Letters to the editor: May 8 to 14 2015

Long walk: Deplorable conditions in countries such as strife-torn Somalia force people to migrate. (Omar Faruk/Reuters)

Long walk: Deplorable conditions in countries such as strife-torn Somalia force people to migrate. (Omar Faruk/Reuters)

JZ, you promised us the Marikana report

Open letter from the Marikana Support Campaign to President Jacob Zuma

Shortly after the Marikana massacre, when the nation was still reeling from the gunning down of 34 young men by the police, you told us: “We have to uncover the truth about what happened here. In this regard, I have decided to institute a commission of inquiry. The inquiry will enable us to get to the real cause of the incident.”

You also told us that, “in a very short space of time, we will announce the results”.

It has now been one month since you received the findings of the Farlam commission of inquiry into the deaths of those young men.
The commission also looked into the injuries of the 78 who survived the attack, and the circumstances under which 10 other men died in the days preceding August 16 2012.

You must be painfully aware that the families of those who died have had to wait patiently for two years and eight months for some kind of explanation, many attending the commission day in day out, listening to parties give evidence, hoping that all of this time, money and effort will lead to a just outcome.

But what would a just outcome look like?

First, it would have to involve the truth, as much of it as possible, however painful. The families deserve to know why their loved ones were gunned down by police using R5 rifles. They deserve to know what discussions were held by the police, Lonmin and your Cabinet in the run-up to the massacre.

They deserve to know what preparations were made for August 16, why mortuary vans were ordered on the morning before the attack, and why paramedics were prevented from assisting those injured in the crucial hour after the shooting took place.

They deserve to know what is going to happen next. Who is going to be held accountable?

These are questions that any relative would deserve to have answered as an outcome of a murder inquiry.

We do not know if the answers to these important questions are to be found in the final report of the commission. We know that you established the commission not just to restore calm at the time but also because you wanted to get to the truth. How else could you justify such a lengthy and expensive process?

But there is something else at stake. In the aftermath of the massacre there was a collective weeping for our democracy. The massacre reminded us of the horrors of apartheid. So many had suffered and even given up their lives to restore our people to dignity. Nobody would expect that the might of the state would be brought down on a group of low-paid workers under an ANC government.

In a constitutional democracy, it is not a crime to go on strike, or to demand a meeting with one’s employer. Some notable people have even said that what happened at Marikana was worse than massacres like Sharpeville, because it was planned.

Whatever one believes, Marikana will live with us as the greatest blight on our democracy to date. After the massacre you told people that “today is not an occasion for blame, finger-pointing or recrimination”.

With the completion of the commission report, surely that day has come?

We would like to remind you that you promised that the results would be announced in a very short time. The immediate release of the unedited report can take us one step closer to the truth and in so doing honour the rights and dignity of the people of South Africa. We believe that this will also be an important step in restoring faith in our democracy.

You are the only person who can make the decision on when the report is released. We therefore appeal to you to make the unedited report immediately available. If you are not able to do this, we request an explanation for why you are not willing to give the public full access to these findings.

  Rehad Desai (documentary filmmaker and spokesperson of the Marikana Support Campaign); Noor Nieftagodien (chair of social history, University of the Witwatersrand); Patrick Bond (director, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal); Trevor Ngwane (national secretary of the Democratic Left Front); Ronnie Kasrils (former minister of intelligence and struggle veteran); Mark Heywood (director, Section27); Zwelinzima Vavi (former general secretary, Cosatu); Professor Peter Alexander (South African research chair in social change, University of Johannesburg); Jacklyn Cock (emeritus professor in sociology, Wits university); Professor Thea de Wet (director, Centre for Anthropological Research, UJ); Professor Farid Esack (head of religion studies, UJ); Leo Zeilig (associate professor in Sociology, University of the Western Cape); Fred Hendricks (professor in sociology, Rhodes University); Dr Dale McKinley (writer, researcher and lecturer); Jane Duncan (professor of journalism, UJ); Professor Natasha Erlank (head of historical studies, UJ); Professor Karl von Holdt (director, Society, Work and Development Institute, Wits university); Professor Steven Friedman (director, Centre for the Study of Democracy, Rhodes University/UJ); and Professor Devan Pillay (head of the department of sociology, Wits university)


Find realistic solutions for migrants

President Jacob Zuma recently met the representatives of foreign nationals to get their perspective on the causes [of xenophobic attacks] and what can be done to ensure that what has happened will never happen again.

That is the silver lining in the dark cloud of this violence in South Africa, as well as the immigrant drownings off the European coast – they have forced nations to reflect on the causes of the latest wave of immigration and to try to find humane and sustainable solutions.

First, desperate socioeconomic and political issues coerce people to move in search of greener pastures, such as better healthcare and education, peace and security, and better economic lives. The situation in Kenya (my home country), Somalia and Zimbabwe exemplifies this. A great number of immigrants are pushed out by poverty, so it means something must be done in places such as these to improve economic conditions, push job creation, and provide healthcare and education.

Receiving countries need to participate actively in regional organisations such as the African Union to promote regional stability, economic development and integration, as well as expanding access to quality health and education services. This can be done by fostering closer ties between the AU, the European Union and the United Nations.

One thing I like about South Africa, and would like other countries to emulate, is that South Africa mostly allows immigrants to live freely among its citizens. Harsh tactics reinforce the perception that all immigrants are illegal and worsen their vulnerability.

And they will not stop immigration.

A better way to deal with the perception that immigrants are illegal is to regularise as many of them as possible. When South Africa provided special dispensation permits to Zimbabweans, that was a step in the right direction.

A lack of permits of reasonable terms makes many migrants illegal and cascades into other difficulties for hosts and immigrants, such as registering trading licences and for tax purposes, accessing essential services such as health, education and banking, and ensuring security.

Every effort must be made to ensure that the department of home affairs works properly.

  These are issues South Africa should address in the hope that we will not see the recurrence of 2008, or another front-page stabbing of an Emmanuel Sithole. – Mike Idagiza, Katlehong


21 years later, we’re further from synthesis than ever

  “If today’s students had the vision of exorcising colonialism they should be demanding the creation of a university that provides African scholarship,” writes Dr Kenosi Mosalakae (“Take a lesson from Biko”). In the present climate of revolt, it is strange that such a call has not been made until now. Mosalakae mentions 181 black professors – not a modest core of top academic staff for such an institution.

In the first 20 years following defeat in their war against British colonialism, Afrikaners founded three universities: Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom, in addition to Stellenbosch University. Afrikaners were still fighting for full recognition of their political and economic rights.

At present, the existing, underfunded universities battle to cope with the huge number of first-year students, the majority of whom are ill-equipped by an ailing school system. Many grew up in poor living and social conditions that, in 21 years, have hardly improved under a government given full jurisdiction over the development of the country’s physical and human underpinnings. Many have deteriorated to the extent that there is now a general sense of discontent and revolt. The universities, too stressed by sheer numbers to give adequate attention to individual needs, have become the soft targets.

  The worthy doctor (and author) should hesitate to make ill-informed comments such as that the anthem Die Stem is a “song composed to praise God for the success of colonialism”. I challenge him to quote one word, one phrase or even an allusion in this poem, penned in the 1920s, that even hints at overlordship or colonialism. There is as little as there is in the equally beautiful and pious Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

  At the time I thought it unwise to cobble together a clumsy anthem promoting reconciliation and rather go for several anthems in the hope that 20 years down the line a more meaningful synthesis might have developed. How infinitely sad that we now seem to be further from that goal than ever. – Balt Verhagen, Johannesburg


Class is where the real wealth gap is

  I was putting down food for the cats when an infographic attached to Laura Grant’s article, “Men get lion’s share of income”, caught my eye. I suddenly realised that I am an underprivileged woman.

Turns out that the average man earns R21 000 a month, more than double what I earn, and the average woman earns R16 000, rather more than I earn. Phew – university lecturers are working class after all.

Well, not exactly. The median female income is R2 500 a month and the median male income is R3 500. Get that? Add up the money earned by every woman in the country and then divide the sum by the number of women and the average is R16 000. But, of those woman, half earn less than R2 500. Hence the other half must be getting some stratospheric salaries.

We also learn that 4.6% of women earn more than R500 000 a year and 11% of men do. If 8% of the population earns more than R500 000, that’s 1.2-million people who together earn at least R600-million – 222% of all the money that could possibly be earned by the bottom 7.5-million.

Of South Africa’s 15-million workers, nearly two-thirds don’t earn enough to qualify for income tax. So the bottom half earn less than 10% (the R270-billion) and the top half thus takes more than 90%.

This gives one an idea of the real wage gap. It’s not that between men and women.

It’s between the dirt-poor working class and the rich middle class, with another gap between the middle class and the preposterously rich. – Mathew Blatchford, University of Fort Hare

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