#SAUnrest: Leaders Must Play a Role in Ensuring Calm is Restored
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 14 July 2021 — South African National AIDS Council Civil Society Forum (SANAC CSF) condemns the sporadic acts of violence and looting, happening in communities across KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. We are calling on community leaders across all spheres to play a role in ensuring calm is restored.
As SANAC CSF, we cannot separate what we see today from the larger socio-economic crisis in society. Militarisation, detainment or arrests will not solve the underlying drivers, and poorly deployed these risk exacerbating a loss in trust among our community members.
The matter is far more than ‘a fight to release Former President Jacob Zuma’ — it acted as the perfect catalyst for existing frustrations to boil over. Government and private sector efforts have not sufficiently addressed the under-employment and persistent hunger that continues to grow. But poor and hungry people do not become violent looters on behalf of better known looters who are in jail. They may well avail themselves for mobilisation (looting, violence, marching) behind the organisers – the very same organisers who must be held to account.
The anarchist behaviours we have witnessed has caused major socio-economic and political instability and in order to address these, we need decisive and urgent radical change in policies.
We need a radical focus on solving grassroot economic issues, a decent unemployment grant, protection of entry level jobs, more aggressive programs to employ graduates, housing and land redistribution. The poor majority of this country have been neglected long enough and that’s the emergency!
But before reacting to effects and jumping to give a label to the current events. It may be good to consider the May 2021 conclusions of the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) – commissioned by the office of the President, that is not mentioned in all public utterances.
The report concludes: “Policy makers need to place hunger and food security at the centre of social development strategies.”
We need stronger political leadership across all spheres — the morphed violence has provided a mask for our pressing socio-economic conditions by counter-revolutionaries to hide these pressing issues. Public hearings to bring our leaders into the community to be accountable so that their constituents feel heard and listened to, is an important part in exercising our democratic accountability and participation. Political leadership that does not respond and engage at local level will hamper any future efforts. We need to start by winning our community trust back, and it is the communities themselves that will guide what this should look like.
South Africa’s development agenda needs to meet the needs of the present and future generations through balancing economic, social and environmental considerations.
As SANAC CSF, we will urgently be meeting with our 18 sectors to establish and rollout Sector and Provincial based plans, to address the intersectional issues that play out and affect communities. We all need to humble ourselves at this time and be led by our communities, because without locating them at the centre, our efforts will be shallow and cause our wounds to fester.
What we need right NOW is political and policy responses to problems of inequality.
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