Injure one, injure all? Or has Activism Fatigue kicked in?

Last week, my utility bill arrived as usual. Apart from the usual water & sewage and increased VAT, my curiosity went a little farther, looking for the penalty the landlord had threatened to effect (or shall we say effectively imposed?). If you are raising kids in an apartment block like I am, I’m sure you would know how difficult it is. All they want to do (and should be allowed to) is play all day long. Restricted areas can make kids rowdy, ungovernable and quite simply…irritating, infringing on the rights of other tenants to have peace of mind.

To my pleasant surprise, the landlord had not effected the penalty. It wasn’t a miracle, on receiving the notice I had penned a scathing email in response, lamenting the sheer arrogance and contempt my landlord was increasingly exhibiting by sending largely general mail to tenants with kids. The notice, which I noted was general in essence rubbed me up the wrong way.

Firstly, the playground (which had served as a deciding factor when I first moved into the building), was now stripped off to make way for an adult recreation area. How convenient! Where does this leave the kids? Loitering around the building or in the streets, right? Secondly, with all the CCTV cameras manning the building, why wasn’t there even one that could show me proof of my child disturbing the peace? 

I may not have received an apology or acknowledgement of the valid points made however, this was a small but not insignificant personal victory. It may not be perceived as a big achievement because it lacks the magnitude exhibited by famous civil actions like the 1956 Women’s March or the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)’s successful 2006 campaign to push the South African government to roll out Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARVs) to HIV patients countrywide or the #FeesMustFall movement.


The misuse of power by established institutions and governments globally and entrenched laws that perpetuate injustices has always been central to upheaval by communities, activist movements and civil society. Shared grievances, experiences of victimization, disenfranchisement  have over time given birth to many notable movements challenging the status quo & shaping the narrative for future generations.

While the passion behind activism & advocacy which continues to allow voices to be heard, open avenues, promote fairness & equality is admirable, conversations I’ve been privy to since I rejoined the public commute to work leave me with more questions than answers. Commuters on the Rosebank – Sandton Metrobus route are some of the most frustrated I have ever come across, with legitimate reasons, of course.

With regular waiting time of more than 45 minutes for a bus on this busy route, which under normal operations ought to be no more than 15 minutes, I understood why regular commuters would be pissed off at having to beg & negotiate for the deployment of buses every day. What I did not understand, however, was the negative rhetoric that often comes out against commuters who wait patiently (silently)  for the bus from those that are more vocal.

With the assumption that activism is driven by the desire to pursue genuine interests of- & gains for individuals & collective and the selflessness we’ve seen in many movements, one would deduce that motivation rather than antagonism would serve concerned groups better? Self-aggrindisement is a facet linked neither to advocacy nor activism. Therefore, I believe forcing people to participate in class action simply because of shared experiences, skin colour, gender or other defeats the purpose.

What do you think?




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