It has been a grotesque week in South Africa.
Where to start. Perhaps with the news that in order to save some cash, the Gauteng department of health shipped off 94 people who were in need of medical assistance to their deaths. There's no other conclusion to draw, if you read the health ombudsman's report on the man-made disaster that was the decision to move patients out of the Life Esidimeni facility, and into poorly-run, private facilities.
When I first watched the video of the Marikana massacre my brain refused to register the information. It just didn't seem real. This has been another such moment. It doesn't seem possible that something like this could happen, that people could die in circumstances that were described as being like concentration camps. Yet here we are.
The people who died, and the families who must now suffer as a result, are those who couldn't afford to pay for the necessary level of private healthcare. Could anyone ever imagine the government of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo's party doing this? This ruthlessness, this obsequiousness to money and callous disregard for human lives? Black lives?
Down in the Western Cape, an acting judge sneered at the idea that people who had been forced out of their homes in Woodstock – so that property developers can put up balconied condos and vegetarian eateries – could possibly object to being dumped in the middle of nowhere, 30 kilometres outside of the city, because some of them don't have jobs.
"What's the point of being near a school? What's the point of them being near transport? Where are they going to go," the acting judge Leslie Weinkove reportedly said. He went on to question the value of Charnell Commando's input into the case, because she's a "kitchen assistant". Apparently questions of life and equity are beyond the simple minds of working class people.
The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has now requested that Weinkove recuse himself from another case, one involving the fishing rights of poor communities. I cannot imagine how this judge can imagine himself to be an impartial adjudicator in matters involving, oh, a good four-fifths of the country? After all, aren't most South Africans "kitchen assistants", or the equivalent thereof? Certainly, one would hope that the unkind comments would invite the attentions of the Judicial Service Commission.
The mistake here would be to treat Weinkove's comments as if they are a blip in an otherwise just country. They are a seamless part of the national fabric.
My sense is this sort of thinking is widespread in that city -- with its fake 'liberal history' (basically it is was built on slavery and apartheid).Sean Jacobs
I spoke to Sean Jacobs, an associate professor of international affairs at The New School in New York and a Cape Town native, about this. He said, "The Judge's comments are not unusual or exceptional. My sense is this sort of thinking is widespread in that city -- with its fake 'liberal history' (basically it is was built on slavery and apartheid).
"It is not limited to judges. Just look at the Facebook pages of neighborhood watch groups or tweets by suburban dwellers. Here's what makes it worse: These people can't rely on the city, governed by the Democratic Alliance, to represent them.
"The latter appear to prioritise the interests of developers or to dog whistle to its core constituency. As for the ANC there, the less said the better."
And in an act of profound deafness, in a moment when the lid on the country's anti-poor war sort of lifted for a second, South Africa's richest man Christo Wiese lectured us on the need to keep the very richest placated, lest the poor suffer should they "be pulled down".
I suppose it's nice to be reminded in so many words about where our national priorities should lie.
You shall hear much sound and fury in the coming weeks, mostly from the opposition benches. Don't be fooled. Nothing happened after Marikana. Nothing will happen now. Nobody really cares. This is the way of things in the beloved country.
Perhaps now we can stop lying to ourselves about the so-called Rainbow Nation miracle. Perhaps we're ready to have an honest conversation about where the country is, and where it's headed. The only miracle here is that the poor haven't burnt the entire rotting edifice to the ground yet.