It seems nothing can be thought or written outside the context of 2010 this year — 2010 has ceased to be just the year, like other years, it has come to take upon a larger symbolic character than just a label for a year in our discourse. It feels like historical time itself, at least as far as South Africa is concerned, has been redefined along the bases of before and after 2010. It is a year of great expectations where a formerly isolated pariah state and its people finally embrace their Africanness and declare their solidarity with the whole of humanity in practical action.
We have to be proud as South Africans! We promise the world an experience that will last them for a lifetime. Our people we guarantee world status infrastructure as heritage as well as a supreme opportunity to showcase African hospitality as encapsulated in the spirit of Ubuntu that declares that: Umntu ngumntu ngabantu. This is a principle that asserts the cardinal values of equality, solidarity and the essence of oneness among the human race. Steve Biko, Ali Mazrui and other thinkers have always highlighted that the best gift of Africa to the world is this great spirit of Ubuntu. We stand indeed at a threshold where all of us have to hold hands and display the best hospitality any visitor has ever seen anywhere in the world.
We must turn the adage “customer is king” to “visitor is king!” For a metropolis like Joburg to discharge this noble responsibility of conviviality to the world and for it to really make us a proud people who will be able to lift our heads up to the sky after the tournament, charity has to begin at home, as the proverb goes. The sight of women and male street hawkers running helter-skelter in Jozi streets with metro police hot at their heels confiscating their wares and loading them into khwela-khwelas does not only revive memories of the past but the images also actively sabotage the spirit of Ubuntu we want to entrench in our collective moral fibre.
Most of these street hawkers are from Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries and their products include sweats, loose cigarettes, raw and cooked mealies, fried giblet sosaties and other small items. The profits made from these products are so meagre that to speak of subsistence will really be an overstatement. Marginalised by circumstances, they have become entrepreneurs by force. The only other choice they have is begging in street corners, many do, or stealing and robbing, again there are many who take this route. The choice to engage in trade in a country that professes to be a free market economy ought to be respected and encouraged not maligned and outlawed. Regulation cannot be draconian and inhumane to the wretched of the earth otherwise we will be nothing but fork-tongued hypocrites to the world. Then we will not be proudly South African and marvel at the joy of holding our heads up high. That, esteemed people, is totallyciously not ayoba at all, especially not when serious criminals roam and rule the streets!