MALAIKA MAHLATSI | Townships are violent, unkind to black people

Mashata's shooting painful reminder of how life is disregarded

Well-known comedian, MC, DJ and radio personality Peter Mashata was shot and killed in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, after performing at the local Epozini Lifestyle pub on Saturday night.
Well-known comedian, MC, DJ and radio personality Peter Mashata was shot and killed in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, after performing at the local Epozini Lifestyle pub on Saturday night.
Image: Supplied

This past weekend, a good man was gunned down and killed like a dog in the streets of Soshanguve. Peter “Mashata” Mabuse was not just a popular DJ and MC, he was someone who was deeply loved by many South Africans – myself included.

I knew him from a distance through mutual friends and it was evident even from afar that he was an honourable and decent human being. His kindness shone through the radio and social media.

His decency is evidenced in the numerous community empowerment initiatives that he was part of. But on the weekend, Mabuse  was shot multiple times on the streets of Soshanguve and just like that, he became a statistic of the growing number of people who lose their lives in a  hail of bullets in our townships. While the circumstances differ, the death of Mabuse reminds me of the senseless murder of Dr Michael Isabelle who was shot and killed in his surgery in Soweto just weeks ago.

Like Mabuse, who so deeply loved black people, Dr Isabelle was a good man who had committed decades of his life to helping the community of Dobsonville in Soweto. This was not enough. Both men were shot and killed like animals.

There have been many other men and women who have lost their lives in the most violent ways in townships. Many of these are activists and community builders who wake up every morning to try and make township life bearable for its inhabitants.

It is a difficult task to make bearable a place that was never designed with human prosperity in mind. Townships are a creation of colonialism and apartheid. Even now, 30 years into the democratic dispensation, they maintain many elements of regression that have outlived our amoral past, one of which is the underdevelopment that can be seen in terms of infrastructure and investment.

But it isn’t just the physical environment that is underdeveloped, it is also the potential and talents of people living in townships. Disenfranchised and deprived, many people in townships have been hurled into a zone of non-being. And it is in this zone that parameters for de-civilisation are set.

The growing levels of violence in many townships across the country over the past few years are directly proportional to the atrocious quality of life. But they’re also a reminder that it is impossible to truly enjoy freedom as a black person when your exist in a world in which so many other black people are de-civilised and hardened. De-civilised and hardened people shoot and kill a doctor to  steal two cell phones from him. De-civilised and hardened people shoot at a man multiple times in the vicinity of a higher learning institution, disregarding the possibility of a passer-by being “collateral damage”.

I was born and raised in Soweto – the biggest township in SA. I grew up surrounded by multiple layers of violence. Poverty is violence. Infrastructure inadequacies that impede on a community’s capacity to develop meaningfully is violence.

Black life in townships is violence and this is why I can never reconcile with the romanticisation of township life. There is no place where black life is cheaper than it is in townships – and nowhere where it is as easy to die like a dog. Contrary to the arguments posed by those who claim that living in the township makes one grounded and connected to the people, there’s absolutely nothing revolutionary about townships. The fact that millions of us were born and raised there is a result of a brutal history and not a choice that we’d willingly make.

And that’s why I’ll always encourage those who can get out, to get out as soon as they can, because a bitter truth about townships, places that we call home, where some of our families still reside, is that they’re not kind to black people, who live and die there like dogs – in a hail of bullets on an early Sunday morning, as if their lives mean absolutely nothing.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.