No hi­er­ar­chy of en­ti­tle­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

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

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