The poor will always suffer at the hands of corrupt officials

FILE IMAGE: Sandton skyline seen from Alexandra township.
FILE IMAGE: Sandton skyline seen from Alexandra township.
Image: Alon Skuy

In 2017, a woman from Ficksburg, Free State, hired a bakkie and together with the driver crossed into Lesotho to find water. That woman and the driver would not be seen again, the car crashed and they died.

Her name was Rose Tatane, widowed six years earlier when her husband was shot dead by members of the South African Police Service while protesting for running water. Robbed of the opportunity to ever see justice for her husband, she too died for water.

In the past two weeks, one of the biggest conversations the country has been having is around the readiness of the department of education to reopen schools around the country.

But in fairness, even pre-Covid-19, there were many schools that were never ready to be places of education. These schools are riddled with problems, but chief among many, is running water. The schools have not been ready for a long time, the pandemic is merely blowing the lid on the fact that poor communities are treated with the most disdain by this country.

The deep economic segregation that characterises who we are as a country has once again, started to rear its ugly head. Private schools have had means to continue with education during this and students have started to sit for their mid-year examinations. The state schools on the other hand, have nothing to show and nothing to report.

And in these conversations and the news reports that we get, there is a common thread between the Tatanes and black children who have been unable to return to school to salvage whatever may be left of the academic year: corrupt government officials, where the money for the betterment of black lives goes.

This reality remains a hard pill to swallow, that our government has been infiltrated by and fostered a culture of comrades who continue to seek only to enrich themselves at the expense of the most vulnerable, the poor blacks.

Ace Moloi, in his book Holding My Breath, says: "To live on this earth is to experience an endless string of exciting feats and unforeseen breakdowns. Life will continue to test our character and shake the roots of our faith. And there will never be a final breakthrough. Not until the day we breathe our last."

His book follows his life post the death of his mother. In a searing and beautiful narrative, Moloi manages to use his own life to show various South African issues like the trials of child-headed families and the volatile issue of service delivery in townships.

Funny in parts and tragic in others, his is the accurate and ultimate South African story.

In the quote above, he speaks as a young man who grew up poor and black and had endured the pain of living under a government that has done nothing about the circumstances that tell poor people daily that their only relief will come when they draw their last breath.

With every rand that our government allows to be stolen from the public purse, the message that is sent to black and poor South Africans is that their lives will remain a toss between the excitement and hope from the promises they hear and the reality of the breakdowns that deny them breakthroughs, over and over again.

Every time that a crooked "businessman" flaunts his breakthrough with a half-a-dozen luxury cars, we must remember that in that moment a poor black South African gets yet another message that for them, relief can only be death.

If one wanted to argue with this promise of pain and suffering from the constant looting of the state, they would first need to argue with the fact that both Tatane and his wife only ever found relief when they died. Their protest had been in vain. And now their son is probably holding his breath.

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