KHAYA XABA: 28 years after Chris Hani’s assassination, how is SA faring?

OPINION

The 10th of April 2021 marks 28 years since the death of South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary, African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee member and uMkhonto we Sizwe chief of staff, Cde Chris Thembisile Hani. The death of Hani at the hands of assassins who dastardly shot him in front of his daughter at his Dawn Park home in Boksburg led to the 1994 democratic breakthrough. It is therefore important to undertake a frank assessment of some of the most pressing South African issues that our beloved hero fought for.

LACK OF SERVICE DELIVERY

Despite loving literature and always carrying a poetry tome in his knapsack, Comrade Chris insisted that communism should not just be about theoretical debates. The principles of communism must translate into basic services for all.

However, currently most of our people, especially in the rural areas and in townships, still do not have adequate service delivery. Most roads remain unpaved, there’s no access to clean running water, and no stable electricity supply. The Free State, Northern Cape, North West and the Eastern Cape have the largest number of people who use pit latrines.

All South Africans must continue to call for a competent state which contracts to local people, instead of the tender system which is infamous for wasteful expenditure and cutting corners.

HEALTH

The outbreak of the coronavirus revealed how understaffed our public healthcare system is. For years the government has been refusing to fill vacant funded posts in the public service. In many hospitals and clinics, you would find a nurse doing the work of three people while being remunerated for one. She has to be a caregiver, a porter and also an administrator. Instead of employing more healthcare workers to deal with the growing population, the government elected to put a moratorium on the filling of positions. Most people either died in waiting rooms or in ambulances because of understaffing in healthcare institutions.

Most of the institutions have dilapidated buildings because of shortages of funds for renovations. Shortages of drugs are the order of the day and most patients are only given pain medication when seeking medical attention.

EDUCATION

Higher education continues to be a commodity in South Africa and most students from working class and poor backgrounds must rely on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which is a loan scheme instead of a vehicle for free education. Most universities continue to be marred by protesting students who are fighting against financial exclusion and demanding the scrapping of historical debt. The governing party - if it adhered to the Freedom Charter and its own conference resolutions - would push for free quality education for all with immediate effect.

Basic education is still characterised by mud schools, pit toilets and teacher shortages. There remains a long way to go for our education system to be the model our children deserve. Communities, teachers and parents must increase their focus on the education of the youth and see this as the primary effort of communities and families.

UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest quarterly employment statistics show that unemployment has increased by 1.7 percentage points to 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020. This is the highest unemployment rate ever recorded in the country and in practical terms it means that more than 50% of working age people are unemployed in South Africa.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has exacerbated this problem as many sectors of the economy are shedding jobs. Our government must immediately drive an aggressive industrialisation project, intensify the infrastructure development project and revive the economy so as to increase job opportunities.

Government must also consider a job seeker’s grant which must put money in the hands of the youth who are yearning to join the labour market.

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

Reports suggest that the number of gender-based violence (GBV) cases has risen by 500% since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. It is abhorrent that women continue to be killed and abused mostly by people close to them. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the problems faced by women in abusive relationships because they become trapped with their abusers with no possibility to escape or call for help.

The issue of gender-based violence, rape and femicide is a crisis that is tearing our society apart and affects every community in the country. In this regard, all members of society must join hands in ending violence directed at women and children. Moreover, law enforcement agencies should act decisively against all perpetrators of gender-based violence and work with relevant stakeholders to fight violence in schools and communities.

PAROLE FOR JANUSZ WALUS

Any parole for Janusz Waluś must be opposed and should not be considered until he tells the nation who he collaborated with in the assassination of Hani. Furthermore, the government of the day must re-open the inquest into the death of Hani.

During Chris Hani Month and on the anniversary of his death, Comrade Chris's legacy will be debated, analysed and the question ‘what if’ will be asked repeatedly. It is with great heaviness that we feel the passing of our leader and this does not grow easier as time passes.

The progressives of this country have the urgent task of imparting Comrades Chris’s spirit and legacy to the young generation- the ‘born-frees’. This needs to translate into the urgent practical reality of shaping a generation committed to education, liberation from racial and economic discrimination and able to reject rampant materialism.

Khaya Xaba is a social activist based in Protea North, Soweto.

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