By Lunga Tlou
Image source: https://goo.gl/31Lyld
I-Kasi, the Hood, the Projects, the Favelas or globally known as The Ghetto. I am reminded of Atomza of the Muffinz when he sung the chorus of their song, The Ghetto, saying
“I’m from the Ghetto, there’s no way that my kids will grow up in the Ghetto, there’s no way that my Mom will die in the Ghetto, there’s no way, no way, no way…………Cause we’re all just nothing in the Ghetto, but there’s no way, there’s no way that I will die in the Ghetto, there’s no way that my brother will die in the Ghetto, there’s no way, no way, no way”
A place purposefully manufactured not only for the self-demise of the poor black masses but also manufactured with a script that when followed to the T, leads to a happy ending. The rhetoric displayed by the chorus above, that “YOU CAN MAKE IT OUT!!!” is what many township dwellers grow up being fed at home, school, & at church. As if being told that you are in a game, and if you do A, B & C, “YOU WILL MAKE IT OUT!!!” it also reminds me of the movie, “Death Race” where the racers, along with their navigators, compete in a 3-part race over 3 days on a closed track. The track is littered with pressure plates that activate either, the cars’ offensive weapons, defensive equipment or deadly traps. Any racer winning 5 races will be granted freedom. Don’t we grow up in such an environment? Where there are traps everywhere, creeping up on us, trying to make us fail the game and not accumulate the ‘5 wins’ necessary to gain our freedom. Don’t be confused, this said freedom that we attain, is also half baked, but that’s a story for another day.
I need to draw light to the issue of the ghetto and I have to use the European to draw your attention to something oblivious, too many. Note that in a global context I will use the word European and I, a South African context, I will use the words white people. As we search the history books and try to make sense of the atrocities that the Europeans has subdued the world too. The sole purpose has always been for the establishment, maintenance, expansion, and refinement of their world domination. We look at the rise of the Europeans from their dark age, where they were poor, under resourced, plagued by diseases and we see their rise to the top at the expense of others, a position they still occupy today, through the continued exploitation, theft and subjugation of others.
In layman’s term, the Europeans objective was to ensure that they get a better life, that they will then try to maintain forever whilst also setting them up as a standard to the rest of the world. What does this therefore mean? It means that whatever the Europeans are not a part of, whatever is deemed normal to others that they do not partake in, is termed inferior. Since the European have set themselves as a standard in the world, all others have tirelessly worked their butts off to assimilate to this position that the Europeans occupy. Whatever setting/sphere of society it may be, the idea is that if the Europeans are not lining up to get that thing, then it is not of value.
Now to get to my point, we grow up in ghettos (ema kasi), a place in which we do not belong. My colleague recently stated in his “The State of the Kaffir” article that the ghetto is not our home, that our issue is not only the ghetto but, how we got there and why we are still there. Many of us can write books about the problems we have experienced or seen in the ghetto, especially those of us who were fortunate enough to navigate ourselves out of the death race. If you call the ghetto a concentration camp, the current government will feel offended as they have many programs currently in progress, aimed at improving the ghetto. This is to say that government sees value in the concept of the ghetto and hence he has put so much money behind the “pimp my ghetto” project. I say pimp my ghetto because all service delivery protests are by ordinary citizens, screaming to government to come and pimp their ghettos. Going back to the Europeans and their purpose to make life better for themselves, and therefore continue being a standard to the rest of the world, I would like to say that there are vast differences between the places where you find white people and where you find the ordinary black man.
This is visible in the train commute between cities. Whether it be by Metrorail or uber Gautrain. My heart gets boxed with emotions the most, is when I am in Sandton. Surrounded by all this magnificent architecture, the playground of Capital, you get onto a Gautrain heading to Hatfield, which takes you underground and then after about three minutes or so, the train emerges out of the tunnel, by looking to my right out of the window, I am met by the sight of the Alexandra community, littered with geysers on top of roofs, squashed RDP houses with small roads and no yard space to even have a children’s birthday party. As the train departs from the Malboro station, that sight is immediately replaced by plush & top range roof tile designs, big houses, standing tall and wide, with visible big driveways big enough for 6 cars, fenced communities with two entry/exit points guarded by security. You see all of this while on the train. I don’t even want to get to talk about the constant dilapidated state of housing that you see when you ride the Metrorail train from Joburg to Pretoria, the sight is appalling. Makes you think you are in two different countries.
My question, especially to the Pimp My Ghetto crew in government would be, “if the ghetto has value, if the living spaces and plans drawn up under apartheid, if the living standards & conditions imported from the Europeans by an oppressive government, engineered and implemented for the demise of the black masses, at most, through their own hands, if all of this is good for any human beings, why aren’t we seeing a huge influx of white people into the ghetto? Even in the so called bond houses? Where are they?” I would further ask, “why are we instead seeing an out flux of black people from the townships going to white suburbs?” while they ponder these questions I will then continue to add that since they believe that their policies have been yielding results, especially in townships, I would make it clear that since all township schools offer tuition through the English language, they are therefore all assumed to be multi-racial schools, so the question would then be “why haven’t we seen an influx of white people into township schools? Why have we seen the opposite instead, black families in the townships sending their children to schools that use a 30cm ruler to measure their hair?
The Europeans want the best for themselves, at most, at the expense of others, that is well documented in history, therefore they do not associate themselves with anything considers inferior and engineered for the “less”. That is an undeniable fact, although not a wrong thing since it should be every human beings desire to seek the best for themselves. It’s only at the expense of others that this act by the European is unjustified. So therefore since we are not seeing an influx of white people in the townships, we have to then draw insights into the fact that, the ghetto isn’t good, not that it isn’t good for white people alone, No, it just isn’t good. The question now comes, when do we actually see white people in the ghetto? And the answer is that we see them only when commerce is involved.
Traditionally the ghetto provided labour to white people in the suburbs and factories situated outside of the ghetto. Nowadays, black people are allowed freedom of movement which is still limited to the previously constructed labour lines, as seen by the same routes the Putco bus, Metrorail train & taxis still service today. But since now they have a minimum wage, a union that argues for their benefits, they has a somewhat “reliable” transport system, all of this has led to them having a disposable income that needs to be spent. The freedom of movement now allows black people to consume the products they help produce in the spaces in which they are produced. With this said, the whites have then seen an opportunity to actually make things convenient for black people by bringing the said products straight to the blacks doorstep in the form of shopping malls & complexes, obviously at the expense of black business, which in white peoples defence, has failed to transform (topic for another article). In essence, whites will not stay in the ghetto, they will not send their children to get an education in the ghetto but they will however extend their businesses in order to exploit the black rand.
This is why the “Pimp my Ghetto” Project by the government is flawed. If you watch every Pimp my Ride episode, Xzibit and his crew never give a car new body paint, nice rims and flat tires only, No. The interior (inside the car) is as important as what’s under the cars bonnet (engine). You cannot pimp up the ghetto and not be cognisant of the fact that the inner workings of that car need to be changed completely, with many cases where a new car is needed altogether. Here’s another truth, the ghetto was not a random unmotivated result of black people wanting to stay together, No. it was a deliberate act of realising the results of a lab based rat project. See image below.
Image source: https://goo.gl/2hY8wD
Although un-referenced, you can find further similar traits in the 1970 rat park experiments conducted by Bruce K Alexander. His hypotheses was that it is actually not the drug itself that makes people addictive to it but rather the living conditions of the person consuming the drug. He found this to be true with the rats which he experimented with. You can research his work for yourself. The whole picture painted by this was that the sole reason why you do not see an influx of white people into the ghetto is because when it was created, it was created to be a hell on earth. A place not built for the betterment of the so called lesser races or their further development into being better human beings, No. it was for their destruction, and I repeat, through their own hands. What I love about the rat park experiment is that it shines the light on the error made by society in terms of the trends that are only prevalent in the ghetto. Trends such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, High HIV infection rates, violence towards women & children, rapes, murders, crime, xenophobia etc. It just shows that these are not traits prevalent in blacks or traits that blacks possess in their genes, No.
Now with this notion, the question becomes, is the “Pimp my Ghetto” Project justifiable? Are the continued efforts of the government to solve housing issues through the creation of more ghettos and trying to give the current ones a face lift, warranted? If the ghetto is a cell, is it advisable for the government to pimp the cell instead of releasing the prisoners altogether? What should be the objective here? We all know that the issue of the ghetto is a land issue and land is a political issue. So by speaking of the ghetto, we are speaking politics. It is funny that when the black mass cries for land, the calls seem to fall on deaf ears but when other groups cry for the same, there are movements, as seen below.
Source: cropped from authors Facebook home feed
What should the solution be then? What are the spatial & architectural solutions that can reform the ghetto from a concentration camp to a modern town dwelling whose environment is conducive to the road towards a better standard of living, better movement of people and resources, well suited to the growth of black businesses?
This matter is one that needs urgent solutions however this is something I am not suited to answer. Instead challenge my friends and family, who are in the space of Town planning, civil engineering, psychology, economics, development studies to propose short term solutions, since we cannot wait for a messiah whilst black people are dying by the hundreds in the ghetto. As the short term solutions are presented, a long term strategy needs to be developed so that we can know what it is we need to do when we “occupy” government and redistribute Land whilst establishing our own economy as Azania. I say this because we live in a two state nation where we have South Africa and Azania running in parallel to each other. The key lies in solving the dilemma of the ghetto. The rat experiment has to end because black people are not Rats.
To end off, I quote lyrics from the songs “The Ghetto” & “Soldierz” by The Muffinz
“Said I’m from a place where being desolate is the same as being rich, where government resources are far from our reach, corruption is plentiful and fat cats roam the streets, while at home we suffer with these rats at our feet. Where being a good girl is the same as being a bitch, cause preachers prey on young girls and hide it when the preach, where what you have is synonymous with who you are, well that’s not good coz we’re all just nothing in the ghetto…”
This in turn transforms us to Soldiers,
“…Said we are soldiers on a march and we’re marching and we know what we’re marching for, war is on our minds, a prospect of the future is what we’re seeking. So as we go and march on, with no worries on our minds, searching for better days, a better life, for our children. So we will march on, march on, march on, march on, till we get what we’re fighting for.”
Our Land, Izwe Lethu
So we can build
The Africa We Want
About the Contributor
Lunga Tlou is an Honours Graduate who is driven by the great potential that Africa and her people have. He is a firm believer in a “Woke” generation of African pupils. A Co founder & of Awakened Minds, who is a Pan African in thought and a Revolutionary in deed.