Voice of the people

Nazeer Sonday , PHA farmer and convener of the Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign

The Southern Mail celebrates its 30th birthday this year. As a reader and as a community whose stories the Southern Mail often reports on, this humble newspaper has been and continues to be a valuable source of information for me, and a voice for our community in the Philippi Horticultural Area.

This is an amazing milestone for a free community newspaper.

When Southern Mail reports on our farming community’s struggle to protect our farm lands, it plays a critically important role in carrying our story to citizens outside our area. This is often the only way our voice can be heard.

Our city is a large family and if one member of this family is hurt or threatened, it affects all other members of the family. Currently our mayor and her inner political circle is supporting extensive developers proposals to turn our farm lands into another suburb. If we lose our farmlands, we farmers lose our livelihoods, and if we lose our livelihoods, 4 000 workers lose their jobs; the citizens of the city lose their source of affordable vegetables and future potable water. Thus what happens in our area directly impacts all citizens in the city and especially the readership of the Southern Mail.

The Southern Mail and the media in general play a key role in our lives and in our democracy. They tell our stories and provide citizens with information.

Unfortunately the majority of us often say we are not interested in political matters, or that politics don’t interest us. Or we say politics is for politicians or those who want to become politicians. Democracy is a good idea but is only relevant in our daily lives if we actively engage in it that is engage in the political affairs of democracy. I want to humbly suggest this information should not be passively consumed by us, but must empower us and make us become active citizens in our democracy. Taking part in voting every five years is not enough.

We citizens need to understand that everything is politics. The cost of a cauliflower, the price of a train ticket, the high crime rate comes about through political decisions.

Being politically active does not mean running for political office but via citizens participating in political affairs and decision making that affect our lives and protect our interests. For democracy to work and have meaning, it needs the active participation of every citizen of the city.

So how do citizens become politically active? Citizens need to swell the ranks of local civic associations, public forums, community police forums and so on; attend community meetings, volunteer time for a cause you care about, and above all empower yourself with as much information as possible. Let us not remain passive consumers of information – that’s the route to indoctrination and ignorance.

We need to read more: fill our libraries as we fill shopping malls, question the order of things, seek answers and a basic understanding to vexing problems of unemployment, climate change. Why bread is so expensive? Because if we do not do this, our political affairs will be framed by those whose interests do not line up with the interests of the vast majority of citizens.

The PHA civic – the Schaapkraal Civic and Environmental Association wishes Southern Mail another 30 years to continue to inform us and be the voice of the people of our city.