WELL it’s been news for at least two weeks, and the celebrations haven’t stopped down here. Africa has a new president and we really need to ask ourselves the question why it is that American politics exerts such influence and fascination? Could it be that our common dystanies are to be tied together as a nation? South Africa for instance is the only country besides the USA to have a “We the people…” constitution, and it goes without saying that our law is increasingly taking on American nuances, as my compatriots seek to emulated liberty and to have more than dominant one political party. The Shikota Express which launched at the same time as the announcement of Obama’s victory, looks set to shift South African politics in unfamilier ways, as the democrat, with the good looks and the civil rights pedigree has suddenly made Americans (and South Africans) feel good about themselves.
Hell, I am proud to be an African-American, even if, like every other colonised and coloured soul out there, I don’t actually have the vote. Surely the question we should all be asking ourselves is how can the franchise be extended to include everybody? Other democratic states around the world? Can we all get along as people? Is the United Nations structure enough and can we afford to have a Republican disaster once a generation? For what its worth, I have been singing a local rendition of dixie for the last couple of days – a goema number about the Alabama, a confederate sailing ship that almost held the Cape hostage during the civil war. Obama has retaken the South – Africa of course.
There seems to be some consternation by social advocacy groups that Cape Town’s proposed nuisance bylaws will outlaw begging and fail in the interpretation of statutes as they are applied to the poor, however there is another side to the story of public nuisance in the city.
For years, buskers have had a raw deal from council – it seems an unappreciative kneejerk response from local business who see panhandlers and “begging for entertainment” as a public nuisance. Let’s get real, some buskers aren’t all that good, but most of them deserve our support. Will the “begging bylaw” be applied to street entertainers, who routinely cadge tourists and passersby for the odd buck?
If you happen to be one of the many “public nuisances” in the city, then you will undoubtedly be outraged by remarks made by Councillor JP Smith. Panhandlers may be arrested if they get a “negative” response and buskers could be thrown in the tjokkie for simply”touching” tourists with their homegrown presentation. For some, the “touching” issue is a sensitive one, and a sad indightment of the Cape caste system that turns some residents into “untouchables”.
What looks reasonable on paper in council, could turn out to be draconian — who hasn’t been “touched” by poverty? Who of you havn’t felt the heart move within, while listening to a Kwela player on Long Street, or a Marabi musician in St Georges Mall, some Goema in Greenmarket Square?
The DA would love to clean the streets of all those troublesome locals, while turning Cape Town into a Singapore for developers who have absolutely no interest in supporting “street entertainment” and who want nothing more than to “ban poverty” by pushing the poor into the ghetto.
Then there are people like myself, I must confess, who have been forced to panhandle their wares on occasion for want of a decent living.
Are we going to be arrested simply so that the bylaw can get tested in court?
There are many buskers in Cape Town who attract tourists and get absolutely no support from our new pro-rich, anti-poor “larney” council who are the real untouchables.
Let’s never forget those of us who will never give up busking, since it is the one thing that is guaranteed to put you in touch with the people. So much for the Cape’s anti-touching laws.