From South Africa: Hunger games real for unemployed

From the January-February 2013 issue of News & Letters:

From South Africa

Hunger games real for unemployed

Capetown, South Africa—During the Christmas break we received the most shocking news from KwaZulu-Natal. The provincial traffic department advertised 90 positions for trainee traffic officers. More than 150,000 people applied, most of them between the ages of 18 and 20.

On Christmas Day 34,000 people received text messages saying that they had been shortlisted for these jobs. They were divided into two groups and asked to report to the Harry Gwala Stadium on Dec. 27 and 28. They were not told what to expect.

When the thousands of hopeful and excited young people arrived at the stadium, they were told that they had to perform a fitness test—running four kilometers. The weather was very hot and no water or medical care was provided. Many of these young people had already traveled long distances to reach the stadium. Many of them were not properly dressed for a four kilometer run in the heat.

On the first day hundreds of people collapsed and six died. A seventh person committed suicide. On the second day the so-called fitness test was repeated. By Sunday 230 people were in hospital.

This is not an isolated case. There have been many times where thousands of young people have turned up for a handful of jobs.

The politicians call the loss of seven young people in Pietermaritzburg a tragedy. They also called the massacre at Marikana a tragedy and the murder of Andries Tatane a tragedy. (See Sept.-Oct. 2012 N&L.) This is not only a tragedy. It is a disgrace. It is an outrage.

It is a disgrace that so many young people have no jobs or income or access to education. It is an outrage that people who are desperate for jobs are treated in such an inhuman manner. If the apartheid government had done this, it would have been an international scandal. There would have been protests around the world.

It is very clear to us that we are held in contempt by the politicians who say that they are representing us and carrying out the second transition in the national democratic revolution on our behalf. We are not human beings to them. We are just ladders to them. They are predators becoming rich and powerful in the name of our suffering and struggle. They are the real counter-revolutionaries.

The lives of people who are poor and Black count for nothing in this country. They count for nothing to the capitalists, to the politicians and even to some of the media. It is our duty to insist that the lives of all people count.

People must be held accountable for the outrage in Pietermaritzburg. We fully support the call for the resignation of the Member of the Executive Council for Transport in the province, Willies Mchunu. He was discredited in 2009 for his role in supporting the armed attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo by African National Congress supporters.

We reject the statement by the South African Communist Party (SACP) in support of Mchunu with all the contempt that it deserves. The SACP are nothing but apologists for oppression.

Frantz Fanon wrote that: “A society that drives its members to desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society to be replaced.” Our society is not viable. It must be replaced.

—Ayanda Kota, Unemployed Peoples Movement

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