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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Helpless and Hopeless

30 Nights in a Shack

In the South African political context, one cannot help the feelings of complete helplessness and broad-based hopelessness. They are brought about by the political leaders we have – not that we chose, because we never really choose them – but they advance through the party ranks until they are in our daily lives with their flamboyant ways or byways. We have them and at times we even bet with our lives to defend them.

Our complete helplessness and broad-based hopelessness are more magnified on that day that one is in a voting booth with ballot paper and he has to mark with an X. It is in that moment that the fact mock smiles in the face of a South African citizen. You are looking at that paper and your X on that paper is going to affect your life not only for the coming five years but for the rest of your life, as years add to your life regardless of negativity or positive growth.

Our complete helplessness and broad-based hopelessness were evident in the last national elections, as most of the people that I know were not interested in voting and nationally the voting queues were non-existent, furthermore it is reflected in the service delivery protests that we routinely have.

I know that there is an accepted notion that we South Africans are xenophobic but I am telling you for a fact that we black South Africa do not hate anybody. Yes, we have languages and cultures that separate us, each with its superiority complex, but the xenophobia attacks have been mislabelled by the media’s failure to interpret the situation and conditions: disenfranchised, helpless and hopeless South Africans looking at black Africans working harder and accepting underpaying just to survive and while the labour skills employees take advantage of this fact.

It is an international phenomenon where migrants from poor countries migrate and then accepting underpaying jobs. Why weren’t there xenophobic attacks where affluent black Africans live? We have lived with migrants from Mozambique since I was five years old (the time that I became aware of their presence).

Many things have happened in our beautiful country that have shaken me – I washed my hands with the knowledge that we will replace the President after his terms – but only two that have stirred me: PetroSA and recently Jack Bloom. How can PetroSA not have a plan to maintain the fuel price below nine rand? Do they even have a barrier that the fuel price must never go beyond? Or will the fuel price keep rising at will? Do they have crude oil reserves? Did they have to privatise Sasol? Do they have an idea what are they doing?

FYI: the apartheid regime maintained the fuel price under international sanctions.
Every time I think about PetroSA my heart bleeds.

The second is Jack Bloom’s 30 Nights in a Shack: A Politician’s Journey; hence I write this rant. Jack Bloom’s book magnifies our helplessness/hopelessness to Apollo status treating the conditions of the poor as something like bungee jumping for the thrills and satisfaction/reputation-building of the other. Having lived a shack life for years, there was nothing surprising in the book, the resilience and hopeless hope of the South Africans living in squalor not for 30 nights but years. I felt that the 30 nights were Bloom’s ego trip:

I can do something new within the SA political arena so South Africans can notice me.

Sure, some of us have noticed after reading the book and we are sane enough to have noticed that even in the DA lead Western Cape there are shacks that Jack Bloom did not care to stay overnight.


You can make a counter point but while driving to the Mother City on the N2, I witnessed Western Cape’s own Shack City. If Shack Cities are the ruling party’s negligence, why are they in Western Cape, the home of DA?

This is the hopelessness that the DA has gave me for my vote: remember the Blade Nzimande/Helen Zille issue? Blade bought a R2 million car and Helen drove a Toyota costing less than half a million. The worst thing happened, Helen and the DA went after Blade’s character. Blade did not do anything wrong, the only thing wrong was the handbook that said Blade and Helen can drive a car to that value, which was the issue that Helen and the DA should have gone after and changed. Four years later the handbook is still standing and they all drive million rands worth of cars.

I hear you ask a question: why does it bother you and not Nkandla? First because I gave the DA my vote after struggling to make that cross and carefully weighing the options that I had. COPE stimulated our nerves offering us a new kind of hope and help but they only proved that the apple falls not far from the tree as we continued bowing our heads to the status quo.

When EFF exploded in our face, I did not wear red because long before the red came Malema one morning stopped talking about mine nationalisation without giving us his final resolution on the issue – to this day he doesn’t say a word about nationalisation – I was not surprised, I accepted that he shook the Golden Hand.

Somebody caused me a lot of pain using few words that were meant for me to laugh:

“Today in our politics we have a triangle, the red monkeys and the blue
monkeys following the potbellied Lords while singing about what is on their

Everybody laughed but it is not a laughing matter to me. He just stabbed an un-healing wound.

Former president Thabo Mbeki once said that there will be no shacks by 2015 but 2015 is here and he is nowhere to answer to the billion shacks that we still have. What was his plan of action and why hasn’t it been implemented?

The important question that Jack Bloom fails to answer after his bungee jumping, mindblowing experience: has the 30 Nights solved the problem? Is there a bulletproof plan that the DA can implement into the Western Cape, that will eventually force the ruling party to adopt it and eradicate Shack Cities of our beautiful country?

No, because it was just a reputation building mission.

Then the worse fact about 30 Nights in a Shack is the last chapter: HOW YOU CAN HELP. Jack Bloom shifts his responsibility to YOU. Then I lack respect for his stay in a shack, for him as a leader and for the book because since February 2014 there have been more shack fires, shacks to rebuild and shacks built. Jack Bloom’s new motto – “Go experience it for yourself” – does it really need to be experienced and what after the experience, Mr Bloom? Publish a book, YouTube the videos and have a laugh? “This is Black poverty, ha ha ha.”

Our complete helplessness and broad-based hopelessness are not about living in shacks. It is not about the present day economic apartheid, no but it is about the politician’s journey – from Mandela to Zuma and from Leon to Maimane – and this political journey is not concluded in 30 simple nights in a reserved and secured informal settlement treated as if it was a three-star hotel overnight stay.

This political journey is not about looking at the government as the new goldmine where you have a limited time to get as much gold in your reserves as possible.

We need a new crop of politicians to walk this Political Journey.

Again, my complete helplessness and broad-based hopelessness choke me. It mocks me for uttering those words. But yes, YES, we need a new crop of politicians. It mock smiles in my face – whatever it is. I am choking being reminded of one ANC member carrying a banner that read: ANC WILL RULE UNTIL JESUS COMES BACK and I can’t help it, I am helpless to this choking fact.

There is a song in my ears: THE HOLY SPIRIT MUST COME DOWN AND AFRICA WILL BE SAVED and I know we all need it because all the politicians are on a journey of personal fulfilment and enrichment within this country, this beautiful country finger-puppeteer by Hands; Golden Hand, Tender Hand, Bank Hand, … Hand and … Hand.

Hands that have the possessive power to strangle any PRINCIPLE out of a principled politician that they become political skeletons, so that we, South Africans, have to put our trust and hope in skeletons.

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