Monday, November 05, 2007

"Manual Scavenging" in South Africa

Al Jazeera reports that many poor South Africans are forced to scavenge in rubbish dumps in order to survive. I have witnessed this on several occasions when I went to one of these facilities to leave off garden refuge.

It is a heartbreaking sight. But it is not new. I remember seeing the same scenes when I was just a boy in the early 70s.

The vast majority of adults and children who sort through rubbish are Black. Their lives have hardly changed in the years since apartheid was legally scrapped. What persists are structural conditions that closely resemble those of Dalits in Indian.

I want to think through the implications of such a comparison here. The purpose of course is not to remind anyone in the West to be reflective of their good fortune or to solicit gestures of pity/sympathy.

What follows is the Al Jazeera report on 'manual scavengers' in South Africa that was first broadcast on November 3, 2007.


We live in a troubled world that betrays the Washington Consensus that both South Africa and India naively favour. Neo-liberalism, with its trickle-down assumptions, has hardly shifted the social markers of underdevelopment in terms that illustrate a humanitarian, or human rights, agenda.

The poor remain trapped in poverty even while the power elite sing the praises of redemptive markets and globalization.

Makes me wonder what happened to The Freedom Charter and our peoples revolution.

6 comments:

Shus li che dut nah (Spring Thunder) said...

This is horrible. It literally sickens me to watch these children going through biohazardous waste, and the fact that hunger makes them do it.

Dione said...

It is heartbreaking! I wonder what we can do about it?!

Muzi said...

For most South Africans things have gone from bad to worse, freedom didn't mean economical emancipation.most of us still depend on a salary at the end of the month and most importantly "Baas" it still in control. I watched a documentary on SABC last night about white males in South Africa.interestingly the documentary is called "wrong packaging" Young white man were very honest about their feelings about South Africa some of them of course are planning to leave the country when they finish with their studies. To me it sounded like they don't live in South Africa they don't really know the plight of the poor,they are not aware that there are people who live form rubbish bins.

Ridwan said...

Shusli thanks for your comment. I hear you sista. It is indeed a heartbreaking situation.

Dione we need to raise awareness for sure. Thanks for looking in here.

Muzi I will tell you that those young white men who want to run overseas will find it hard to compete here.

It is no panacea for sure. They are delusional to think that once you get off the plane everything just falls into place.

They will struggle in a marketplace that is full of competitive and skilled workers.

Success is not guaranteed. And folks become bitter and revert to blaming this and that group for taking their jobs ... and the old standby, Affirmative Action.

Many of those same folks come here to the US and fit right into the racist mindset that claim unqualified Blacks and Latinos are stealing jobs.

I read a blog by a white South African woman who now lives in the US. She is anti-immigration!

I thought damnnnnnnnn!

This chicken-run woman who does not belong here is against Mexicans coming to live in the US!

The reasons she gives drips with racist sentiment. They rape, they steal, they kill ... the same nonsense used in South Africa to describe Blacks.

Just amazing broer. I say let them leave South Africa, we need folks there who are committed.

A lot has changed in the politics, but people can't eat constitutions and abstract freedoms, we need sustainable development with an eye on equity that balances the injustices of the past.

Thanks for looking in Muzi.

nunya said...

Ridwan,
This is common the world over

China is the only country that has used draconian measures to deal with overpopulation.

Ridwan said...

Nunya it is common in the developing and especially the underdeveloped world.

But the main issue is not overpopulation. That would be a way of blaming the victims of poverty.

No-one tells the wealthy white elite nations to reduce their populations.

The population control mechanisms the West used to favour was in effect a rationalized eugenics movement and that makes me uncomfortable.

Forced sterilizations with the consent of multinational NGOs and aid from the West to nation-states that seek to cut down numbers of people is simply a dated means of assessing why the world has such lopsided living standards.

And I am not talking about prudent family planning. But the state system as arbiter of who gets to have what kind of population is a dangerous proposition.

Dangerous too when it assumes a history of racist nonsense that stated with Malthus.

The main issue is that a small population of western nations have garnered too huge a slice of the world's productive power.

If we measure what Africa has put into the world wealth index and then try to relate that to the conditions of its people we will be shocked.

Africa has given more to western industrialization than most other regions combined.

What has resulted is a colonial driven depletion and destruction of resources.

And this is true in the neo-colonial context too.

South Africa is technically one of the richest countries in the world. The so called "jewel and mineral basket" of the world. Yet it is the West that has mostly traded off that wealth.

It has been extracted and sits outside of SAfrica, mostly.

We need to address historical white greed and apartheid ... the result is a state that picks off the bones of the masses much the way that the poor pick through the dumps to survive.

In these terms, population control as a measurement of progress or development needs to be refocused.

We need to control small abusive populations from using more than they should.

The US and its allies come to mind.

Trust you are well.

Peace,
Ridwan