Lenasia, a suburban town, 35km on the outskirts of Johannesburg South, and a product of Apartheid, has always been my home. From the very beginning, settlement in Lenasia was a contentious issue, driven with debates about race, class, collaboration with and resistance to apartheid.
While it may not be a topical subject in our democratic dispensation, many Indian communities resisted the apartheid regime, and Lenasia took centre stage in the fight against the inhumane oppressive system of segregation by the Nationalist Party.
This dry and loving area that is Lenasia has produced giants in the struggle against the Apartheid regime. From its days of occupancy, the youth were mobilised to challenge the harsh oppressive system. Under the guidance of Senior Activists like Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi, many young comrades were recruited to become members of the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). The Lenasia branch became one of the most successful in the country. One of these young members, and among those that continue to serve the community, is Mr Neeshan Bolton, now the director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
In the last few years I have been challenged in both critical thought, political education and to a large extent my willingness to serve. Through organisations such as the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Crescents Cricket Club and the PYA at Wits University, I strive to continuously grow as a young leader.
The ANC Lenasia branch was voted the best in the country some years back. This serves as testament of the great leadership this suburb continues to produce. However, over the last few years residents in the area have been swayed to other parties. Many are lobbied by the reports of alleged corruption within the party’s structure. It should also be noted that an exceeding number of residents in the area have become frustrated with the aging infrastructure, lack of development and access to broader services.
While the above is not without reason, the average couch critic will continuously undermine the work that goes unseen. It takes an active citizenry to mobilise and create change from within. Notable academics such as AbdouMalek Simone, make these observations in illustrating the nature of the African Continent, and the dynamic changes and progressive results that ordinary citizens can achieve through mobilisation and actively working as a Community. It saddens me to see that many blatantly cuss the efforts of the ANC, yet, how many of us have actually attempted involving ourselves and standing up to make that difference.
A typical example comes to mind when asked about what the ANC has done for us. My eldest brother and his friends were recipients of complete bursaries paid for by the state, to complete their university studies. Now many might say that they were exceptions. The truth is, they made the effort to educate themselves about the systems and opportunities available to them, and acted on it. The ANC has given us freedom of religious expression, and this speaks to our primary human rights.
I wonder who among us have questioned why so many immigrants continue to arrive onto our doorstep. Where others see opportunity we sit back and expect things to happen. Not only has councillors Shaida Kazie and Zarina Motala served this community tirelessly, they availed themselves at late hours to see that the needs of the community took precedents over their needs.
This, I have witnessed in my personal capacity many a time. It speaks to an accessible political party that has and shall continue to be available to hear the needs of those they serve, and God willing, cater to the outcries.
In these decades since democracy, there is a notable disjuncture and generation gap between activists that served through Apartheid and the younger generations. Call it oversight on the side of the community, but this gap has no doubt left bleeding scars within Lenasia. Perhaps, with the newfound commitment of the CPF, and the youth foundations such as Crescents Cricket, the Ahmed Kathrada Youth Foundation, Atlantis swimming club and more close-knit extensions, I see a glimmer of hope. There is a beating heart in this community that seems to have been awoken.
Mayor Parks Tau, who was recently in Lenasia, highlighted the City of Johannesburg as being the best rated in the entire country. He drew on the fact that our financial and investment rating as a metropolitan is of the same level as the entire Republic. He also noted that Jo’burg is the largest spender on infrastructure after National government.
Under his leadership we have seen the implementation of many programmes that range from youth empowerment, job creation and a plan towards undoing the systematic apartheid planning, which was designed to cripple society for generations after its demise. On his visits to Lenasia, Mayor Tau illustrated true leadership skills, he actively engaged the community’s needs and took heed of the issues we face.
While I acknowledge that under the ANC much has been done, from the quality of services we receive, to the plans and programmes in place, I still believe much more can be accomplished. Systems of management and control, accessibility to services and the rate of development are a few issues that need immediate attention. We have it upon ourselves to aid in the decolonisation of our systems and assist the government in creating the necessary change.
That being said, I will continue to support the ANC and aspire to follow in the footsteps of the many great leaders that have come before me. ALUTA CONTINUA.