The lockdown imposed by the South African government on the people as a response to the global Coronavirus pandemic has proven to be worsening our colonial misery as the African working class, more specifically for us as women.
March 25, just a day before the official start of the lockdown period, I went to visit an informal settlement in Kokosi, Fochville.
As the Chairwoman of the African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) in Occupied Azania, I felt that it was important to go into one of the informal settlements of South Africa to get a sense of how the people felt about, and how they would survive, the lockdown that was scheduled to start at midnight.
The agenda was not to just observe the already predictable conditions of the shanty towns, but to also organize around the issue to ensure a people’s response.
With the already existing hardships in the townships because of unemployment, lack of service delivery by the ANC government and the perennial theft of our resources, this martial law has only deepened and exposed our everyday struggles under settler colonialism and the resultant conditions in the townships of this country.
The announcement of the lockdown came without any measures in place related to how women who survive by selling fruits and vegetables on the street, or who acquire an income through daily efforts of doing small jobs, will continue to survive during this period.
The consequence of this is that many households in the black community will have to endure an indefinite hunger period as most African women survive through piece jobs.
African women die to feed parasitic capitalism
Since we are colonized, with our stolen resources feeding white women and communities, the lockdown denies African mothers the ability to secure food for their families.
African women cannot secure their means of subsistence, all the while measures have been put in place to secure the smooth running of big corporations.
This is not to say that economic life for African women was any better before the government imposed a lockdown on us, as daily piece jobs were never guaranteed.
African women have been burning and will continue to burn. This is not because of the spread of the Coronavirus, but because of the parasitic economic system that remains in place.
Therefore, with the current threats of food security in most black homes, building strong immune systems will be one of the very challenging tasks, especially with the ongoing restrictions.
Unemployment and neocolonialism run rampant in shantytowns
The high levels of unemployment faced by African women, just as African men in colonial South Africa, has placed our already marginalized communities in a critically desperate position.
Colonized women survive by daily hustles like gathering bottles and selling them to recyclers, or by looking for part-time jobs, such as cleaning and ironing white people’s laundry.
From African women in the townships of South Africa, who have been left to raise and shelter our families in confined and cramped shacks, to those living in the three-roomed houses that the ANC has rolled out to the African working class, whose land is still in the hands of foreign settler colonizers, we do not have the luxury to implement the suggested precautionary measures.
We are large families of ten or more people who must find shelter in these tiny spaces that the sell-out government has condemned us to by their unwillingness to take back our resources from our colonizers.
The persistence of the shantytowns is a direct reflection of the government’s position when it comes to the well-being of African people in this country.
The recent colonialvirus is just one of the many health pandemics that we will have to add on our already existing list of viruses and diseases that plague our health in the black communities of South Africa.
African mothers in black communities must stress and struggle with the hazardous environmental conditions, such as dump sites that are right outside their shelters and burst sewage pipes that run into their yards.
The health of their children is threatened and the colonialvirus will just add to an already existing problem.
Daily life is life-threatening as a colonized African
The colonialvirus requires us to wash our hands and regularly clean our houses during this crucial period.
The majority of African workers will not be able to adhere to those precautions because the government starves the African communities of such essential basic services as a norm.
Many of our communities do not have basic resources like water, electricity and toilets.
We walk long distances to get water or to use a toilet, exposing us to a greater risk of contracting and dying from the virus.
The absence of organization for African working class women has put us in a vulnerable position for opportunistic petty bourgeois movements, also known as black feminist movements, that take advantage of our colonial situation by attacking the black community in order for them to get favors and recognition from the ANC government.
One such well-known organization has suggested that so-called ‘gender-based violence’ is the main contradiction facing African women during the lockdown period.
They say this while ignoring how the police and military have killed more than eight African workers, resulting to African women losing their loved ones, sometimes their only source of income.
African women in the black community, while already bombarded with enough problems to last them a lifetime, also have to deal with petty bourgeois women who claim to be “activists for women’s rights” but are unable of producing solutions for the African women that will help them deal with the current problems at hand.
Instead, they push agendas that will cause a drift within the communities and allow for the State to have access to oppressing and terrorizing the community.
This has proven that the African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) is the only organization for African women that aims to expose the primary contradiction which is colonialism, where all our problems are rooted.
The failure to expose and organize around the essential question of colonialism will lead to masses of colonized African women being recruited into uniting with the colonial State to further oppress our communities.
There is no solution for African women separate from the struggle for land, freedom and self-determination for the African working class in an independent Africa.
We are not surprised by the actions of the government.
Rather, we are motivated to win more women into organization so that we become self-determined African women living in a secure and liberated Africa.