South Africa is Burning

Aiden Sookdin, Author, The Minimum Wage Millionaire, 24 Feb. 2016

Tags: corruption, protests, service delivery, government, zuma,

I started writing this letter after a life-threatening experience brought home the reality of just how fragile South Africa’s economy and society is today. Thanks to past inequalities and present corruption, we’re in the midst of a crisis. All the research and opinions I have on this matter can’t be addressed in one letter. So I have divided my insights into a series of articles that will cover both why were are at a tipping point now, and what YOU can do to prosper, even in these uncertain times

This isn’t an easy letter to write but just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write it.

On Monday, 12 October 2015 at 6am, while driving to work, my wife and I heard news reports of violent protests happening on Witkoppen Road between Malibonge Drive and Riverbend Road in Northriding Randburg. FSPInvest is right in the middle of this protest area. 

Concerned for my wife’s safety, I told her to take a different route to work. She dropped me and I walked to the office. This was a mistake.

The traffic was bad, police cars were blocking off roads and there were people scattered everywhere. The smell of burning rubber was thick in the air but I decided to keep moving forward.

I spoke to a couple of people who were in the same predicament as me, trying to get to work. It seemed like the pandemonium was dying down.

Boy, was I wrong.

It was in this moment that a small group of protestors started to regroup across the street. Taking no chances, the police lobbed two tear gas canisters at the protestors. This was less than 20 meters away from me. Thick white gas immediately filled the air. It seemed to cover everything.

We started running but it was too late. Within seconds, I was gasping and my eyes were on fire. I couldn’t escape the gas in time. I won’t bore you with the gory details of the effects of a face full of tear gas. Let me just say it’s one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve had.

This got me thinking… 

How desperate must these protestors be to put themselves through this?

Driving through the Kya Sands informal settlement is the only way to really experience the conditions under which these poverty stricken people live. Corrugated iron and wooden shacks are packed closely together. There’s no running water or electricity and children play next to streams of raw sewage.

The smell of sewage and toxic smoke is a daily occurrence for the residents of Kya Sands. This is desperation at its worst – thousands of families struggling to make a living under some of the harshest conditions.

For years, they’ve begged government for houses, electricity and water. These requests have been ignored. The residents asked for roads, better policing and even a fire station, but nothing has come to fruition.

The people are angry, tired of excuses and are standing up for their basic human rights.

Then, I heard someone make a severely callous comment…

“Why do they have to act like animals?”

Hearing this sparked disturbing memories of apartheid. It reminded me of how the white government of the day referred to the “non-whites” desperately fighting for equal rights.

While the white population of South Africa and the international news agencies were fed carefully constructed propaganda by the apartheid government. The people forced to live in the townships and squatter camps on the outskirts of the cities were suffering.

I think it is important to discuss this history… Because now it seems that history is starting to repeat itself.

Let’s first look at a few quotes from the architect of apartheid, HF Verwoerd.
  • “We are here to stay and we are here to aid all others in whatever they may need and can get from us.”
  • We have, for a very long time developed in South Africa a nation of our own, friendly, prosperous, progressive. We hope that the rest of Africa will become likeminded.”
  • “Of course there has been sensational journalism and conditioned reporting which creates the impression that there’ll be great difficulties ahead for us.”
  • "There is no reason for uncertainty or fear in any quarter.” 
Verwoerd best described his racist policies like this, “Apartheid can better be described as a policy of good neighbourliness. Accepting that there are differences between people. While these differences exist, and you have to acknowledge them, at the same time, you can live together, aid one another and it can best be done when you act as good neighbours always do.”

These were the quotes given to the international media on rare television appearances. These quotes romanticised the political situation in South Africa. It did not reveal the “Whites Only” and “Beware of the Natives” signs painted on benches, doorways and notice boards.

It did not show the intense police brutality. The humiliation of carrying passes, forced removals or the whipping of young black men at church gatherings. These injustices were intense and happening on a daily basis.

It was only after the Soweto uprising that the true nature of the Apartheid government became international news.

Yet, the majority of white people in South Africa thought, living under apartheid, was “not that bad”

In fact, most of the young white South Africans didn’t even know what apartheid was. They didn’t realise what was happening in their own cities and towns because the government hid the truth from them using the national broadcaster, SAUK.

The power of this propaganda was powerful. Still today, some white people continue to be blinded by these blatantly racist policies.

How can this be?

Well, there was no social, political or cultural contact between “white” and “black”. It was illegal for people from different races to interact with each other…

This brings me to an important point. After more than 300 years of racial segregation and 40 years of legalised racism the answer to the question, “Why do people still vote for the ANC if they live in poverty”, becomes clear.

And the truth is, as long as there are so many destitute people in South Africa, none of our wealth is safe. It doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is!

Remember, the service delivery protest I’m referring to didn’t happen in the middle of a township that you never enter. It happened in the middle of an economic hub in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg. Less than two kilometres from upper class suburbs like Bryanston, Douglas Dale and Fourways…

This is happening on your doorstep, not the doorstep of Nkandla. Your wealth, your safety is at risk. The people causing the problems?

Well, they have body guards and blue light brigades to protect them from the violence.

Understanding this has a direct impact on your ability to build wealth in South Africa today. So, if you’re serious about making a real difference to your personal wealth then I am going to ask you to stick with me throughout this series.

I want us to do something about this together.  

Let's fight inequality together,

Aiden Sookdin
Editorial Director
The South African Investor
Stock of the Month
Fast-track Millionaire
The Home Business Tycoon

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