ANC owes people of province
German philosopher Karl Marx makes a deeply profound observation when he says: “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them”.I found myself reflecting on this statement during the announcement of results of the national general elections where the ANC was once again given the mandate by the people of SA to govern, albeit with fewer numbers of votes than ever before.I was particularly interested in the results of the Eastern Cape, a province that has without doubt been the greatest victim of the maladministration and corruption of the ANC over the past 25 years.Having lived in Grahamstown for five years, where I completed two degrees at Rhodes University, I have seen with my own eyes the extent to which the governing party has subjected the people of the Eastern Cape to immeasurable abuse.I have often told people that having been born and raised in Johannesburg, there is very little that can shock me in so far as poverty is concerned.I was born into a poor working-class family and raised in a shack until my mid-teens.I have seen poverty in the city centre where every corner is occupied by street kids who roam the streets drugged, in search for food and just a few coins to get them through the day.I have seen people living in deplorable conditions in squatter camps and families cramped into hostels in the townships.I know the sight of poverty. But upon arriving in the Eastern Cape province in 2012, even I was shocked by the depths to which poverty has a black face.I had never seen anything like the poverty and neglect that I witnessed in the province – poverty that extends far beyond inadequate food and inhabitable human settlements.The poverty of the Eastern Cape province is so deeply embedded that the people have been largely rendered into a state of complete sopor – completely helpless and unable to even imagine the possibility of a different reality.As geography students, we would often conduct field research in and around small towns in the Makana Local Municipality and surrounding areas.One such research looked at the prevalence of substance abuse in small towns and the results were debilitating.In towns like Riebeek East and Nieu Bethesda, things have completely fallen apart.Neglected communities have resorted to alcoholism and drug abuse as a means of escape.Young people are not in school.The rate of unemployment is high.It is absolutely devastating. I remember reading a study about how young women, unemployed and unskilled, have resorted to consuming copious amounts of alcohol in the third trimester of their pregnancies to induce foetal alcohol syndrome in their unborn babies, so that they may be born with disabilities and in that way be eligible for a disability grant which is significantly higher than the normal child grant.But it is not only the quality of life and standard of living that the people of the Eastern Cape are dealing with – it is also a government that is completely contemptuous of them.In my honours research I looked at the problematic role of the state in the ongoing antimining struggle in Xolobeni – the way that the government treats the Amadiba people whose only crime is that they want to protect their ancestral land.From wanting to establish a uranium mine without consultation – something that is unconstitutional – to sending law enforcement to harass the community, our government has demonstrated complete disregard for the rural people of this province.And yet, the ANC won the province in the elections with a two-thirds majority.Although there was a drop of about 2% in votes from the previous elections, at 68%, the party is sitting pretty in a province that it has, for more than two decades, mismanaged and thrust to the brink of collapse.Like many people, I have wracked my brain trying to understand why the people of this province continue to give the ANC support, especially because this support comes from the most neglected and abused people in rural areas.The answer, simple though it may be, is not simplistic: the people of the Eastern Cape genuinely love and believe in the ANC.They believe in its capacity to deliver a better life for all.I think it is painful and cruel that the ANC continues to abuse people who are so loyal to it. It is devastating.The ANC owes a lot to the people of this province.It owes them proper governance.It owes them better schools, better human settlements, better infrastructure.It owes them a strong healthcare system.Above all, it owes them an apology, a sincere apology and a serious commitment to fashioning a higher civilisation.