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 are deeply entrenched in our city and it remains spatially divided and stubbornly unequal.
The daily grind for most residents is increasingly difficult. 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. 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 country and across the world. They are symptoms of the social, economic and environmental crises that we are facing. We are not insulated from the global economy, which puts profits before people, or the collision course between oil-based growth and the environment.
These issues need political solutions but historical ways of organising have proven unable to shift the status quo in the face of such entrenched and powerful interests, while corruption, graft and looting have stripped the state of its capacity to implement basic functions.
As hope fades, and we become desperate and disillusioned, our politics is becoming more divisive and people are progressively turning to bigotry, fear, hate and threats of violence. Everywhere you look you see the rise of ethnic, religious and nationalist groups promising radical solutions.
Many people believe that if only the right political party or the right politician is elected then everything will change. They think that changing who is in power will result in power 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 our society is organised in hierarchies that concentrate greater power at the top.
The accumulation of power amongst so few individuals does not serve the best interests of all because, simply put, those in power are reliant on the support of wealthy individuals, organisations and companies who ensure that their interests come first.
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 the power lies, bring it down and share it widely. The best place to start is where we can have an immediate impact – our local wards, towns and cities.
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.
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.