Liv­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion daily

Heal the di­vi­sions of the past and es­tab­lish a so­ci­ety based on demo­cratic val­ues and hu­man rights, writes Mam­phela Ram­phele

CityPress - - Voices -

Yanga Jadezweni, a tal­ented dancer in his early twen­ties, was stabbed to death in Khayelit­sha on the 20th an­niver­sary of the ap­proval of our Con­sti­tu­tion as the supreme law of the land. He was a lead­ing mem­ber of In­doni Dance, Arts and Lead­er­ship Academy, a three-year-old ini­tia­tive that is train­ing young peo­ple from the poor town­ships of Cape Town to be­come pro­fes­sional per­form­ers in the Afro-bal­let genre. Their suc­cess has seen them per­form all over Western Cape and they have re­cently com­pleted a tour of Aus­tralia.

This young dancer would have been alive to­day had we lived up to the prom­ise we made to our­selves on that day 20 years ago to “heal the di­vi­sions of the past and es­tab­lish a so­ci­ety based on demo­cratic val­ues, so­cial jus­tice and fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights”.

Yanga’s death is but one in­di­ca­tor of the high cost of our fail­ure to stop the dump­ing of poor peo­ple to live in over­crowded, hu­mil­i­at­ing en­vi­ron­ments, where they are forced to com­pete for scarce and di­min­ish­ing re­sources in our cities. The most im­por­tant scarcity in places like Khayelit­sha is hu­man dig­nity. The fes­ter­ing wounds of the un­healed di­vi­sions of the past dis­charge bru­tal vi­o­lence that cut short tal­ented lives daily.

We need to reimag­ine our so­ci­ety so we can all recom­mit to the dream of a so­ci­ety that is liv­ing the val­ues of so­cial jus­tice and fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights. Cit­i­zens need to own the dream rather than em­brace it as Nelson Man­dela’s.

Own­ing the dream would en­able us to make the val­ues and prin­ci­ples of our Con­sti­tu­tion come alive in our daily lives through civic ed­u­ca­tion; too many cit­i­zens are un­fa­mil­iar with them. Cit­i­zens need to em­brace them as a guide to liv­ing in our so­ci­ety.

Our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has sur­pris­ingly not yet used the Con­sti­tu­tion as the an­chor for the sub­ject of life ori­en­ta­tion in the school cur­ricu­lum. What bet­ter way to ori­ent young peo­ple’s lives as re­spon­si­ble, in­formed cit­i­zens than the guid­ance of our Con­sti­tu­tion?

Can we make 2017 the year of em­bed­ding its val­ues and prin­ci­ples in all we do as a so­ci­ety, as a trib­ute to our 20year-old national Con­sti­tu­tion? Let us in­sti­tute civic ed­u­ca­tion in our homes, schools, ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, and places of work and wor­ship. Align­ing our per­sonal val­ues and life­styles with hu­man rights val­ues would make us a so­ci­ety ex­ud­ing ubuntu in every facet of our lives.

Mak­ing the com­mit­ment to heal di­vi­sions of the past has never been more ur­gent. Black and white cit­i­zens are scarred by the legacy of white supremacy that jus­ti­fied dis­pos­ses­sion and ex­ploita­tion of black peo­ple in or­der to priv­i­lege white peo­ple. Our 1994 political set­tle­ment needs to be com­ple­mented by emo­tional and so­cioe­co­nomic set­tle­ments to right the wrongs of our past.

Heal­ing the wounds of our ugly past re­quires us to set in mo­tion “work­ing through” pro­cesses at home, at work in both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors, in schools, in com­mu­ni­ties and in places of wor­ship. We can, and must un­der­take this work­ing through of our painful past by ac­knowl­edg­ing wrong­do­ing, ask­ing for for­give­ness, giv­ing for­give­ness and link­ing hands to build our beloved coun­try into a just so­ci­ety.

Em­pa­thy be­tween those who ben­e­fited from the priv­i­leges re­sult­ing from their wrong­do­ing and those who suf­fered in­jus­tices is essen­tial to set­ting the tone for fun­da­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion of our struc­turally un­just so­ci­ety. Leg­is­lated black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment or pun­ish­ing racists and sex­ists alone would not be suf­fi­cient to the task of at­tain­ing sus­tain­able so­cial trans­for­ma­tion.

The struc­tural vi­o­lence of white supremacy com­pounds male chau­vin­ism and sex­ism. Black men who are hu­mil­i­ated by their in­ca­pac­ity to be the heads of house­holds, providers and de­ci­sion mak­ers tend to vent their frus­tra­tions on those clos­est to them. Vi­o­lence in poor com­mu­ni­ties is driven by the hu­mil­i­a­tion of struc­tural vi­o­lence in our un­healed so­ci­ety that is dom­i­nated by white men. Young black men des­per­ately need pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ments in which to reimag­ine them­selves as men, with­out the need to use vi­o­lence as an in­stru­ment of as­sert­ing their man­hood.

We need to recre­ate our cities into mod­ern mixed-use ur­ban set­tings that be­come en­gines of sus­tain­able so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment, pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for all to ex­press them­selves and thrive. African cities need not per­pet­u­ate the colo­nial cen­tre and pe­riph­ery con­fig­u­ra­tions that con­tinue to ex­clude the ma­jor­ity black pop­u­la­tions from the ben­e­fits of ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture. South Africa has the con­sti­tu­tional im­per­a­tive to use its ur­ban plan­ning, fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity to trans­form our land­scapes.

Imag­ine Cape Town, Jo­han­nes­burg, Tsh­wane, eThek­wini and Nelson Man­dela Bay as vibrant well-man­aged met­ros where poor peo­ple live in dig­ni­fied spa­ces near places of work and cul­tural cen­tres. Imag­ine the op­por­tu­ni­ties that would open up for the des­per­ate young peo­ple who are un­em­ployed, un­skilled and un­em­ploy­able. In­stead of loi­ter­ing on street cor­ners, and in she­beens and drug dens, they would be ap­pren­tices and traders, pro­vid­ing much-needed goods and ser­vices as con­trib­u­tors to our econ­omy. They would then move from rage and vi­o­lence as out­siders, to be­come proud in­cluded and af­firmed cit­i­zens.

Ru­ral towns and com­mu­ni­ties also des­per­ately need to be reimag­ined in line with our con­sti­tu­tional val­ues. African tra­di­tions and cus­toms that are in­fused with ubuntu are un­likely to be in con­flict with the val­ues of our Con­sti­tu­tion.

Ubuntu’s in­sis­tence on re­spect­ing peo­ple be­cause they are hu­man, re­gard­less of their age, gen­der or eco­nomic sta­tus, is com­pletely aligned with hu­man rights val­ues. What is miss­ing are the heal­ing cir­cles for com­mu­ni­ties and res­i­dents of small and large towns to reimag­ine their fu­tures as proud cit­i­zens of their coun­try and their lo­cal ar­eas, and link hands to re­build their en­vi­ron­ments.

Solms-Delta wine farm has over the past decade worked hard to es­tab­lish a model of trans­form­ing our farm­ing dis­tricts and heal­ing the wounds of land dis­pos­ses­sion that re­mains a ma­jor source of pain across the coun­try. The process in­volved deep, pro­tracted, fa­cil­i­tated con­ver­sa­tions be­tween de­scen­dants of the in­dige­nous peo­ple who were dis­pos­sessed of the land, and those of the white fam­ily that took own­er­ship of the farm as part of the colo­nial ex­pan­sion pro­gramme.

The “work­ing through” process was painful and dif­fi­cult. The re­sult is a 50-50 own­er­ship struc­ture that en­sured buy-in by all in a shared vi­sion for the farm, its gov­er­nance and man­age­ment pro­cesses. The farm is thriving.

Land is an emo­tive is­sue in our coun­try. We need to in­sti­tute na­tion­wide pro­cesses tai­lored to each set­ting to ad­dress land re­form and resti­tu­tion be­fore it is too late. Imag­ine, for ex­am­ple, Cape Town speed­ily com­plet­ing the land resti­tu­tion process to en­able the heal­ing of the phys­i­cal and emo­tional wounds of District Six.

Reimag­in­ing our cities as homes for all, heal­ing the wounds of our ugly past and trans­form­ing our so­cioe­co­nomic sys­tem into one that pro­vides hope, dig­nity and op­por­tu­ni­ties for all is the only way to stop the un­nec­es­sary loss of life. Yanga Jadezweni’s death should serve as a re­minder of the ur­gency of this task. Ram­phele is an ac­tive ci­ti­zen


HU­MIL­I­AT­ING EN­VI­RON­MENTS A young girl in Khayelit­sha, on her way home af­ter buy­ing a plas­tic bot­tle of paraf­fin for cook­ing and heat­ing. The most im­por­tant scarcity in places like this is hu­man dig­nity, and the fes­ter­ing wounds of the un­healed di­vi­sions of the past dis­charge bru­tal vi­o­lence that cut short tal­ented lives daily

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