Story by Constance van NieKerk
Happy Freedom Day South Africa, I can’t help but ask, are you really free? Or are you just under a different dictator?
I’m not talking politics, I’m talking about emancipation from mental slavery as Bob Marley rightly put it. It tears my heart when I see the effects of service delivery protests. How xenophobia attacks rob families of their sons and fathers. How trains go up in smoke simply because one train is late, train drivers and ticket
inspectors are murdered for reasons not of their own doing, a whole town is out of water because there’s a service delivery protest and pipes or valves have been vandalised or stolen, how school children miss school for days on end because ‘they’re burning tyres and digging holes in the street’, that’s all they know.
Refuse collectors who are unhappy about their salaries take to the streets emptying rubbish cans and tearing garbage plastics spluttering rubbish all over the streets. This must be a health hazard, not to mention causing traffic congestion and possibly accidents as well. And
when they eventually go back to work, which they do sooner or later, they are the very same people cleaning up all the rubbish. In Shona we have a saying ‘pfungwa shoma dzinowanzira vatenzi basa’. It simply means that we should use our minds intelligently so as not to give
ourselves unnecessary workload.
Sick innocent elderly members of communities have passed on because their nearest health facilities have been burnt down as part of some demonstration, innocent students died because there was a protest dubbed #feesmustfall, or because a certain language must be discontinued… how much more innocent blood must spill South Africa?
There’s nothing wrong with having your voice heard. Protests are only but a way to express public sentiments to the government, but is there no peaceful way to go about it? A way that doesn’t leave school children missing tests and exams or getting behind with their schoolwork, remember they are the future. A way that does not include bloodshed and hatred towards fellow humans. A way that builds the economy and communities instead of leaving municipalities in a worse financial fix because of the extra damages caused. Does it help burning down or destroying a service already delivered because of one that hasn’t been? At the end of the day there’s not enough money in the municipality coffers and the usual reaction is to blame corrupt officials. We all have a duty towards South Africa, foreigners and nationals alike. South Africa is Africa’s only hope. Build it, not destroy it for the sake of many.
If foreigners are a problem, implement new laws that will help solve the problem and not ones which will turn law-abiding foreign citizens into criminals. A lot of foreigners married to S.A nationals have been waiting for their permanent resident permits for close to three years, or more, this is after already being married to this national spouse for five years! And when they eventually get their permanent residence, the law requires them to stay with their spouses for two more years before they can be issued with SA IDs, while another foreign national who got a 5yr work permit can already apply for an ID. This in it’s own has seen many foreign nationals legally and legitimately married fall victims of all sorts of abuse. Some are emotionally abused, others physically and financially abused because they cannot work while waiting for the P.R applications to be finalised. They are completely dependant on their spouses ending up in strains on many marriages. The foreign spouse does not leave because they’ve already come so far and will not give up. In most cases there are already children on the scene. Leaving this spouse will mean no more permit but certain deportation and a complete waste of more than five years in SA. While married, you can only use an Accompanying Spouse Permit which can not even open a bank account or get you employment! If a foreign spouse decides to walk out on an abusive SA spouse, your permit is revoked and you’ll be ordered to leave the country.
Some will then just get permits by hook and crook, as it is very unfair to be booted out of a country whose national abused you and you yourself have not committed any crime!
Foreign nationals have been and still are treated in extremely dehumanising way. They suffer gross physical and mental abuse under the hands of Home Affairs Officials and SAPS officials. I at one point was called ‘voetstek!’ at the Beitbridge border post on my way from Zimbabwe for asking how long it will take to start helping travellers as our bosses await news as to when we will be able to report back to work. I was calmed down by one soldier who was in utter shock at the way the same Home Affairs official had treated travellers right in front of him. He said it was not part of his duties to intervene in any way with the work of the Home Affairs officials. The official in question even slapped a man much older than I am at his back. The man did not respond to her. Many foreigners have been unjustly treated, but none have gone to torch the Home Affairs offices or intentionally lit the border posts in protest. People are beaten at Marabastad and Crown Mines, I missed a baton stick from a guard with only a few centimetres in 2008 while pregnant. I was even called a fraudster for having an Afrikaans surname, yet it was the same department that married my husband and I.
Believe me, every foreign national in SA
wish to leave the country and never to return, but most have nothing and no-one to return to, others, nothing to live for.
Are foreign nationals not justified if they start a
protest against ill-treatment?
I ask again, are you really free South Africa? Bob Marley said, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”
Happy Freedom Day!