Building a more just and equal city without political parties.
No matter where you live in Cape Town, we face serious and complex issues that affect all of us. Unemployment, poverty and violence is deeply entrenched and our city remains spatially divided and stubbornly unequal along gender, race and class lines.
The daily grind for most residents is unbearable. In most of our communities we are still struggling to access basic services like water and electricity. We don’t feel safe in our homes or on our streets while criminals walk freely and gangs operate in the open. Good healthcare and schooling depends on where you live and how much you earn. Access to affordable housing or land to construct a home has stalled.
Many of these issues are faced by communities in cities across the world. They are symptoms of the social, economic and environmental crises that we are facing globally. We are not insulated from the global economy which puts profits before people or the collision course between oil-based growth and the environment.
It needs a political solution but historical ways of organising are unable to shift the status quo in the face of such entrenched and powerful interests while corruption and looting strip the state of its capacity to implement basic functions.
As hope fades and we become desperate and disillusioned, our politics is becoming more divisive as people turn to bigotry, fear, hate and threats of violence. Everywhere you look you see the rise of ethnic, religious and nationalist groups jostling to capture the state and promising radical solutions.
When it comes to our own communities, many people believe that if only the right political party or the right politician is elected then everything will change. We think that changing who has power will result in it being used differently.
The reality is that no one person or party can resolve the myriad of complex problems we face even with the best intentions. One of the reasons is because the City Council is organised in hierarchies that concentrate greater power at the top – and those at the top are normally men. The accumulation of power amongst so few individuals does not serve the best interests of all residents as those in power are reliant on the support of wealthy and powerful individuals, organisations and companies who ensure that their interests come first and business as usual is maintained. At worst, those in power are complicit and corruptly entrench their own wealth.
There are no great solutions that will come down from above. The architecture of our political system is intrinsic to the replication of the status quo and cannot be relied on to dismantle it.
If we are to transform our society, we can no longer give our power away to political parties and hope for the best. We need to shift where power lies, bring it down and share it widely.
We can contest local elections, elect ordinary people to take charge and work together to make the everyday decisions that affect our communities in our own wards . After all, democracy does not mean “rule by party” it means “rule by the people”.
To do that we must find ways to bring everybody living in the ward together, across historical divides, to deliberate and get involved in finding practical solutions to our problems. Luckily, when we look around, this is already happening every single day.
Despite our difference we have this city in common. Let’s work together to open up politics, contest elections and reclaim our local democracy.