THE appalling news that a young Mitchells plain cleric, Maulana Sharief Hendricks, and Fazlin Isaacs (whom he was counselling) had been shot by her estranged husband, Igshaan “Gaddafi” Isaacs, distressed and angered me greatly.
Here was a man who had two outstanding charges of domestic violence against him. The magistrate who so unwisely granted him bail, against the advice of the police, on his most recent charge has a lot to answer for.
Sadly, the Isaacs killing is the symptom of a greater malaise. The depredations of the Cape Flats are something that I’m all too familiar with. I taught there for several years during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, just after the Group Areas Act.
For those suffering the unspeakable indignities of Apartheid, the psychological effects were devastating. Have we forgotten that some of the old people actually died from the heartbreak?
And whilst the better-off families could relocate and build new suburbs, the poor had to take their chances in their draughty Council breeze-block apartments on the Cape Flats.
What I confronted in the late 70’s was the direct aftermath of the Group Areas Act – anxiety, volatility, chaos, noise, anger, confusion, bitterness and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.
But far worse, the social bonds of communities who’d lived beside each other for generations were broken. The first victim was the spirit that had held the people together; the kind of unconditional generosity that saw your neighbour through hard times.
With life already a struggle in the inner-city, surviving at its very distant edges became a daunting challenge. Under-policed, under-resourced and municipally neglected, the townships of the Cape Flats became a test of the human spirit.
The Apartheid spin-men, blithely claiming that they were offering other-than-white communities a better future, had merely exacerbated a social situation already plagued by alcoholism, unemployment, poverty and gangsterism.
Far be it for me to romanticise the realities of District Six and other such places destroyed by the Group Areas Act. However, the point is not the admission that life was less than perfect, but rather, the sorry fact that the Group Areas Act only worsened the socio-economic situation of those affected by it.
Inefficient public transport not only eroded meagre wages, but long distances from the workplace also ensured longer hours from home – and less supervised youth meandering around a stark urban landscape, an empty place where anti-social behaviour was an alluring distraction.
Incidentally, this was a situation that took a serious turn for the worse in the early 1980’s when guns and mandrax, introduced by Indian “merts” and state security operatives, made their appearance on the Cape Flats.
And whilst police kept crime out of the white urban areas, townships were poorly policed. The authorities either ignored or exploited the criminal elements. The mantra of crime being a post-Apartheid problem is a sociological myth. Crime, if you’re poor, has always been a South African reality.
But I’m not going to say that Igshaan “Gaddafi” Isaacs is a “victim” of the circumstances I’ve just described. There can be no excuse for him. But I do feel we have to explain why so many Igshaan “Gaddafi” Isaacs’s walk the streets today.
This is because Apartheid systematically stripped South Africans of their self worth. And because Apartheid was inherently violent – psychologically and physically – it desensitised us to violence. Violence begets violence, and since 1994 the step from state violence to communal violence has been an effortless, but frightening one.
One of the social outcomes of dehumanisation is deep-rooted rage, and in his befuddled head Igshaan “Gaddafi” Isaacs will probably see himself as an avenger. Violence showed he possessed power, and in his highly insecure world lacking definition, it was violence that gave him a sense of identity.
It’s precisely this perverted sense of power, arising out of alienation and inbred social hostility that causes South African men to abuse women and children. Blinded by their distorted sense of reality, and predatory notions of entitlement, everybody becomes fair game.
Today, tragically, there are no longer any rules. It’s survival of the fittest. Violence justifies the violence, crime justifies the criminality.
However, to indict the legacy of Apartheid is too sweeping. South Africa, like most African states, was once a colony. We so often forget that the Dutch and the British ruled for three centuries here, and that Apartheid only lasted for 46 years.
The further point is that the Cape Flats is a creolised community. Its lingua franca, Afrikaans, is a Creole language. However, let it be understood, Creole is not a negative term, but one that simply denotes mixed blood – the union of slave and master, master and native, or native and slave.
The lot of Creoles (anywhere in the world) has never been a happy one. Of the master, but not of the master; of the native, but not of the native – the Creole has always been pushed to the edges of society.
Unfortunately, this feeling of alienation has only increased since 1994. Efforts to harness positive political energy on the Cape Flats has failed for a complex set of reasons, but the most obvious one has been job empowerment. In the Western Cape, at least, BEE should have used a different model.
Local historical and geographical factors should have been considered much more sympathetically. I personally don’t think the descendant of a Creolised slave in Mitchells Plain, whose family has been marginalised here for 300 years, should enjoy any less access to a job than the first generation son of a Xhosa herdsman from the Eastern Cape.
But again, none of this should ever exonerate the behaviour of Igshaan “Gaddafi” Isaacs. I say this because so many decent people on the Cape Flats have risen above their circumstances, in spite of their circumstances.
To justify or excuse Isaacs’s psychopathic disorderliness is to betray their honest struggle, and while we express our condolences to the families of the victims, Igshaan “Gaddafi” Isaacs and his ilk must be put away forever