(One of Ivo Vegter’s devastating images on Daily Maverick)
I have shared the shock, horror and sadness with the country as we watched Knysna burn. In a rare moment of equalising, the fire took from all; rich, poor, old, young, those starting out with first ever homes, those nearing the end of their lives in old age homes, those squeezed into desperate situations in wooden shacks, and tiny rich families in huge mansions on the hill.
The efforts to help people and animals have been heartwarming. We South Africans are pretty good in a crisis. Calls for food, clothes, toiletries, pet food, and money have been met with a resounding response.
So is this not the perfect opportunity to acknowledge that Knysna has a population who live in dire conditions in their everyday lives, where unemployment, poverty, a severe lack of formal housing, TB and other poverty borne illnesses are rife?
I woke up this morning with a dream like vision that every person with insurance in Knysna skimmed a tithe off their claim, and built a second house for someone with no house. Not a shitty little charity shack, but an actual house, a home. Two homes. So, instead of rebuilding exactly what you had in both instances, people with insurance made a conscious decision to make something smaller, cheaper and more modest, and then made another one, for someone else to live in.
I know this will never, ever happen. And because it won’t, the playing fields will never be levelled, and we will never be having the same conversations unless there is a massive natural disaster. And even then, it will be a conversation that happens in that tiny moment before everything goes back to what it was.
But, imagine. Imagine if the brave, heartbroken, wrecked, grateful, passionate mostly white rich people of Knysna decided in this moment to change the town, the province, the country, the world? Imagine.