26 May 2018


OPINION  Destroy and loot today…lack tomorrow 

by: The Editor    date: 26 April 2018

Putting your Constitutional rights above responsibilities that go with them is wrong. And using those rights to trample upon others' human rights is as good as reading and understanding the Constitution in a selfish manner or not knowing what the Constitution says at all. 
On Wednesday last week South Africa woke up to news of protests in Mahikeng that started in Montshiwa. Before we could even understand what the protests were all about, a bus and a car were torched, these protests had become violent. By the end of the day these had gotten completely out of control and violence had increased. 
It had become clear by the afternoon that in the midst of the many confusing, alleged reasons for these protests, the trending call was for Premier Supra Mahumapelo to either resign or be forcefully removed from the position the governing African National Congress (ANC) has deployed him to. 
What's interesting though was that these sudden protests didn’t have a face. No organisation or group wanted to take responsibility of having organised and leading these protests. Even the disgruntled group of ANC members who have recently stopped using the name North West Business Forum and are now known as the Revolutionary Council do not want to own up to these protests that resulted in enormous amount of damage to property, looting of shops, loss of life, disruption of schools and generally the economy of our capital city, Mahikeng. In media interviews they at least admitted that they support the protests. 
On social media people urged others on through misinformation to increase the violence. Some politicians – both current and former ones – sadly used every opportunity to stoke the fires. 
Depending on which medium you use to consume news, the unrest in Mahikeng could have been caused by the alleged corruption, unemployment, the disruption of healthcare services because of the protracted Nehawu and Denosa strike or poor service delivery. 
There was only one wish from the protesters - at least the few, including the minor school children that were interviewed by the media…the Premier must go. The majority of them cannot give a good reason why, other than repeating untested allegations of corruption. We should, of course, not turn a blind eye at alleged corruption, but instead of violence, use the country’s laws and justice system to root it out and bring those implicated to book. 
Why do these protests not have a face? Why force children out of schools if we are a nation that values education? Why target foreign owned shops, shopping malls and private cars of people who’ve got nothing to do with our demands? Could it be that the plan is simply to use innocent school children and unemployed youth who are easily influenced through misinformation campaigns? Is attacking shops and private vehicles a strategy to force everything to stop, so the province can indeed be seen as uncontrollable? 

Many were quick to use the “Constitutional right to protest” reason during social media discussions. But what responsibilities do you have to this noble Constitution that guarantees and protects your rights? Is it your responsibility to destroy a shop owner’s livelihood? Is it your responsibility to deny a child an education? To deny someone basic health care?

After the 1994 unrest that toppled former Bophuthatswana homeland leader, the late Kgosi Lucas Manyane Mangope, many parts of what is now Bokone Bophirima literally died economically. Some because of the infrastructure that was destroyed during the protests and others because of the exodus of investors. Mahikeng was one of the most hard hit, with many shops and restaurants leaving the town. People lost jobs. The town was then sustained mainly by government jobs until it started seeing the return of some investments when new shopping malls were built and villages started expanding as people built new “suburbs”. Until today, however, Itsoseng township still doesn’t have a shopping mall since residents torched it 24 years ago. These are just some of the serious consequences of violent protests. Instead of growing more, the province may just be stuck in the cycle or repairing and replacing what we destroy. 

The province’s woes cannot be blamed solely on the government administration of Premier Mahumapelo because Bokone Bophirima has had the same challenges for almost the entire 24 years of democracy. Let’s say Premier Mahumapelo is removed tomorrow – and this is completely up to the ANC – will the province’s challenges suddenly go away? No they won’t. It’s possible that we may even see a repeat of similar violence in the not-so-distant future.

But there’s another worrying possibility. The province’s politics have proven that factions change all the time…friends become enemies and enemies become friends. The same coalition that is currently “united” behind forcing Mahumapelo’s removal will soon be divided and we’ll be back to this same situation. 

As young people, do we want to be used to destroy our own province and towns, therefore our futures? As parents, do we want our children to be used to help achieve things that may not even be in the interest of developing Bokone Bophirima, but instead individuals’ goals? Let’s sit back and think before throwing that stone or torching anything.