No hierarchy of entitlement
WELL, I never said this was going to be easy, especially in the Western Cape but I am not one easily bullied into submission, or retreat. So here is my response to two recent letters written by Mark Wiley (Weekend Argus, August 15) and Marina Laurova (Weekend Argus, August 16) in which they challenge my viewpoint and recall of local settlement history to make sense of contemporary housing issues.
Firstly, Ms Laurova, I really don’t think it takes us very far, not if we are serious about finding solutions to development challenges facing our city, province, or country, to create a hierarchy of entitlement between various groups of people, especially one that is based on who is assumed to be more “indigenous” than the other.
In the South Africa of my imagination we need positive solutions for every citizen. In the South Africa of my imagination, we would treat all vulnerable people with equal compassion and respect, and never treat them as pawns who can be moved around at will from place to place in some political or development chess game.
You raised the issue about wanting the original “housing list brought back into play”. Now here is a real “hot potato” in a province historically framed for decades by an infamous Coloured Labour Preference Policy that structurally and systematically deprived thousands of citizens classified as “African” and therefore deemed to be “illegal” citizens from all rights, including the right to put their names on any formal housing list.
But two wrongs never make a right. The abolition of the “old” housing list in 2007 and creation of a “new” hous- ing list, without consultation by the then Minister of Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu, just fuels resentments.
One can only assume that Minister Sisulu, like so many other many returning exiles who re-entered our complex South African social and political reality in the early 1990s, either had a very limited understanding of the unique housing history of the Wester n Cape, or was badly advised on how best to approach these issues. Your article is a sober reminder of the deep social cleavages that pervade and still divide citizen from citizen in this province.
While my first inclination was to ignore Mr Wiley’s rather venomous response to my article, I decided to rise to the occasion.
For the record, Mr Wiley, there is a distinct difference between remembering the past and being locked in the past. I dredged you out of my memory of that period precisely because you were there at the time of the Noordhoek removals, shouting the odds as you are now. You actively supported the policies and actions of an illegitimate, oppressive, and already discredited apartheid regime.
You certainly are, for reasons way beyond my imagination, a publicly elected representative, a Member of the Provincial Legislature in the Western Cape, a person, you tell us, who insists “on upholding the rule of law”.
This implies that unelected people like me, ordinary and independentthinking South African citizens, disrespect the “rule of law” because we question current development practice. Well, as Americans would say, here’s the thing. I just happen to be a “hardegat” and unashamedly not as yet reconciled or forgiving South African citizen who strongly believes that anyone who benefited from the apartheid past or, contributed in any way to human suffering at the time and shows no remorse for their actions, loses the right to claim any moral or political high ground.
No, Mr Wiley, far from being locked in the past, my mind is very grounded and focused on the present.
For me the past is a constant reminder of the kind of South African society that I don’t ever want to go back to. I certainly don’t need to ask your permission to share my views or engage in public debate on social or historical matters, and suggest that the next time you single me or anybody else out for a public lecture that you first do your homework. You should have at least checked with the Premier, Helen Zille, before you publicly accused me of using “the past as an excuse to do nothing”.
Sorry, Mr Wiley, the word “inaction” has never been and never will be a word in my vocabulary.
FLASHBACK: Josette Cole’s article on the establishment of Masiphumelele, Weekend Argus, August 8