The DA in the Western Cape still treats blacks and coloureds as second-class citizens, writes KHALID SAYED
In certain quarters in Cape Town and the Western Cape, there is a common refrain: “they won’t take this province from us”.
The ‘they’ referred to in this context is the ANC, but more pointedly, black people. If you are coloured or black in the Western Cape, you are like a national sportsman or woman who has to prove that you belong and that you are there “on merit”.
In the Western Cape, where its provincial leader espouses the virtues of colonialism, black and coloured people – whether in the government or on the streets – are constantly reminded to “know their place”.
Helen Zille has a history of racist views: from her comments that people from the Eastern Cape moving to the Western Cape were “refugees”, to her disparaging remarks about professional black people, and her comments on colonialism.
Collective post-colonialist thinking and attitudes are alive and well in the Cape. It is fostered by a political party that has played race-based politics since day one. Poor people in the province (read coloured and black) continue to bear the brunt of actions by an administration that is really only concerned with one constituency.
Hospitals are closed in poorer areas (GF Jooste is a case in point) and promises are made of building new facilities; gentrification is allowed to prevail in communities like Salt River and Woodstock and poorer residents sent away far from centres of the economy.
Land and property ownership and excluding the poor from it is key to maintaining a specific order that is counter-democratic, anti-poor and anti-growth and development. The Western Cape government is allowed to consistently turn a blind eye to the stark inequalities between poor residents and their wealthier counterparts.
The common refrain is to point out instances of corruption at national government level as if the one cancels the other out. Two wrongs do not make a right. The DA rules the Western Cape and must be held accountable for maintaining the socio-economic status quo and by extension fostering an attitude of racial superiority among whites.
No one is asking them to give anything away. All people want is a roof over their heads and to be able to provide for their families. Being closer to where they work makes everyone’s life a whole lot easier. But it is not in the colonist’s nature or character to share. The land issue continues to be an emotive one and rightly so.
South Africa’s history of forced land removals is well-documented. But at what point does common sense and a greater sense of community cut through or inform and enlighten legislative processes and put to pay narrowed interests?
For cities to continue to thrive, more people need to be empowered to participate in their growth, not just a few and in South Africa’s case, a few who continue to benefit at the expense of the many and with the protection of the powerful.
Earlier this year, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) asked the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate “racist practices”, alleging the allocation of critical resources, especially in the education sector in the province, benefited the wealthy more than the poor. It also criticised the MyCiTi bus service, saying it was prioritised in areas where most residents had their own transport.
Cosatu provincial leader Tony Ehrenreich threatened the union would “march on the houses of the perpetrators and let justice take its course” if nothing was done to address the grievances, Independent Media reported at the time.
In its memorandum handed to the SAHRC, Cosatu had called for “an end to all racist practices in the country, with a special focus on the Western Cape having the highest levels of racism in the South Africa”. In its list of 10 demands, Cosatu said pupils in “black and white schools” were afforded different opportunities for success through “unequal facilities”.
These are constantly refuted on the basis that money is being spent on the poorest schools. Yes, but nothing meaningful is done to effect real change in these communities, often crime-ridden where children are too scared to attend school because the province’s anti-gang and anti-crime strategies have failed these communities.
Black DA members quoted in the media, almost always anonymously for fear of victimisation, have spoken of an organisation where their voices are not really respected and their opinions are given short shrift. This is an organisation which purports to have transformed the Western Cape but treats its black leadership with the same disdain coloured and black people face in a province where its leader celebrates colonialism and regards it as a yardstick of excellence.
Let’s forget how the colonialists, oppressors and purveyors of apartheid killed people with impunity. Back then they also used words to differentiate us, words that have been replaced today by terms like “refugee” and “professional blacks”.
Black people are still fighting for equality and no more so than in the DA’s enclave that is the Western Cape.
Sayed is chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape