These are the kinds of skills that desperate Zimbabweans bring to this country. Their despot leader came here and bragged about his indiginisation, yet his educated population fled to SA because it is better than home. Many thousands have stood for days for work permits, and many, many thousands do not have permits.
Let’s call a spade a spade. They are willing to do anything, and for any price. Employers are aware of this, and for the penny they are prepared to pay, they can get a degreed professional to drive their delivery truck, cut their grass or serve customers in their fish ‘n chips shop. This drives the unemployed South Africans – many completely unskilled – mad and they accuse foreigners of taking their jobs. The South Africans have been failed by a country that has not had their best interests at heart for more than a century. Service-delivery protests are the closest we get to communities recognising the failure of this country to attend to their needs.
No amount of marching and peace indabas will ever get to the core. Labour is the flashpoint. Unions want stricter labour control and business wants the red tape to be cut. This is a deadlock that results in endless fights and unrest, even violence. Marikana is the ghost of labour relations at their worst. It is also a haunting reminder of the social disaster of migrant labour. Businesses hire foreigners, who are often not unionised, to try and do business more easily. Either this is done in order to survive in a beaurocratic quagmire, or it is greed-driven to chase a quick buck at the expense of human rights. Fact of the matter is – labour needs a serious and comprehensive overhaul, perhaps a Codesa-type endeavour that involves unions, workers, civil society, business and government. We are not in apartheid and we are not in the US. This is postcolonial SA and it needs a postcolonial solution tailormade for SA. Let’s also not forget that many foreigners have a network, a diaspora, that supports them to build their small shops. South Africans, despite government and business PR noise, are alone.
When foreigners flash degrees, the Limpopo textbook crisis, the sky-high failure and dropout rate and dilapidated schools with fake teachers become even more devastating. Fix education, and fix it yesterday – or else South Africans will be left sitting on pavements waiting to picked up.
President Jacob Zuma admitted that leaders had not done enough to educate the youth about the struggle. Certainly, the paint-and-poo statue war highlights a youth – themselves part of a tiny university elite – more interested in ideology than a systematic focus on changing South Africa. Perhaps that is the fault of a leading party steeped in liberation ideology 21-years after taking power; perhaps it is the fault of academics and psuedo-academics testing complex concepts on an angry citizenry. It is more fun to throw faeces, to play revolution – like one played house as a kid – and dress up like Che Guevara spewing post-neoliberal soundbites, than it is getting your hands dirty and actually trying to make SA a better place for all who live here.