ACCUSED: Letepe Maisela appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court charged with fraud yesterday (Wed). 030413 Picture: Moloko Moloto
ACCUSED: Letepe Maisela appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court charged with fraud yesterday (Wed). 030413 Picture: Moloko Moloto

1976 to 2021 – Travelling on the South African Time Machine

By Time of article published Jul 20, 2021

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Letepe Maisela

ACCUSED: Letepe Maisela appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court charged with fraud yesterday (Wed). 030413 Picture: Moloko Moloto

What happened in South Africa in the past week was akin to travelling back in time and then immediately back to the future.

It was during the apartheid years when the majority African population pitted itself against the military might of the regime that did not appreciate any form of protest against its regulatory dominion.

It was either obey or be damned. In its advantage the regime had superior armoury and support of the world’s superpowers like the US and Great Britain to name a few, who were in awe of the spread of communism to their erstwhile colonies.

Support of the apartheid regime was thus tantamount to applying brakes to slow down the seepage of the dreaded ideology into South Africa and the rest of the African continent beyond.

Fast forward to 2021, exactly twenty-seven years after the fall and dismantling of the apartheid institution, which resulted in the full democratisation of the country with all its people enjoying equal rights and what has changed?

To my mind very little if you just look at the trigger points of this new uprising followed by the initial lackadaisical response from the current ANC led Government.

First and foremost, our democracy was supposed to empower the previously disadvantaged African majority and transform them into self-fulfilled individuals financially adequate and their welfare and that of their children adequately provided for and secured by a caring and philanthropic government.

The new government of 1994 had inherited a country on the economic decline after few years of economic sanctions meant to speed up democratic reforms from apartheid to democracy.

In economic terms the country was however not utterly bankrupt but still a going concern, to use economic parlance, which any good management could fix.

The initial economic growth achieved during the years of Mandela and Mbeki, after the country was welcomed back into the World Trading Block is proof enough.

Against this background initially sketched with broad strokes of optimism for the country and its people, how did we just twenty-seven years later end up like this – staring into an abyss of burning hell.

The most important question to answer is how did we fail to see it coming?

When the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, which commenced its job on August 21, 2018, slowly unwound a web of plots, chicanery and conspiracies meant to stage a heist on South Africa Inc, it was perhaps a bit too late to save the country as by then it has already sunk too deep into the quicksand.

For most who failed to notice, the events of the week were a rude reminder that the country has been on autopilot in the past few years, flying into an unknown galaxy but I digress.

Back in 1976 when the apartheid regime of the day insisted that the black students be taught by the medium of a corrupted Dutch language called Afrikaans, the resistance resulting in the uprising was immediate and focussed.

Note however that no schools, colleges or universities were burnt down to register protest because the protesters, some of whom were maimed and even killed by cops and soldiers of the regime, still valued the contribution education could make to their well-being in years to come.

Instead they vented their anger in burning any identifiable symbols of apartheid such as municipal urban authorities facilities like offices and beer halls.

The latter was razed to the ground because it was perceived as contributing through drunkenness to the further moral degeneration of the adult African.

Remember also that those beer halls and bottle stores owned by apartheid created urban Bantu councils, were just razed to the ground and not looted 2021 style, which points at a different kind of morality and mindset.

The apartheid government had laws that only applied to Africans especially in the urban areas, which had been declared sovereign states for white South Africans.

One such law was called influx control, meant to control movement of Africans in so-called white urban South Africa.

This was weaponised into effect through the dreaded Pass Laws which required adult African males and later females to carry a pass for instant inspection whenever required.

The Influx Control laws further led to the formulation of a policy that male labourers who came to work in the mines and factories of South Africa should not be allowed to reside in normal housing units but were housed in compounds soon to be known as hostels.

This was simply to discourage them living with their wives and children like a normal family should.

The idea was to make them realise that in terms of the law then, they were only temporary sojourners in urban areas thus discouraging any notion of permanence.

During protests against apartheid and other sorties like in 1976 and mid 1980s, the hostel community never joined those protests as they did not feel that they belonged to the townships and African majority, thus furthering the evil principle of divide and rule.

Actually the reality was opposite in that the designers of grand apartheid used the opportunity to turn them against their own people in townships like it happened at Mzimhlophe, Soweto during 1976 Student Uprising and Boipatong , Vanderbijl Park in June 1992, when dozens of residents were killed in both scenarios by marauding hostel dwellers urged on by apartheid police and agents.

It is thus surprising and rather saddening that in 2021 under a democratic government, we still have those apartheid constructed residential monuments still standing and housing men with pent-up anger, just waiting to be unleashed against their immediate communities.

What happened to millions of funding that was supposed to convert those hostels like in Nancefield Soweto, Alexandra Township and Jeppestown in the Joburg CBD into liveable family units?

This mismanagement bordering on corruption, theft and neglect of basics has now come back to eerily haunt us.

Now 2021 has become the culmination of all those missed baby steps by the new democratic governments since 1994.

The sorry saga of former president Zuma’s arrest and incarceration ought not be seen as the cause but merely the match that lit a country soaked with oil of neglect.

That it took the better part of three days for our authorities to respond and try to steady the sinking ship should be more of concern to the citizenry than the heavy storm itself.

Not forgetting that all these events are taking place whilst we are caught in the third phase of Covid-19 pandemic.

Maisela is a management consultant and published author.

His latest book is a fiction novel called Sperm Donor published In December, 2019.

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