Diep River and Elsies River are dying. Our coloured kids feed Cape Town’s competitive edge as a global hub for call centres and other business-processing (BP) solutions that the digital economy cannot do without.

We too would like to see the Fourth Industrial Revolution take root here and benefit our local economy and change our lives. Just as we would like to see our ageing parents and surviving grandparents finally become beneficiaries of restitution in District Six, Harfield Village, Claremont, Kalk Bay, Constantia and Simon’s Town.

We congratulate you, Mr President, on the assumption of the chairmanship of the African Union, but we beg you to do something about the drug lords. These phenomena can only be uprooted when the state fully achieves its developmental mandate of finding sustainable ways to “meet the social, economic and material needs of communities and improve the quality of their lives”.

The City of Cape Town works for you only if you live in Camps Bay, Bloubergstrand, Constantia, Plattekloof and similar wealthy areas. For the rest in Tafelsig, Beacon Valley, Ottery and Lavender Hill, the pink letters, potholes and dysfunctional social infrastructure are a reality.

Finally, Mr President, nobody knows how to climb mountains better than us, nobody knows any rougher seas than the Cape of Storms, it is here that lies the genesis of humanity and we carry our dignity on our slave-worn sleeves.  Together, we can forge a new destiny and usher in a new age. This may be the Kaapse Vlakte but our aspirations and hopes are high. SONA 2020 was so na, but will it change our daily lived experience? DM


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