Monday, 23 December 2019

Where shall we put our hope?


In plenty and in poverty
There is no doubt that we love Cape Town, but we visit a city of stark contrasts. The opportunities and privileges we have brings into a Cape Town of luxury, of access, of comfort and a relative sense of safety and security.
Yet, around the hotel where we are staying, we cannot miss or ignore another face of Cape Town, not so much that of the poor, but one of the destitute. I differentiate between the poor and the destitute from a personal viewpoint of the poor having shelter and sustenance, those who have basic needs met, but are stretched to consider wants.
In the case of the destitute, they have no shelter or live in makeshift settings prone to changes in nature and the abuse of authority figures, they cannot determine when or where their next meal will come from. Some are in threadbare clothes and probably have no access to basic cleaning facilities.
Great policy minds required
The other day, I walked into a convenience store and I was accosted by two people, not for money, but things, I acquiesced and by the time I was paying, there was milk formula, baby diapers, soft drinks and basic foodstuffs at the checkout. One of the men, knelt in thanks, I was quite embarrassed as I asked him to get up.
It was an opportunity for them, and for me, there was both the means and opportunity to affect a situation, though, it was nowhere near the solution. There are no easy answers to the poverty and destitution issue in South Africa. You can’t even begin to think of jobs before you have installed a kind of welfare system to make these people suitable for any work environment and this is if they have the skills required to do the jobs.
Either way, there would have to be some poor laws and institutions for the poor to give them a sense of human dignity to raise them to some kind of opportunity. It would take some creative and inspired policy-making to address the destitution problem and this would should be different from policies to address basic poverty, accommodation, access to services and the broader unemployment issues with the matter of giving the majority the skills to exploit opportunities that arise.
Is there hope for the many?
Another cohort is the pre-teen street kids, in any progressive society, these kids should be in school and cared for by responsible adults in some setting. I fear residential institutions because of histories of physical and sexual abuse. However, society does owe these unfortunate young members the possibility of a bright future. This requires selfless humanitarian work for which the government should be a major sponsor and supporter.
There is much that ails South Africa, not everyone has a voice or one that must be heard and acted upon. This especially for the poor and destitute for whom the wasted Jacob Zuma years and the preoccupation with the state capture machinations have left them further behind than humanity should countenance for much longer.
We who come to appreciate the beauty of South Africa do contribute to the growth of the economy, but we are not the answer to the question that many South Africans have been asking since 1994. Where shall we put our hope?
Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.


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