‘Jus­tice is the in­ter­est of the stronger’

Mayor Dan Plato re­sponse to Qholani’s evic­tion sums up the pol­i­tics of land in deeply di­vided Cape Town

Financial Mail - - AT HOME & ABROAD - Paul Ash

ý Bule­lani Qholani re­minds me of the un­known man who, shop­ping bags grasped in his hands, stood in front of a col­umn of Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army tanks in a seething Tianan­men Square in Bei­jing in June 1989.

It was a brave and ul­ti­mately fu­tile ges­ture — the tanks rolled on, the re­volt was crushed and the Un­known Man dis­ap­peared into the maw of the beast.

The now-vi­ral video of a naked Qholani be­ing shoved around by thugs as his shack is de­stroyed in Em­pol­weni in­for­mal set­tle­ment makes for dis­tress­ing watch­ing, though it is not a new scene for SA.

It is hardly sur­pris­ing, then, that Cape Town mayor Dan Plato is ty­ing him­self up in ver­bal gymnastics as he tries to ex­plain away the ac­tions of the men sent to evict the peo­ple

Dan Plato: Get­ting in touch with his in­ner philoso­pher of Em­pol­weni. In win­ter.

Qholani wasn’t ac­tu­ally naked when the cops moved in, said Plato, but stripped off his clothes to make the city look bad. He claimed the of­fi­cers had footage of Qholani dressed be­fore they moved in.

The coun­try has yet to see this footage, which leaves us with Qholani’s own ver­sion of events, that he had been pre­par­ing to bathe when the cops moved in.

Per­haps the mayor is chan­nel­ing his Greek philoso­pher name­sake who in his first dia­logue, Repub­lic, has Thrasy­machus hotly pro­claim that “jus­tice is noth­ing else than the in­ter­est of the stronger”.

That would pretty much sum up the pol­i­tics of land in this deeply di­vided city.

Maybe the Un­known Man isn’t Qholani but Plato and the tanks are the peo­ple of Em­pol­weni and all the other places where homes have been razed “in the in­ter­est of the stronger”.

In the end, some­thing will have to give.

Sun­day Times/esa Alexan­der

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