From the editor
afew years back, during a post-Budget panel discussion, the topic turned to the (all-too familiar) tendency of protests in South Africa to turn violent. One of the panellists was the former general secretary of Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi. And it was his turn to talk. He reiterated his statement that Johannesburg was surrounded by “a ring of fire”: the protests that often escalate to the point where infrastructure is destroyed. He claimed that South Africans had started to believe that the only way to get someone to listen to them, was when the country was burning. Only then would the mayor, the minister or the president bestir themselves to listen to the people.
Whenever fires are ignited in this country, as they were in Westbury following the fatal shooting of a woman caught in the crossfire of a gang-related fight, I am reminded of Vavi’s comments.
Fed-up with falling victim to the gangs and drug dealers who they say rule their streets, the Westbury community took to the streets, blocking off main roads into town. Some protesters prayed. Others started fires.
Traffic started spilling over into neighbouring suburbs, gridlocking otherwise quiet residential streets. Many Joburgers found themselves stuck in traffic for hours. Images and videos of violence started circulating. A Rea Vaya bus stop was burnt down.
The resulting announcement came as no surprise: the minister of police, Bheki Cele, would visit Westbury to address the community. In his speech he promised to deploy a tactical unit to assist the community in their fight against drug lords and gangsters.
This brings me back to Vavi’s words. Only when there is fire and destruction will the mayor, the minister or the president listen.
Why did Cele only visit Westbury after the fires started? Why only deploy a tactical unit long after the community had run out of patience?
Why didn’t the minister go to Westbury on the afternoon that an innocent woman was killed in the crossfire between gangs? Shouldn’t that be reason enough to act?
Matter of fact:
In the discussion on Aspen Pharmacare in our Simon Says column of 27 September, we erroneously stated the selling of its infant formula business in rand terms. The business was in fact sold for $864.64m. Expectations had been that the formula business would fetch between $1bn and $1.5bn. We regret the error. ■