STRIKE WON

It is approximately 5:45am and we are all neatly packed in inside the fifteen-seater minibus taxi, ready to make our journey to our respective work-places. The taxi launches off and departs from the busy taxi rank. As per usual, the taxi dips into the nearby neighbourhood-a short cut leading to the main road that joins the highway-and typically darts down the open road. But not today.

It’s true what they say “you never know what each day has in store for you” and I’m sure as cheese-cake in a bakery that I would make it to work on time. But not today. Today has something different in store.

The driver weaves in through in the Diepkloof neighbourhood and just as he makes the last curve before the main road, the taxi comes to an abrupt halt. And what we saw before us resembled the results of hurricane Katrina on the news. Rocks in all shapes and sizes lied scattered on the streets, broken bottles blended in between, there were garbage packets torn and strewn across the lane that separates Diepkloof Zone 6 from the Hostels across the streets. A tremendous mess that would not allow a bicycle to pass by let alone a 15-seater Quantum. So we backed up and took an alternative route to our destination.

Now the obvious case in this scenario was protest action. The only Question was “what was the protest about?” All I knew was that I needed every second of those ungodly hours to count in my favour in order for me to arrive on time-according to my calculations. But hey, these things happen.

I finally made it to work. And decided to do a little research on this occurrence-when to expect the next one, in case I have to go through this again!

It is alleged that about thirty children between the ages of seven months and five years inhaled teargas that was shot into their crèche when police were dispersing a crowd that was protesting over electricity in the area. It is further alleged that the same police refused to offer assistance to the affected children and when the owner of the crèche attempted to open a case at a local police station, police officers did not know what case to open, it was that kind of fiasco!

The effects of protests always seem to harm those who are not involved much more than those on the frontlines of that striking action. Here we see that innocent children were collateral damage in a war they had nothing to do with, they’re just kids. Yet still, we cannot do away with the reason and cause of the strike, either. Grievances’ that caused the out-breaking of these violent protests range from residents fighting Eskom against the installing of pre-paid meters, some even demanded free electricity in general. These are the key instigators to the wide spreading eruptions, where shops are looted, cars and property are damaged and even by-passers find themselves at the helm of possible harm. I then spoke to the Department of Community Safety Media Relations Officer and Spokesman Thapelo Moiloa who expressed to us no nonsense approach to this matter “We want to say in the event of criminal activity, we will be left with no option but to arrest anybody involved with such behaviour…” he said, when asked about the lootings of spaza shops.

Now, it is understandable how social anxiety can spark an outrage of this nature in the community, lack of decent service deliveries can do that to a person. Not only is the Diepkloof area affected, it is also believed that other parts of Soweto like Dube are under violent electricity-related strikes as well.

Large numbers of youth have been said to have taken to the streets to vent their frustration at a lack of electricity in parts of the township, as some areas have been without power for nearly two days while others were randomly being cut off early during the day. It’s hard not to imagine a disgruntled community, as a result but the inconveniencing of innocent people’s lives is wildly inexcusable!

Protests have also been reported in Mogale City, where residents have blocked off the main road into Kagiso with burning tyres, in another demonstration also sparked by a lack of power supply.

I can’t help but wonder where does it all end? Will someone care to explain how setting alight a tuckshop down the road going to make a positive change to my life? It’s rather senseless if not phenomenally pointless!

And now as a result, people who have absolutely nothing to do with protest action-are affected as well, from a visit to the nearby Spaza shop, to driving with a damaged vehicle and even the changing of travelling routes due to havoc on the streets.

There needs to be some sort of middle grounds in order for any problem to be solved! Residents see lack. Authorities see injustice. And each one is going to react in their respective capacity!

“Such conduct in police service should not be tolerated. Neither the Code of conduct for public servants, oath taken to protect and serve or Batho Pele principles make room for such unbecoming behaviour. I condemn the action of the police officers who should have acted cautiously to ensure kids at the crèche are not affected. I will engage with the Provincial Commissioner to tender a formal apology to the affected families on behalf of police who acted carelessly and to assist the crèche owner to register a formal complaint,” says The Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi – expressing her disappointment in the alleged police conduct during the protest action at the Diepkloof Hostel where innocent children were affected.

The bible says “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:6. The looting of shops, the damaging of government facilities or the harming of by-passers who choose not to be involved with the protest-does not prove our point at all! If anything, it works against us, it reverses our good intentions and criminalises us instead. And as a result, law enforcement acts more on the criminal activity and less on the objective we’re trying to achieve. This is where the two entities continually miss each other, one misunderstands the other yet the after-math proves unfortunate for both parties. What then would be the viable solution?

Information is key. I am sitting in the re-routing taxi wondering to myself if people knew that there are more affective, less violent methods of getting authorities and service providers to hear us without actions that will demonise the commuters-much more could be achieved!

I am all for unity in one voice against whatever sort of injustice. But I will never condone one injustice over another. The trashing of innocent people’s private property has nothing to do with Eskom but everything to do with Juvenile and criminal foolishness.

The Gauteng Department of Community Safety has made known its disapproval of violence affecting the commuter “If anyone is found vandalising other people’s property, you can just notify police authorities or you can call the department and the perpetrators will be correctly dealt with.” Said Thapelo Moiloa.

The Gauteng Department of Community Safety aims to increase safety for all the people in the Province by improving safety through effective oversight of policing, making safety everyone’s responsibility and optimising safety and security risk management. These are the sources available to us in times of need or distress. We have a voice. We have a choice. Lets use them wisely!


WRITTEN: LEHLOHONOLO RAMOSOLO

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