Zackie Achmat: We can make a difference

We can make a difference – Zackie Achmat

October 14, 2011

Zackie Achmat. (Photo: Desmond Thompson)

South Africans are facing various inequalities, but our society can change for the better when ordinary people know their rights and become educated on the issues that affect them. This was according to Aids activist and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) founder Zackie Achmat at a seminar held at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Thursday (13 October 2011).

In his seminar entitled, “The state of our democracy: social movements and human rights in the Zuma era”, hosted by the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Achmat talked about the various forms of inequalities – income inequalities, social inequalities and language inequalities – that exist in South Africa today.

According to Achmat, the state has a duty to provide basic services such as health, transport, education, housing, water and sanitation, but not in a paternalistic or maternalistic way. However, the majority of South African households earn less than R4 000 a month, the majority of African and Coloured working class people will never have a full-time job in their lifetime, twelve million people still don’t have access to basic sanitation and we have poor people competing against each other for meagre resources. “That is the context within which we live.”

He said we have a corrupt and authoritarian state. “Corruption has a big impact here because the social inequality is so big,” Achmat said. He used the example of a feeding scheme, saying that if someone stole money from a scheme, children will go hungry.

Achmat traced corruption in the public sector back to South Africa’s political transition in 1994, when the public service of the apartheid state and that of the various “homelands” were amalgamated. “What you got was a ‘vrot’ cake covered with a layer of ANC icing, especially the ‘exiles’ with Stalinist tendencies,” he said. This was also the source of the problem experienced today that South Africa’s public service is authoritarian and unresponsive, he said.

“Many, many people are dissatisfied with what the ANC is doing – ANC members as well as ANC voters. Up to a third of the electorate don’t vote. The ANC is the biggest party in South Africa, the second biggest party is people who don’t vote, the third biggest party is the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the fourth biggest party is people who spoil their ballots.”

How can we change things? “All of us have the right to participate in our democracy, it is critical to our society going forward,” Achmat said. It is also our duty to build social movements/organisations and strengthen faith-based organisations – organisations that can work together and be on the frontline of dealing with issues of poverty and defending women being beaten by their husbands.

“Your job as active citizens is to read, educate yourself and share your knowledge. Join organisations that work at community level and make a difference,” Achmat said. “I hope that the youth mobilise on social issues that matter – in a way that will get government to change.”




One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Peter Jacobs on October 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Zackie I agree with you.We must join forces against the



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: