Jul 28, 2021

Beyond The Numbers

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It’s quite funny how poverty and authenticity are perceived to be the same thing. The same way we are quick to spot fakeness in luxury.

FILE PHOTO: A woman standing near the communal water tap. PICTURE: Africa Check

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A couple of years ago I was privileged to visit Blackburn Village. For what they hoped would produce ‘raw, authentic’ content, it was the highest honour for my then employer to send a journalist into this notorious settlement.

It’s quite funny how poverty and authenticity are perceived to be the same thing. The same way we are quick to spot fakeness in luxury.

On Friday, 28 September 2018, like any normal day I woke up, dolled myself up and dragged myself to work. The operative word being ‘dragged’, because the unappreciative and ignorant human in me high key wished I could just laze around and watch the sun rise until it sets.

It was when I got to Blackburn Village that I was taken aback. Being an informal settlement, you can already imagine what Blackburn is like – a mini town of illegal electricity connections, elated children splashing and bathing in polluted water.

What caught my attention was a group of young men gathered in a corner house. Seeing so many young people chilling, drinking and others doing laundry while some of us are at work infuriated me so much.

You’re probably asking yourself questions like, ‘Why would that make you angry? Who are you angry at?’

At the time the official unemployment rate was resting at 27,2 per cent. The faces that looked back at me as the ‘cool’, out of touch journalist were JUST like me. They once honed dreams like me, the only difference is I got out and they didn’t.

What pains me is the system is getting more vicious. Today, 28 May 2021, the unemployment rate in South Africa is sitting on 32.5% – a 5,3% leap in just over 2 years. It’s even worse when you realise that even though we take it seriously, for most employed young people this statistic doesn’t mean anything beyond that.

After having encountered an accident just over a month ago, I decided to nurse my trauma by taking a taxi instead of driving. Drowning in privilege, I felt like I was going on an excursion, a road trip, an opportunity to catch up on reading.

After day 2 of what was meant to be a 14-day retreat, I realised how out of touch young privileged South Africans are.

The unemployment stats, the poverty, those are not just ‘mere’ statistics. As privileged people we’ve romanticized poverty so much we treat it like anything out of it is not ‘authentic’.

I’m starting to believe our politicians enjoy saying “Our people are poor” because they don’t fully comprehend the consequences of their thieving. From the governing ones purloining billions to opposition leaders falsifying qualifications formerly reserved ONLY for their kind, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever witness a fruitful NEW DAWN.

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