I have been stewing over Helen Zille’s latest twitter debacle. This is what she had to say about the families of those who died or whose health was severely compromised in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Zille tweeted on Tuesday: “It is good that the families of the Life Esidimeni victims have received a measure of justice and compensation. I would like an answer to this question: What did they do, before these tragic deaths, to raise the alarm about their loved ones starving + living in profound neglect?”
Now Zille is no stranger to the arrogant, ill informed, rude, racist, anti-poor tweet and has been rapped over the knuckles on more than one occasion. Her biggest tweet scandal (up until now), which she fought to justify in an embarrassingly tenacious fashion, was that not everything to do with colonialism was bad. She just could not see how that would be hurtful and offensive to every single person of colour and their allies.
This time however, she has, in a tweet, highlighted exactly how utterly out of touch she is with how unseen, unheard and helpless the poor are. She imagines a world where everyone has the same ability to shout loudly and demand to speak to the manager. She comes from that world, where she can complain about things and be heard, seen and taken notice of.
Recently I have been to both Groote Schuur and a private medical hospital and the difference is beyond glaring. I am not dissing the utter magnitude of the success of Groote Schuur and all who work there, I am merely comparing the difference money can make. Carpets, new furniture, new equipment, more staff, better equipped nurses, more space, more people to talk to, more attention, more value to life. There are very sick people at Groote Schuur, from all over the country, receiving expert treatment from exhausted, underpaid, over worked practitioners, but the queues at the clinics are long, public transport unreliable, resources scarce. I am in awe at how successful the labyrinthian maze of Groote Schuur is. And that is one, huge, subsidised public hospital.
Helen Zille’s tweet is so completely rude and vile because she has no idea what it is like to be helpless and dependent on what is available. She has no idea what it is like to not be able to keep a sick family member alive if you have no money. She has no idea what a world without insurance or a hospital plan or transport or food looks like. She literally cannot imagine it. And she is in charge of the Western Cape. It makes me sick.