A col­lec­tive shame on us all

Saturday Star - - OPINION -

IT IS im­pos­si­ble to over­state the tragedy that un­folded when a high mast light in Soshanguve fell on chil­dren playing un­der­neath it last Satur­day. We could not pos­si­bly fathom the ex­tent of an­guish and grief the fam­i­lies must be deal­ing with at the sud­den loss of their chil­dren.

In the midst of this tragedy, we have to find ways that will en­sure that the deaths of the five chil­dren are not in vain. Lessons must be learnt to en­sure that a sim­i­lar tragedy is pre­vented.

The City of Tsh­wane blamed the deaths on in­fra­struc­ture theft, par­tic­u­larly van­dals in­tent on elec­tric­ity ca­ble theft.

Need­less to say, not ev­ery­one agrees with this, and in our view, cor­rectly so. This is not to say that van­dal­ism is not the is­sue, but it can­not be the only is­sue.

As En­ergy Min­is­ter David Mahlobo ob­served when vis­it­ing the af­fected fam­i­lies and the site of the tragedy yes­ter­day: “We might not be hard­core en­gi­neers but we could see there might have been some­thing wrong. There might be is­sues of van­dal­ism, is­sues of main­te­nance, and it’s a dis­cus­sion we will have with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to make the area safer.”

The city does bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for main­te­nance. We go fur­ther to add that van­dal­ism is a com­mu­nity prob­lem that can only be po­liced by the vig­i­lance of those who live in the af­fected ar­eas. The ten­dency to treat work­ing­class com­mu­ni­ties as help­less against, or in­dif­fer­ent to, van­dal­ism is ahis­toric and in­sult­ing.

It’s time the po­lice, city gov­ern­ment and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties found fo­rums to work to­gether to en­sure that in­fra­struc­ture is built, main­tained and pro­tected. It is a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity, just as the deaths of these young souls should be a col­lec­tive shame on all of us.

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