No-one truly believed that South Africa would escape the descent into civil war at some stage – that was sadly inevitable – but I would wager that few of the naysayers and doom and gloom merchants could ever have accurately predicted the source of the conflict. It seems likely that, if pushed, most of them would have plumped for one of the more obvious causes: poverty, inequality, politics, corruption, race. But of course, that wasn’t it.
No-one ever realised that the previously-docile, overtly-privileged, white upper-middle class would rise up after the rumours that the City of Cape Town had threatened to close Newlands Spring. Even looking back, it seems ridiculous that this could be a trigger for any confrontation, let alone a protracted armed engagement between citizens of the Republic, but no-one thought about it. Well, why would you?
No-one foresaw that springing (no pun intended) from an online petition (where else?) set up by local businessman, ex-water collector and now infamous instigator of widespread civil unrest, Riyaz Rawoot, would come an army of discontented middle-aged white people. Never mind that the alleged closure turned out to be an entirely unresearched story put out by a local newspaper in order to incite outrage in an attempt to increase their dismal sales figures. That’s just incidental. It’s history now.
No-one would have believed that a barrage of strongly worded letters from the Southern Suburbs would be all that it took to bring down the elected leadership of Cape Town and the Western Cape, after they were unable to provide a satisfactory response within the 10 working days as promised in their electoral manifesto, prompting mass resignations in the higher echelons of provincial government. We had always thought that the war would be fought twixt electric fences and long knives (or at least machetes from Builders Warehouse). But the pen, it seems, is indeed mightier than the panga.
No-one ever thought that the effect of that sudden power vacuum in the south west of the country would be so disastrous. That it could come to this. That the alleged threatened lack of access to a slightly broken 4 inch plastic pipe at the end of a cul-de-sac in an affluent Cape Town suburb could drag the entirety of Southern Africa into bloody conflict.
No-one ever considered the butterfly effect; the implications of the true powerbase of the country getting swept up in a wave of outrage over a misunderstanding of what was frankly a rather trivial issue anyway.
No-one should ever underestimate how something so small could lead to our collective downfall.
Have a nice day.