Plan B - What's more important; plants or people?

The outcome about the CJR statue though not set in stone at the time of this discussion was none the less predictable – Rhodes had about as much chance of surviving as a turkey a week before Xmas.

However, what still remains relevant is what transpired in the lead up to the statue’s removal and the future ramifications.

Journalist Rebecca Davis spent a lot of time on campus and felt that there was much positive engagement.

There is a lot that is positive. My impression is that the core of this movement is very small. There are about six thousand black students at UCT, last night only sixty students were very vocal protesting.

Rebecca Davis

CapeTalk's John Maytham remarked when he was a student he was also one of about sixty students protesting, in this case it was the murder of Steve Biko.

Davis pointed out this is a less threatening environment than at the time of Biko’s murder. However, in spite of the small number of students who were vocal about the statue, the debate has widened and students across gender, class and colour have been actively discussing big issues.

Davis gave the thumbs up for:

  • The student’s level of organization, pretty amazing
  • They’ve organised talks and panel discussions
  • A non-hierarchal and egalitarian spirit
  • A lot of female leadership

Maytham gave the thumbs down for:

  • Students dancing around interrupting UCT’s council meeting
  • Students chanting one settler one bullet
  • Students preventing a diabetic council member from leaving the chamber in order to take their medication

Davis said that students are by their very nature impatient and want things done immediately. She saw very little reason to keep the statue also saying that if it wasn’t taken down it would surely be destroyed.

There is a conversation to be had about the way it is displayed, keeping it on campus using it as a learning opportunity.

John Maytham

Students feel genuine anger when presented with the figure. Should that be of superior importance to the benefits of an educational tool?

Rebecca Davis

Where does this leave us in terms of a way forward, what now?

Demands are being made amongst others for 50 percent of professors to be black by 2016.

Max Price seems to have adopted the position of seeing this chapter not as a crisis but rather as transformative. In light of this an idea could be to replace Rhodes with a statue of an enormous glass of water, half empty or half full?

The traditional courts bill

John was horrified to discover that the traditional courts bill, which he’d hoped had been quietly shelved, had reared its ugly head.

Here’s the bill in a nutshell:

The bill would give traditional leaders exceptional powers to make and enforce laws, and there would be no option for rural people to choose to access justice from a magistrate’s court instead.

Rebecca Davis

The Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, said he wanted to get the bill through by the end of the year. He criticised opponents by saying they didn’t understand what the realities and problems were facing rural people.

Here’s what it really means for rural people:

This week it was reported in the Sowetan that there is a Venda chief in Limpopo who has been imposing fines on unwed mothers. He has been fining them R800 if they fail to prove who the father is. When a young woman in this village falls pregnant the elders alert the chief, he issues a warrant of arrest, summons the woman to a tribal court for questioning and if the woman dies before paying the fine the family is refused permission to bury her in the village. It’s a terrible toxic situation. This is exactly the sort of abuse of power we can expect to see if the traditional courts bill is passed into law.

Rebecca Davis

John agreed that, “There are so many bills that seem so blatantly problematic and keep being churned by the system.” Rebecca surmised that the tribal chiefs have placed pressure on Zuma to pass this bill.

Butterflies or Buildings?

Denel is an arms manufacturer that own land near Khayelitsha. They have gone to court asking for an interdict against ‘land-invaders’. The term itself is one that is heavily loaded.

John Maytham got an email from botanist Tony Rebelo who works at the National Botanical Institute. He pointed out that the Denel land has the highest possible conservation status. John asked him what is more important - plants or people - to which Rebelo replied plants. He explained that if you don’t at some point draw a line in the sand, you end up with people living on Table Mountain.

That area around Khayelitsha supports fauna and flora, it is a very difficult conversation to have, how on earth can we prioritise preserving this veld when people simply don’t have anywhere to live.

Rebecca Davis

While expressing his middle class guilt, Maytham said, “I think we have a duty to future generations to conserve at least some of the vanishing vegetation.” He agreed that the question of putting butterflies before people is not an easy one to answer.

When ‘no’ means it’s a contronym!

Rebecca sent John a link to an article in The New Yorker about the rise of ‘no’ meaning ‘yes’. No in the affirmative becomes a contronym, a word that depending on its context can function as its own opposite! You do however have to add a modifier to the word. Plan B, Thursdays just after 3.30pm on CapeTalk, no totally!


This article first appeared on 702 : Plan B - What's more important; plants or people?


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