Another Voice: The Factory of Perpetual Poverty and Silence
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When you want to lead a country you have to do two things: talk to all its people and listen to all its people.
The evolution of industrialisation, including the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, have done exactly what was done since the first industrial revolution in the 18th century: the “factorisation” of people.
People are all put into factories. Labour camps. And from there, their value is determined. Very rarely does anyone move from factory floor to office floor.
Professor Charles Schwab warned that, while the Fourth Industrial Revolution had the potential to undo the damage of previous industrial revolutions, he also had grave concerns that governments may be “unable to adapt and that inequality may grow and societies fragment”.
As cities like Cape Town seek to become tech hubs and premier tourism destinations, the architects of this dream have it all based on the continued factory patterns of 18th-century industrialisation.
The poor are simply there to produce but not participate. They will be fed but will not be listened to.
The most recent examples of the fragmentation of our city is the extent to which the City will demonise inward migration of poor people but not the inward migration of the rich; will harass the poor for being without a physical place of residence but not tax the wealthy for having residences that stand empty; and will trim the verges of the suburbs of the wealthy but will allow children of the poor to die in open manholes.
Nationally, we have a government that is equally deaf to the plight of people. We have had insurrection and looting but to date, we have heard nothing of the large scale arrests that were promised.
And we have a Presidency that is acting as a labour broking agency for comprised cadres.
Where is the inclusive, consultative government that both the City, Province and National Government talks about?
With elections around the corner, citizens have a choice: to continue putting in power those who continue to place the voices of poor people in the factories of industrialisation or to elect citizens who will co-create a society that is built on respect, inclusivity, safety, justice, equity and prosperity for all.
My parents were both factory workers. I know the conversation they held when they came home. Frustration, anger and powerlessness were common themes of the exploitation they felt.
We are not seeing the damages of the past being undone. What we are seeing is a perpetuation of the damages of the past and the fragmentation of our society.
In my diverse conversation with people in small towns and villages across the country, I have asked them one question: tell me about your poverty? The most frequent response: “I’m sick of it.”
I recently stopped my car to give a ride to an old woman and her children who were hitch-hiking at the N2/Suurbaak turn off. She was hitching a ride to get to Swellendam to go to a moneylender for funds to pay her municipal bills. Her tears kept flowing as she spoke. No aged person should be hitching on the N2 for money.
But the politics of factory-flooring poor people and not listening to their hardships is exactly why this country is increasingly divided.
Former Post Office chief executive Mark Barnes recently said South Africans are asked to make a living on R11.66 a day. That is what the R350 government disaster relief grant amounts to.
What our politicians are doing to poor people is: impoverishing their existence, silencing their voices, and then promising them a better future at election times. And the cycle of oppression goes on.
The factory floor is filling up with anger and frustration. So are the streets. If you don’t listen to people’s voices but simply want their votes, you are complicit in their oppression and exploitation. It’s time for new citizen leaders.
* Lorenzo A Davids.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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