As we mark 63 years after the fateful day at Sharpeville when 69 anti-pass protesters were massacred by the apartheid police under Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, the then prime minister, we need to revisit what they died for. Are the goals for which they died achieved?
An estimated 5,000 protesters marched to the Sharpeville Police Station requesting to be arrested for walking the streets without “passes”. The police panicked, and shot and killed demonstrators. The demonstrators’ crime was they dared to protest against the pass laws, the dompas – the identification document meant for black people only.
As we visit the graves in Sharpeville as an annual pilgrimage on 21 March 2023, Humans Rights Day, the question is how far are we from achieving the dreams for which the heroes of Sharpeville died for?
We no longer carry “passes” today and we have supposedly one of the best Constitutions in the world – except we have a flawed parliamentary Electoral Law. The current parliamentary electoral law as it has been since 1993 does not allow the citizens to directly elect their Members of Parliament by name, where they live.
The citizens do not have the right to directly elect their president, their premiers and mayors where they live, even though this right was enjoyed by whites only, under apartheid. For whatever reasons, current politicians thought that what was good for whites only under apartheid is not good for black people. The exclusion of allowing the citizens of South Africa the right to directly elect their Members of Parliament for themselves is the fundamental flaw, creating a “State of Disaster” in this “state of corruption”, as a result.
Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, the past 30 years have seen the decline of the SA economy, the destruction of rail infrastructure, destruction of Eskom, Transnet, Prasa, South African Airways, Denel, PetroSA, Post Office and water treatment plants, with raw sewage flowing into the rivers and beaches.
After 1994, Bantu Education was replaced with a two-tier education system – one for the rich and one for the poor. The rich and the ANC elite – which includes ministers, directors-general and tenderpreneurs – take their children to private schools, getting what is equal to the best education in the world. But the ordinary citizens, the masses, the poor – all are left at the mercy of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) offering the worst education imaginable.
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According to research by Professor Sarah Howie, the National Research Coordinator for Progress in International Reading Literacy Study South Africa, 78% of Grade 4s cannot read and write with understanding in any language in these public schools.
Under the current education system for the masses, a majority of the children are encouraged to do literacy mathematics instead of proper mathematics, with a worse still pass mark of a meagre 30%. The members of Sadtu have been seriously damaging the country’s prosperity, living standards and our future.
According to a University of Stellenbosch report, some schools in Limpopo province even obtained a 0% pass rate in the National Senior Certificate exams in 2020. The respective education ministers and the education subcommittees have been a disaster for the country. It has been proven that we perform more poorly compared with Tanzania and Zimbabwe. How can we compete with China and Singapore, relying on Sadtu for our education?
It is the education for a failed state, open for takeover by the powerful in the world. Is there any benefit in having a highly admired Constitution under these conditions? What is the point of the Constitution if we, the people of South Africa, do not use the Constitution to demand a proper democratic Electoral Act so that we as voters can ensure the election of Members of Parliament we can trust, and remove them at the next election if they fail us?
It is our own responsibility to demand a new Electoral Act that gives us the power we lack – the power to choose leaders of integrity, by our own choice, in order to minimise corruption in society.
South Africa is collapsing today under the pressure of corruption with Eskom experiencing the worst load shedding in the country’s history, being run by cartels siphoning off an estimated R1-billion every month, according to the former Eskom CEO André De Ruyter. How long can South Africa survive? The police, the Hawks and Crime Intelligence are all malfunctioning; street lights and traffic light cables are uprooted and sold for scrap materials; potholes are gaping in the roads; and stormwater drains are blocked by construction debris and dead animals. What went wrong?
It is our own fault. We have allowed this to happen, and it is up to us to reform and change.
As we remember the heroes of Sharpeville, we remember them in darkness with load shedding and raw sewage flowing into the Vaal River.
To recover the country, we must directly elect our Members of Parliament by name, where we live. Let the voters of Sharpeville choose their MPs themselves. It is a right that the heroes of Sharpeville died for. The right to vote for their Members of Parliament, the right to vote for their premiers in the provinces and the right to vote for their mayors.
We need more democracy in South Africa. In memory of the Heroes of Sharpeville, let us have the courage to stand up for ourselves. DM