ACTIVATE! Change Drivers and Democracy Development Program hosted a Zoom engagement of the aftermath of the Mid-July unrest in parts of South Africa.
We all witnessed it, whether first hand, through the numerous media reports or through social media, we all witnessed our country going up in flames in Mid-July due to the protests and mass looting that occurred predominantly in Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng. As a result, these actions left in their wake massive destruction to property and businesses, loss of jobs and families grieving the loss of their loved ones. These events have sparked debates and discussions regarding their cause, their justifiability as well as the government’s response to them.
On 30th July 2021, ACTIVATE! in partnership with Democracy Development Program hosted an engagement on Zoom titled “Rebuilding after the Unrest – what are our options?” Alongside delegates from various organizations, the discussion had as guest speakers Bonolo Makgale from Centre for Human Rights, Kimera Chetty from Africa Practice as well as Andile Zulu who is a columnist and was facilitated by Sphamandla Mhlongo.
Kimera Chetty’s presentation explored different conceptions, including whether the unrest was avoidable, whether the government and society at large acted too late and whether an unrest of a similar nature will happen again in future. She mentioned and explained 5 key priorities for government, which include guaranteeing policy certainty, prioritizing the economy, healing society, cleaning up house and rebuilding. She said “we are a society that has been subjected to many resilience tests, Marikana and Life at Esidimeni being two of them we cannot justify and we still have questions over. We need to have hard conversations about the incidents that occurred in Phoenix.”
Thobani Zikalala expressed a strong view, saying “there is this tendency of opinion makers of trying so much to speak in vague and abstract terms, when we are talking about a blatant reality. We speak about ‘racial tensions’ and ‘economic divisions’, all of which are correct terms, but the term that is more accurate is the ‘anti-African racism’ that we saw in the past weeks. Incidents like what happened in Phoenix targeted Africans because the profiling of the barbaric looter was the black African.”
Andile Zulu believes that to remedy the situation, there needs to be a political education programme that is developed and rolled out in communities. He added that the programme would need to be facilitated in different languages and that we need to shy away from the idea of English being a predominant medium of communication.
“I always find it ironic whenever we are supposed to celebrate Freedom Day, which marks the anniversary of the Sharpville Massacre,” said Bonolo Makgale, “but the ANC government is doing the same thing, it is killing us whenever we protest. It is a challenge for all of us to figure out a way to accept discomfort and be able to call ourselves out for hating our own people.”
A large portion of the conversation looked at the inclusion of young people in policy making, the need for society to be empowered and also politically educated. The engagement proved to be informative and eye-opening to everyone who was in attendance, shedding light on different views and possible solutions to the current state of things, as well as possible ways to prevent another future unrest of the same nature. In closing, Andile Zulu said “We must hold our political leaders accountable, they must face justice for the things that they do incorrectly, and we need to build alternative zones of power. What this means is young people and independent candidates contesting municipal elections on progressive platforms and looking at how can ordinary people own parts of the economy.”
Rise Mzansi KZN Convener, Nonkululeko Hlongwane-Mhlongo, IFP President VF Hlabisa, DDP's Partner Liaison and Development Officer Mbalenhle Mkhize and Executive Director Dr. Paul Kariuki at the DDP Civic Education Conference.