By: Emily Campbell
“The people shall share in the country’s wealth.” Originally written in South Africa’s 1955 Freedom Charter and adopted by the current ruling party, the ANC, this sentence took on new life when we saw it spray painted across several overpasses in the Cape Flats. When displayed in the primarily black townships southeast of the city center, these words seemed to highlight the existing discontent with the current system. Sixty years after it was written, this promise, and many others, have yet to be realized. We repeatedly heard frustration over the perceived lack of follow through on promises made during the liberation struggle and how little has changed for the living conditions of many people residing in townships. Despite the ANC’s promises of 1994, many black South Africans still lack basic services such as power, clean water, housing, healthcare, education, and employment.
On Tuesday, we met with Mandla Majola at the Treatment Action Campaign. His work exemplified the failed promises of the ANC. Located in Khayelitsha, a township within the Cape Flats, TAC was founded to increase HIV and AIDS awareness and to provide universal access to antiretroviral drugs. Since its formation in 1998, TAC has spread its reach far beyond HIV. Poor sanitation and failing infrastructure are tied to a wide range of health issues, and Majola has been an advocate on many of these fronts. In Khayelitsha, there are many homes without electricity or clean water, one (infrequently cleaned) public toilet for roughly every ten families, a high rate of TB, four reported rapes daily, and poor maternal health care, to name a few of the issues Majola is passionately tackling. Many of us left TAC carrying the emotional weight of Majola’s heart-rending stories, but inspired by his tireless work for his community. But these issues are not unique to his area and represent the symptoms of a weak infrastructure nationwide. As Henrik described in an earlier blog post, we saw many of the same issues when we visited Orange Farm outside of Johannesburg. The government system is set up in such a way large segments of the population fall through the cracks, receiving virtually no government services. The conditions in both townships illustrate this issue and how many of the rights secured by the 1994 South African Constitution are still nonexistent for many people across the country.
|On display at the District Six Museum, a member of the|
demolition crew saved these street signs for decades.
Frustration over the government's lack of attention to these problems and its perceived inability to develop effective infrastructure has led to service delivery protests across the nation. During our time in Cape Town, we witnessed one of these protests (don't worry parents, we didn't participate). A group of citizens gathered in front of a government building to protest a government that has failed to provide the basic services its people need. Not only has the current system failed to close the gap between the wealthy and the impoverished, but the failure to deliver services and improve the infrastructure has deprived many people of basic human rights. Just as the spray painted overpasses in the Cape Flats proclaimed, the people are still not sharing in the country’s wealth.
|The group gets comfortable at the|
CGE house on our first night in Windhoek.