How revolt in Egypt, Tunisia plays in South Africa
As the number of young people in South Africa increases and access to the Internet improves, so too will access to the kind of resistance we’re witnessing in Egypt and Tunisia, writes guest blogger Khadija Patel.
Johannesburg, South Africa
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While he attended a local high school, he did not graduate and his attempts at finding work in the public sector were futile. His day would begin in the town supermarket where he would load his wooden cart with fruit and vegetables and then walk to the local market five kilometers away. Mr. Bouazizi, at 26 years old was used to being accosted by the police. But in December, he was pushed too far. A policewoman confronted him on the way to the market and like a bully in an elementary school playground she insisted he hand over his scales for want of a trading licence. Bouazizi refused. After a heated verbal exchange, the policewoman slapped him and with the assistance of other officers, forced him to the ground.
His meager stock of fruit and vegetables, as well as his scales, were confiscated. Publically humiliated, Bouazizi sought redress. After being denied an opportunity to speak to a municipal representative and in a fit of angry despair, Bouazizi set himself alight outside the municipal office. Some weeks later, Bouazizi died, a casualty of circumstance, if not abject anguish.
In the days that Bouazizi lay in hospital, every inch of his body covered in bandages, his picture was printed in newspapers around the world. And if the rest of the world reacted with alarm, the desperation of Bouazizi resonated loudly with the Tunisian people.
In Tunisia, Bouazizi’s grave remains draped in the Tunisian national flag and his people continue the fight to shed the last remnants of an oppressive regime.
Now it’s the people of Egypt who have thronged to the streets resolute in their demonstrations against a stubborn dictatorship.
Their chants last Friday of “freedom, liberty, bread” have proved the plainness of their incentive. A remarkable 60 percent of the region’s population is under 30 and in Egypt the substantial chunk of that young population is severely stymied by the government’s failure to provide adequate schooling. They are largely inadequately educated and then let down by an economy that does not offer the jobs to match the abilities or aspirations of this population. A generation caught in limbo, with all the demands of adulthood but none of its means.
The scenes we’ve witnessed over the past week in Egypt and the level of anger they have conveyed prove that though this uprising was sudden and unexpected to the rest of the world, to the legions of the unemployed, uneducated and underfed it has been a long time coming.