Senekal last week had nothing to do with solutions. It was all about politicians’ testosterone. It was all about politicians’ egos. What useful idea came out of all that heat and noise generated by all those politicians in Senekal last week? There is nothing. Nothing that makes SA a better place. Nothing that leads us to a better understanding of race relations in SA after 1994. Nothing that is a solution to farm murders – many of whose victims are poorly paid, desperate black people – or a solution to the incredibly horrendous murder and crime problem in this country.
But in townships and shack settlements, there are very real threats to freedom of speech — the pressure to conform comes not from the fear of ridicule but from the use of force by local power-holders. One feature of democracy here about which we rarely talk is the extent to which our residential areas are dominated by particular parties. The problem is not as great as it was in 1994, when parties won more than 90% of the vote in many areas, but it has not disappeared. For several reasons, this is far more of a problem in areas where the poor live: often political bosses hold sway and they do not take kindly to competition. They also often have links to local police. And so challenging power-holders in the areas where most citizens live is likely to bring far worse consequences than ridicule — it may mean a threat of violence, in some cases from the police. In these areas, criticising the government is indeed brave and independent. – Steven Friedman in Business DayBACK TO TOP