The days when political giants like Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela graced the corridors of power are long gone. Those icons of South African political history have been substituted with avaricious and selfish individuals.

Heroes like Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela were illustrious because they generated and advanced inspired thoughts and developed an intellectual culture that drew respect and compelled veneration. Their leadership qualities echoed persons of great wisdom.

The dignity and the esteem that these persons represented must be examined and embraced by those who seek leadership. What is miserably obvious today is that the dancing class of political leaders that we have, lack a culture of thought and wisdom.

Since elections are about votes the values of progressive thinking often takes a back seat. While most politicians will do anything to garner votes, when they have this support they are often unable to fulfil their mandates. They lack the skills to solve complex problems that require training and wisdom.

Since most politicians tell people what people want to hear which may not always be the truth, the general malice and anxiety is palatable as elections draws close. Claims of racism and abuse are flung across the political spectrum while the costs of the words uttered are paid for by the vulnerable.

The newly created informal settlement at the doorstep of Mitchells Plain on Vanguard Drive is such a scenario. Impoverished blacks are pitted against working class Coloureds. In this human tragedy, hopes and aspirations of a better life are set off against sheer human desperation. What unfolds is shameful. In the name of politics, accusations of racism flood the setting as those who have little, struggle to hold onto this little. Those who have nothing, rage at the world while local politicians who earn massive salaries reflect inadequacy. Since many politicians lack practical skills and formal training or education, they are unable to solve the problem. They do not know what to do because political patronage not ability has placed them in positions of authority.

This racial conflict ironically benefits both the African National Congress (ANC) as well as the Democratic Alliance (DA). Frustrated Coloureds cannot access the existing road networks and could lose their jobs. Black’s burn tires regularly to access better municipal services.

The resentment is obvious as coloureds blame blacks for increased crime and blacks accuse coloureds of prejudice. On the side-line, politicians provoke the issue, thus feeding the fears and desperation of people who need genuine solutions. Coloureds in Mitchells Plain will probably vote DA to protect themselves from the encroaching black masses. Blacks will vote ANC to offset perceived racist marginalization. While the elections are not done, a solution will remain elusive as both the ANC and DA have an interest to keep the acrimony boiling.

In the words of Isaac Asimov “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

When desperate people are exploited by unqualified but devious politicians then serious introspection about our local politics is required.

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress