Date Posted: July 07, 2016


Email: sokoyim@gmail.com

The ANC mayoral candidate for the city of Cape Town, Comrade Xolani Sotashe, has reinvigorated the narrative of “A Tale of two Cities” recently when he painted a vivid picture of a city that is extremely divided along class and racial lines.

The fact is that contemporary Cape Town demonstrates both a legacy and a daily reality of a serious collapse of livelihood and conditions in which both patriarchy and homophobia gain confidence; dehumanising sanitary provision, including the insulting pota-pota toilet system, and landlessness. Together with other inequities, they represent a reversal of the political and democratic gains of the first decade of our freedom after 1994. This is a city with two complexes: one, the untold stories of the suffering “poor,” the other, the much-publicised gains of the “wealthy”.

In the context of unceasing propaganda by the Democratic Alliance (DA), we have a duty to boldly tell the truth and unmask political rhetoric. The truth is that the city of Cape Town under the DA administration is a divided city administered in accordance with a double agenda, each serving different constituencies with different and unequal development standards. Reinforcing its anti-poor approach, the DA’s resource allocation is not inspired by the prioritisation of human needs, but rather resources are allocated and investment encouraged along class lines, maintaining racist apartheid era privileges of the white minority and securing profit, improvement and gain in only those parts of the City where that minority resides and benefits. In this institutionalised racism and elitism, the wealthy up-market suburbs flourish at the expense of the poor. Unto those that hath shall be given . . .

These failures together with a visible collapse in the livelihood of the working class communities, are masked by the exclusion of their reality from the narrative, displaced by a triumphalism comprising widespread lies and distortions about successes in the business district and leafy suburbs. In its propaganda, trotted out thoughtlessly by the dominant media, the DA has found refuge to hide its inequitable delivery and unwillingness to deliver services where they are urgently needed. This has gone unchallenged for a long time. No one has challenged them to validate their claims by evidence. The situation is worsened by the laziness of our journalists who fail to follow up on these claims by gathering primary evidence, but instead resort to what has become to be known as “desktop/office journalism”. The people of South Africa are often told that “the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Provincial administrations are the most efficient in the country." While aspects of the DA’s delivery in its core constituency, the richer communities, may be efficient, there is resentment at the City's blatant collusion with developers in driving through development residents oppose. But in the areas of the majority, the working class population, services are inefficient, broken or absent, and the development they would welcome a mere dream. Their cries for the restoration of their dignity go unheard and are too often suppressed by the loudest voices in the media.

Since 2006, we have seen a lot of dubious policies implemented by the DA without consultation or popular support. Together they amount to a total reversal of the work done by the ANC, which contributed to narrowing the gap between the rich and poor, and under the DA-led City that gap has widened more than ever - hence the tale of two cities that is an everyday reality.

The control by the DA of the Western Cape Province remains a setback for the ANC-led movement's vision of a transformed South African society. The province was used by the then apartheid government to entrench white supremacy. In those days, black communities were forcefully removed from areas like District Six, Simonstown, Claremont, Kensington and elsewhere. Now, with over twenty years into multi-racial democracy, the DA-led city and provincial government have continued to reproduce the kind of society that led the world to declare apartheid as a crime against humanity.

Currently, at senior management level of the city, white representation is sitting at 70%, compared to a white population of just over 15% in the province. Indeed, Comrade Sotashe is correct when by describing this shameful fact as “a travesty of justice.”

While equality, human dignity, housing, water and social security remain as fundamental rights in our constitution, the city’s administration prioritises infrastructure budget for bicycle lanes in the up-market suburbs over adequate human settlements for the poor who live in squalor and are left to languish in abject poverty. This reckless budget prioritisation ignores the constitutional obligations and intensifies the social ills in the working class communities. For example, the people of Frankdale, just outside Cape Town, are abandoned in abysmal conditions behind the hills of the West Coast. Their settlement, which is adjacent to the refuse disposal area, exposes the inhabitants to unacceptable health risks. In entering this informal settlement you are greeted with every sign of poverty, neglect and underdevelopment.

In December 2012, more than 250 people became homeless at the BM Section of Ward 89 in Site B, Khayelitsha. Part of the intervention by the City was the building of temporary structures which have since become permanent until now and remain without electricity. In December 2013 the people of Valhalla Park suffered the same fate when their shacks were destroyed by fire. The uncaring government of the DA never sees any need urgently to address the issue of decent housing in light of the annual summer fire disasters or the winter floods. As long as the DA remains in power, the working class will remain the victim of such unacceptable conditions.

It is a fact that Cape Town has the highest murder rate in South Africa, and Nyanga, a working class township, is the biggest contributor. Yet, we have a government that has never demonstrated any effort or imagination in combatting crime in working class townships. Is this because the DA is a party that represents the interest of monopoly capital and is doing everything in its power to defend the legacy of apartheid, a legacy that still serves and benefits the rich?

Today, the DA has neither the imagination nor the will to tackle the challenges that the majority of the city's people face on daily basis, and seems determined to do nothing to reverse its ghastly legacy. It is nonetheless a legacy that has to be corrected, and it is only the ANC that can correct it.

Masonwabe Sokoyi, Spokesperson of the South African Communist Party in the Western Cape Province and a member of the Young Independent Community, writes in his personal capacity.

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