We Are The Poor is a wonderful book written by Ashwin Desai describing lives of South Africans after election of the first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela. The South Africans expected that the end of Apartheid would end their problems, unfornately this did not happen. The normal conditions of the people living in the slums of Soweto remained the same. Communities began to racism the government citing racial discrimination, unemployment, poor allocation of resources, neglect of the natives, poor housing, lack of water, neoliberalism among other burning issues.
Communities especially those living in the slums of Soweto argued that the government should upgrade houses of its citizens. The poor natives could not afford the expensive and luxurious houses and so they had no option but to live in the slums. When the Europeans came to colonize South Africa, they took charge of their resources and build themselves better houses. After the independence, the South Africans expected that Mandela’s government would at least uplift their living standards but things remained the same. A water shortage was another key problem affecting the poor people. Access to clean drinking water was not an easy thing because most of the poor people could not afford to pay for the tap water, the monthly bill on water was too high that poor could not afford (Desai, 2002 p. 12).
Another major cause of the resistance was unemployment. When the peoples government came into force it promised thousands of unemployed youth of job vacancies in the public sector. Years passed while the number of unemployed youth is still in the rise begging the question when will it be solved? In the minds of the people. Racism, which was there during apartheid, was still a big challenge during that time because most of whites who colonized the South Africans remained even after independence and they still had the same mentality of colonialism. Inequality in resource allocation is another grievance that the South Africans are still struggling with. The rich receives a better share of the national cake and so their regions are more developed than the regions where the poor lives. Neocolonialism and globalization is another grievance that majority the natives are opposed to. They argue that the modern kind of liberalism has been modified to become a capitalistic philosophy aimed at making the rich richer while the poor continue to become poorer (Desai, 2002 p. 36).
Some of the strategies employed by the people used in deal with the emergent grievances include; formation of community movements, street anti-government protests, and teaming up with labor unions to air their voices together as one. The communities believe that this is the only way of expressing what the feel and the sufferings they are going through in their daily lives.
Though the poor South Africans are justifiable in protesting against discrimination, they should adopt proper channels to ensure that their grievances are heard and resolved. Desai for instance, highlights in the book We Are The Poor acknowledges that there are genuine grievances which need to be addressed but urges the citizens to follow the proper channels (Desai, 2002 p. 64). He highlights leadership as one of the key channel that can reclaim the people’s dignity and pride. He says that if the South Africans do not elect leaders who are have citizen’s issues at heart they will continue to suffer because greedy and corrupt leaders always go after money and in the end people’s situations remain the same. Neocolonialism is even worse than colonialism and so the citizen’s must elect real leaders and not people who are out to mint money from poor people instead of helping them solve their problems.
Desai, Ashwin. We Are the Poors: Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002. Print.