Look at black townships to see evidence of inhumanity

EVERYONE born in the township, in any part of the country, needs no convincing that they were meant for black people.

Far from being an accident, black misery was by design from the cradle to the grave. Dumb or smart you were born into that life. And dumb or smart, meant to die there.

Conversely, white life was carefully ensconced in the northern suburbs, thoughtfully determined to be near towns and far from the madding crowds. The planned serenity was unmistakably a safe distance from the howling hours of industry and its attendant hazards.

South of this deliberate order of things stood the sprawling black townships. Its dwellers were confined to menial jobs, lowly paid, located further from workplaces and its children fed a demeaning education so as to perpetuate an endless cycle that renders them misfits in a white setting.

Against all odds, black life defiantly soldiered on to produce the peerless Albert Luthuli.

It graced us with indefatigable Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe who changed politics from protest to challenge. It gifted us with the acclaimed icon Nelson Mandela that the world just cannot get enough of.

Then there was that young, gifted and quintessential thought leader, Steve Biko, whose massive intellectual finesse set the country on an unstoppable liberation path as the founding father of Black Consciousness.

Even while producing such inspirational political stars, black life was, at least in the eyes of its oppressive tormenters, never destined to live in bodies deserving of common humanity.

Look at black townships to see evidence of this planned inhumanity. The haunting horror of that dehumanising undertaking today is evident in the scramble for shelter in desperate but permanent informal settlements due to lack of systematic policy response to urban-rural migration, cross-border economic refuges, job opportunities and poverty.

Never meant to be accorded full-blooded dignity and crammed in "matchbox houses", life in black townships was bound to be unsafe, undignified, irksome and quarrelsome with propensity for crime.

Doubtlessly cruel to the core, it is a wonder how the authors of such a political system stopped short of building open toilets.

This shamelessly became the 2011 finger-pointing electoral issue, with some blaming it on budgetary constraints and others pleading ignorance of their existence.

Why is this unique to black life? This is one question that periodic elections, credited for helping a new-found democracy born on April 27 1994 to mature, seem unable to grapple with, nor possess a will to confront.

Being free to elect or stand for political office is well and good, but what matters most is a qualitatively different life for children to reshape a future we would like to see them inherit, keep and enjoy forever.

For as long as the dreams of some children are burdened with the longing for clean running water, enclosed toilets and struggle to go through school where they live, our democracy is far from maturing.

A democracy making no effort to change the misery of this unchanging reality risks being reduced to a ritual for leaders to take turns in the comforts of an uncaring power.

If these be vague words then those of Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A Giroux should be clear: "Democracy is not, for us at least, a set of formal rules of participation but the lived experience of empowerment for the vast majority. If one takes the view that schools are among our leading political and ideological institutions, it is a contradiction to envision a democratic society when its inheritors, the kids, are forced to live under conditions of unrelieved subordination."

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