Why Are We Still Living the Apartheid Life?

I sit back and fail to understand why there are people still staying in shacks. I fail to understand why there is so much separation in this country, why there are areas for the rich and the poor. I fail to understand why we are still living the same way that we lived in the times of the apartheid era. I fail to understand why out of all the things that we said we would have from democracy we can only point to and feel so few of them. Is this what Mandela stayed 27 years for in prison? Is that what so many people struggled for in the trade unions and in the UDF?

Why are the poor are still mistreated? Why our voices are still not heard? Why do we still not count? Why are we still voting?

As it is a youth month, I sit back and look at where we have come from after all the years of struggle since the deaths of 1976. All is slowly sinking as the new government is making sure that we remember the heroes of the struggle but not what the struggle was for. Struggled is remembered only to try and make us obey the government and not to encourage us to continue the struggle. I ask myself why Hector Paterson was shot, why Mbuyisa Makhubo had to flee the country and stay in Nigeria?

How many people must die before this country changes, recently we have seen Andries Tatane being shot just like Hector Peterson. He is not the only one. There are now twenty five names on the list of people that have been killed by the police during protests after apartheid. Twenty five! For how long must we keep quite? For how long must we be killed in our own country for the truth we behold in our hands?

This time we need to be focused. It is high time that the youth of 1976 rise from the dead. We need to unite and complete the work that they have started. Their interest was simple: they were fighting for freedom which is something that we have on paper but in reality we have but unable to use it. What’s the point of having the right to protest if police will be guarding us by big guns,
sometimes killing us on protests? What is the point of have the right to Freedom of Expression if the president is pushing the African National Congress is pushing the Secrecy Bill and Blade Nzimande calls political analysts ‘dogs.’

As part of the South African youth of the 1980’s, I’m passionate enough to complete what was started by the 1976 youth. The country will change, the constitution will be implemented and everyone will be treated with respect and dignity. It’s about time that we should all count the same despite the fact that some are poor and others are rich and without looking at race. Everyone should count the same in front of the law and when it comes to making decisions about their communities and the future of this country. There should be no discrimination of places where there is one area for the rich and another for the poor. The social value of land must come before its commercial value. Everyone young person must have a real right to education, an income and a place to stay.

We might not get there in the next hour. But tomorrow the light will be on. We will be celebrating the victory of unity.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, or AbM, is a shack-dwellers' movement in South Africa. It campaigns to improve the living conditions of poor people and to democratize society from below. The movement refuses party politics and boycotts elections. It's key demand is that the social value of urban land should take priority over its commercial value and it campaigns for the public expropriation of large privately owned landholdings. Read other articles by Abahlali baseMjondolo, or visit Abahlali baseMjondolo's website.