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[OPINION] Reclaim the City needs to reclaim the cause

There is almost an Orwellian warning in the sociopolitical culture that is being exercised by a second coming of millennial activists, so to speak.

2+2 does not equal 5.

There is absolutely a sense of pride to be had in one’s identity, beliefs and activism, but the structures of sociopolitics have become corrosive and destructive.

It’s a problem when these bektivists (all talk and no action) try to problem solve important and pressing issues such as low-cost housing by sabotaging communities and infecting them with a one-sided narrative that is self-serving and prophetic. This only results in the irony of hate. Hate is not a catalyst for the progress of social justice.

A social justice warrior and the cause they fight for is not a militant state - nor should it be. The term itself has become watered down through the own actions of those who identify with it. A passive resistance is not what is needed. But a bloodthirsty regime, ready to draw swords at the cost of a lot admirable, albeit silent, fighters in communities is no way to win a war for equality either.

That kind of fight roots itself in an authoritarian movement, blind to the context and circumstances of a dynamic community whose stories are not being heard and this is exactly what happened in Woodstock this week when Reclaim the City gathered outside a unit in Roodebloem Road to protest the eviction of one Mrs Vieira.

We forget that in some instances, even protest is privilege, and so in the noise of all of this, the owner of the property, Mr Noor Parker’s side of the story was silenced. In a statement issued by his lawyers, Parker says:

“On 24 October 2017, there had, been an attempted eviction of Mrs Vieira and her family from a unit in Roodebloem Road. However, as a result of the support from the Reclaim the City group, Mrs Vieira had successfully resisted the eviction.

“The coverage of this story has focused mainly on Mrs. Vieira and her circumstances, neglecting to verify and recognize Mr Parker’s side of the story. Due to this negligence, the account published led to Mr Parker being characterised as a capitalist slumlord and resulted in his good name being slandered over all platforms of social media.

“Little do people know that Mr Parker is not rich but instead an ordinary citizen working a 9 to 5 job, 7 days a week, in an attempt to make ends meet. For the past year Mr Parker has been working solely to settle the escalating costs relating to the property, one of which is a municipal bill of R160,000.
In the duration of the ownership of the unit, Mr Parker has yet to yield the benefits of this proposed ‘asset’ as a result of non-paying tenants which lead to deterioration of the building to its present state.

“The constant publicizing of the issue in the media has been devastating for Mr Parker and his family. It has not only placed his life on hold, but has resulted in the accumulation of debt because of the lack of payment of the unlawful tenant.

“Have a heart Mr Parker”, said one of the many picket boards fixed to the building on the day of the attempted eviction. It is acknowledged by many people that Mr Parker has been more than compassionate in dealing with Mrs Vieira. In fact, he has been more than reasonable and has obliged her on numerous occasions granting her extension upon extension to find alternative accommodation. Mrs Vieira had ample time and notification to vacate the property, as she first received notice in February 2016.”

The statement surfaced and started to receive deserving attention after members of the Reclaim the City Facebook page restored faith in humanity and started to ask some very important (and simple) questions. Where is the whole story?

When militants hide under the guise of social justice they divide and dehumanise individuals - an undeserving consequence to the equally dedicated working class like Parker. Insular ideologies are the breeding ground of defensive tactics and one-sided chronicles. They are all-encompassing contradictions of the very important sociopolitical fight.

Social justice for one should be social justice for all. The practice is, of course, at its heart a strive for equality - so to use it to assault reason and frighten by outright staging performances of dissent is discouraging and breeds an unnecessary degree of faithlessness in a variety of causes.

Academic theories, statistics and ideologies are black and white. But activism is an art of philosophy as much as anything else and so there is also a lot of room for grey. Where are these messages? These questions? These discussions? Or must they happen post-mortem at the funeral of the reputations of the good few in spaces who have been dragged by the orthodoxy of a loud (and privileged) few?

Is social acceptance and the participation of the fight of social justice only offered to card-carrying members of the mindless club who birth the singular story that lacks critical thinking and room for discourse? If I need to buy into this notion, led no less by people who would fail a litmus test when it comes to an introspective, alternative and intelligent line of questioning – well, then call me a pariah. I will wear that label. Proudly and quietly. And while we’re on the topic of silence, let me just put it out there, perhaps a little less shouting and a little more listening is needed?

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy.” - George Orwell, author and outspoken democratic socialist.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter.

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