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Sold to the highest bidder

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The city is poorer, the people wear cheap clothes made without pride. Are we richer? I think not

Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

THE fight for the soul of the Philippi Horticultural Area seems to me rather typical of the South African attitude towards enterprise.

We’re prepared to destroy traditions, create unemployment, evict people from their homes and trample happily over lifestyles in order to allow a handful of well-connected people to get rich.

We saw this happen to the Cape’s clothing industry some years ago. There was a time when almost every Cape family had at least one member who cut, stitched, lined or ironed in one of the city’s clothing factories.

Thousands of people supported their families by the skill of their hands. Many of us bought our clothing from factory shops. (I recently threw out my last Tej jersey. I loved it, but the elbows had finally worn through.)

Then some greedy businessmen found they could import clothing cheaper from China than we could make it locally.

Factories closed, jobs disappeared, families became poorer, all so that some greedy importers could make an easy buck without ever having to learn how to sew on a button or stitch a hem.

The city is poorer, the people wear cheap clothes made without pride. Are we richer? I think not.

My home town of Fish Hoek went for a century without a liquor store. It was a leftover part of history that made us stand out. People joked about it, but it made us different; gave us a brand name.

That bit of history has been trashed to make one business rich. Our town is a little poorer for it.

If the vegetable farms of Philippi are bulldozed and given to property developers, hundreds of hard-working people will lose their jobs and their dignity.

The developers will persuade the authorities that we can buy our vegetables cheaper from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, so we’re better off without the Philippi farmers.

This is not so.

We will have lost a little of our pride. We will no longer be able to claim to be eating food from “our own garden”.

We will be beggars, relying on other provinces to feed us.

Hard-working people who took pride in producing healthy vegetables by the skills handed down for generations will soon be forlorn “car guards” waving rich motorists into parking spaces and holding out their hands for a grudgingly given coin.

They will hate their work, which is little better than begging, and the motorists will resent them because they’re perfectly capable of finding their own parking spaces.

We would simply have stirred another helping of anger and resentment into the sullen pot of South African life.

Isn’t it time we learnt there are things far more important – and valuable – than money?

Last Laugh

A talent scout spotted a violinist playing on the street corner with a puppy singing operatic arias.

He invited them to his office to sign a contract.

As they were about to sign, a large dog burst into the office, grabbed the puppy by the neck and dragged him away. The agent was in tears.

“That was his mother,” explained the violinist. “She doesn’t want him to go on stage. She wants him to be a doctor.”