Philasande Yende — the face of our leaders’ shame



Arena Holdings PTY


Philasande Yende is not the first person to be killed during a protest in South Africa. And if a police officer is found to be responsible for his death, it will sadly not be the first time a community member has died at the hands of a triggerhappy law enforcement officer during mass action. That is in itself a sad indictment. But what compounds the tragedy is way this 13-yearold was the victim of a perfect storm of multiple state failure. Most evident is that our police failed this sports-mad grade 7 pupil. The basic requirement of a police officer is to protect the people he or she serves. Not only did they not do that, but an officer may have pulled the trigger of the gun that killed him. Second, Phila was failed by the councillors in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, who, if residents are to be believed, have not ensured the provision of basic services for the community they are supposed to serve, and are unable or unwilling to defuse rising tensions over water and electricity. The tensions culminated in the violent protest last week in which Phila died. Third, our incompetent national leaders failed Phila by presiding over an energy crisis that has brought South Africa to its knees, causing huge disruption to citizens’ lives. Today, the much-loved deputy head boy of his primary school — who dreamed of becoming a pilot and travelling the world — is the face of our leaders’ misgovernance of the country. They should be ashamed of what happened in Emalahleni, and what is happening in other places around the country. Phila’s death should remind them of the high human cost of their bumbling over the electricity crisis. Frustrations have reached boiling point in cities, towns and villages across South Africa, and we are likely to see an increase in protests in the months to come. But will our authorities rise to the occasion or dither ineffectively while the disruption puts lives in jeopardy?