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Sandisiwe Samuels

SOUTH Africa is a reactionary nation. Every day we wake up and it feels like we’re living in a Black Mirror episode.

The mistake was thinking that democracy was a utopic destination on the other side of the rainbow.

Unfortunately, depending on which side of the fence you stand, democracy is a long uncomfortable process achieved through the proactive, co-ordinated and consistent reclaiming of agency.

South Africans want to do something but often don’t know what to do which is why initiatives like #IAmStaying garner such support. Unfortunately, these initiatives and movements often want to move into formalising themselves. And that is where I believe they make a mistake. Red tape and bureaucracy of formalisation aside, I think it’s unnecessary.

We have NGOs and NPOs that are doing amazing work with the little they have. What they need is more money, resources and support. When Reclaim The City is standing up against displacements and fighting for affordable housing, they need people to donate money for their revolutionary work.

When the City of Cape Town issues notices for comments on amendments to policies, we have to participate. We need to be attending AGMs, join and actively participate in Community Policing Forums (CPFs), etc.

If we do not pull out a chair, sit and speak up at these tables then people who are most likely not interested in inclusivity, diversity, decolonisation and radical transformation will make decisions that impact us directly.

Let me be specific about who “we” is and who needs to be pulling out chairs: the youth, black youth. The political leadership in this country already has little to no succession planning. We need to ensure that black youth are sitting at the table, speaking up and are truly being heard. We need to be proactive in the shaping of this nation’s future – from the ground up.

Once we are at those tables, we need to work toward the same goals. Every decision must be rooted in redressing our past, empowerment, intersectionality and the fierce defence of basic human rights. To be polite, the fierce defence of basic human rights is a blind spot for many who are sitting on cushy chairs.

Whenever suggestions that are not in line with our democratic values are made we need to speak up. It will be uncomfortable but it’s necessary. We aren’t there to buy face and be favoured. We aren’t there to play chess or checkers with decisions that affect the lives of human beings. When these tough times come, hold your ground. Stand firm in what is right and true and apply consistent pressure.

The best example from recent history of the power of unapologetically proactive black youth who, through co-ordinated and consistent action, effected change is #FeesMustFall.

That was a display of active young black citizens, revolution and the glorious reclaiming of agency. We need to keep that energy on all levels.

Each of us has the tools we need to re-route this country. Start with body corporates, CPFs/HOAs, school governing bodies, etc. No one is going to save us and this Black Mirror episode will never end if we don’t start doing something now.

Sandisiwe Samuels is the Media Co-ordinator at Cornerstone Institute.

Originally published in The Cape Argus on Monday, 28 October 2019.