Real restitution is about real dignity for everyone – Mzonke Poni

mzonke-poniThe modern economy of South Africa was founded on conquest. It was born in blood. From the moment of conquest on the same historical and economic processes that made some people rich made others poor. The exploitation and exclusion of the oppressed did not end in 1994. It continues to this day. People are still being made poor and being made rich by an unjust social and economic order.

Restitution cannot be restricted to the returning land stolen between 1948 and 1994. It must focus on overcoming all forms of social injustice and ensuring that everyone can take a respected and dignified place in society.

Service delivery is not restitution. The language of service delivery is used by NGOs, academics and the government to depoliticise the claims of the oppressed for justice by limiting them to a very narrow technocratic processes. In a time when the state, with the support of other elites, is trying to criminalise poverty, and the struggle to overcome poverty, our job is to politicise poverty and the economic and social systems that continue to produce and to entrench poverty.

Restitution must include decent health care and education for all. It must include safe and efficient public transport for all. It must include genuinely pro-poor land reform. It must include a genuine affirmation of the right to the cities for all who want to have an urban life. It must also include a deepening of democracy via a steady shift to more participatory modes of decision making including things like participatory budgeting, urban planning and so on. Real restitution must start and end with a commitment to the principle that every person counts the same. Real restitution is about real dignity for everyone.

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