We are living in a sick society
South African society is very, very sick indeed.
A protestor gestures towards a fire against the backdrop of the Union buildings during the Day Of Action march – a civil society and opposition party protest to Union Buildings, Pretoria, against the presidency of Jacob Zuma. Picture: Yeshiel Panchia
It is bad enough that James and Rosina Komape lost their five-year-old son, Michael, when he drowned in faeces after falling into a pit toilet at a school in Limpopo in 2014.
Now, as they live that anguish, their pain has been made worse by some of the insensitive remarks by a lawyer defending the government in a damages suit the Komapes have brought.
Basic education department counsel Simon Phaswane suggested that the family were bringing the case as a way of making money out of their son’s death and that their testimony seemed to have been orchestrated.
That callous inquisition seems to sum up the way this department – and many others in the government – treat poor people in this country.
Whether it’s failing to provide safe, water-borne toilets; abandoning vulnerable people in the health system to unqualified organisations (and seeing 144 of them die in the process); or carrying coffins of paupers on the back of an open truck, the poor people in society are repeatedly treated without dignity.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
By that standard, South African society is very, very sick indeed.