Fight for ample water isn’t about race

Water drop

I have been scanning through the comments on my Facebook posts. While it is impossible for me to read each of the thousands of comments, I note two important trends that I must respond to.

Firstly, there is an overwhelmingly positive response, most notably to the notion of a new Discourse of Abundance that moves away from the language of blame-seeking. This is encouraging.

Secondly, there is a very small minority that choose to view the world in racial terms. One post even suggests that I am “revealing my politics” when I refer to inclusivity.

I am demeaned by being referred to as “rainbownationism” (translated) as a pejorative concept. Another post, that I reacted to, suggested that “breeding” is a problem.

Both of these are racially biased, and both undermine what we are trying to achieve. People don’t breed, animals do, so to refer to the population dynamic in this pejorative term introduces a divisive and unacceptable element of racial superiority into an issue that has nothing to do with race.

It places what we are trying to achieve at grave risk of being targeted by those that are threatened by our move to hold elected officials accountable.

Therefore, let me be very clear about my position on these matters, so there can be no confusion:

1) I have tried to articulate the fact that the solution selected for any problem reflects the way the problem has been identified in the first place. Solution-selection is not without bias. Therefore to have as a solution, a reduction in daily consumption per capita, betrays the incorrect problem identification as being “water scarcity” exacerbated by a short-term drought.

This is the incorrect solution in my professional opinion, because it betrays a lack of understanding by executive decision-makers of the core problem being managed. I therefore suggested that the core problem is a concept known as the “hydraulic density of population” (HDP) also referred to as “water crowding”.

This factors into one equation, two different drivers – population dynamics generating demand and hydrology dynamics sustaining supply. Nowhere is this a racial thing.

Population dynamics is a global issue. The entire planet has a growing population, trying to live off dwindling resources. Population dynamics includes, inter alia, migration patterns, so it is NOT simply a factor of growth in population. Population dynamics are very complex, with multiple drivers that I cannot expand on in limited space, but for simplicity it includes poverty.

In short, poor women do not have agency over their bodies, so they have many children, not by choice, but as a result of being disempowered through poverty. Importantly this is not a racial thing, so there is no validity to the statement that people of one race group have larger families than another.

To refer to this as “breeding” is derogatory, ignorant, insensitive and damaging. Animals breed, humans don’t. I cannot be clearer that that. The solution to population growth is to eradicate poverty, and for this we need an economy that functions for all.

So in essence we need to understand that HDP is our problem, with a growing population base to be sustained off a resource under pressure from over-abstraction and exacerbated by climate change.

Note that being “sustained” also means having a job so they can feed their family.  Therefore, to have as an objective the reduction in water consumption per capita, inadvertently destroys the economic base needed to sustain those same people over time.

This is why we need to think of HDP, because it includes water for agriculture, the economy and the environment and it factors in things like climate change, natural variability and risk.

2) Let me be very clear about my politics. I was classified a white person when I was born. This belies the fact that I am actually of multi-ethnic origin.

This is very well known in my family history and something that I am proud of. One of my earlier ancestors was a slave woman from Java (named Rosetta), which makes me partially East Asian. Another was a male slave (named Jonker) who was given his freedom and became an anti-slavery activist lobbying for the liberation of many other slaves. His son was Jonker van Makassar and again I am proud of this portion of my heritage.

But, because I was born into an apartheid state, I was classified as “white”, and conscripted into the army where I served in an armoured reconnaissance unit (1 Special Service Battalion, School of Armour, 2 Light Horse Regiment 81 Armoured Brigade, 61 Mechanized Battalion Group) even though I asked to be posted to the navy, because I was (and still am) a scuba diver (certified professional instructor for the last 15 years or so).

After the Pretoria Car Bomb incident, I was recruited into a Special Operations unit (designated K43) being run out of the Chief Directorate Covert Operations in what was then known as National Intelligence Service (NIS).

Our mission was to track down and capture the Chief of Staff of MK, who was accountable for this act of terror, so that he could be brought home to stand trial in a court of law. That transition in my life took me into the world of strategic intelligence operations, where I blossomed.

The long and the short of it is that I was operating in high impact small teams at the very cutting edge of change from war to peace. For example, I was deeply involved in the withdrawal of the SADF from Angola after the so-called Battle of Cuito Cuanavale after we successfully penetrated the decision-making line between Havana and Luanda.

I was deeply involved in Namibian independence and the establishment and later protection of CODESA. I was part of a small team inserted into Mozambique to stop the flow of weapons after the Boiphatong and other massacres.

That paved the way to the negotiated ending of hostilities in Mozambique as we established the negations space for RENAMO and FRELIMO to reach a stable agreement.

The list goes on…… I was in a small special operations team sent to determine whether the Russians would come to the aid of the SACP and possibly derail CODESA. I became an instructor preparing young operators for a life of hazard and risk. I later became a founding member of the South African Secret Service (SASS) and worked hard to bring special operations under democratic oversight and constitutional control.

In short, I have placed my life on the line repeatedly, for one simple objective – establishing a stable democracy in which all citizens can reach their full potential, irrespective of colour, race or creed.

For this I will never apologize, and any of my detractors can look me squarely in the eye as we go toe to toe, on condition that they too have walked into the valley of the shadow of death and emerged alive.

If you have been there, then we can talk as equals; but if you haven’t, then all you make is noise that confuses the core issue so I will merely sidestep you as I continue my relentless advance with a growing force onto the clearly defined objective.

Stated simply, I believe in a constitutional democracy in which political difference is accommodated, but the rule of law is upheld.

I see the water crisis as a means of deepening that democracy and helping to bring the promise of a better future for all.

More importantly, I believe in the enduring benefits of peace, having lived through the horrors of war. I want all citizens of South Africa to prosper and flourish, not to flounder and merely survive.

Significantly, I have a lifelong history of seeking convergence where natural dynamics drive divergence, and I will tirelessly work for peace even as some fan the flames of violence, confrontation and war (Kill the Boer for example).

I am proud of what and who I am, and I apologize to nobody for that.

I hope that I have made my position clear?

If any of what I have said above resonates, then please join our Movement for Positive Change as we develop the new Paradigm of Abundance.

If you want to go back to war, and succumb to the cancer of despair, fuelled by raw anger and ignorance, then find a different cause to support. That’s the beauty of democracy…. you have the freedom to choose.

Professor Anthony Turton is a water strategist.  These remarks were originally directed to his Facebook supporters.

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