Preying on the poor


SOUTH Africa’s national election is now a year away. Between now and then, politicians will be hard at work campaigning for votes. What that means, is that they will use their tricks to manipulate  the vulnerable and gullible for votes. There will be nothing new about manipulating the gullible, politicians and the influential elite do it in many countries in many regions around the world.

How Escobar manipulated the poor in Colombia

As I’ve been reflecting about politicians and their dirty tricks toward the poor lately, I was reminded of Pablo Escobar, who was a notorious Colombian drug lord in the 70s, 80s, till his death in 1993. Escobar was king of cocaine trafficking. His cartels supplied cocaine to many parts of the world. In that criminal process, he became a millionaire. . With the millions came power. He became one of the most powerful people on earth.

Escobar managed to sustain his cartels partly because Colombia was so corrupt that some of the government officials worked with him. So, it was easy for him to get away with his illegal drugs activities.

Pablo became a fugitive, wanted by his government, for his cruel crimes and cocaine trafficking. And for him to get away with anything meant he had to craft a good relationship with many Colombians, including the poor.

The Colombian poor adored him, mainly  because he bought their support with some of his millions. He went to destitute communities and built schools, hospitals, stadiums, even churches.

The poor saw  in him a very kind person who is willing to make sacrifices for them. They would do anything for him, including lying to their own government about any information pertaining to Pablo’s cartels, or his whereabouts. With his bribery , he had won the hearts and minds of the many poor in Colombia, which was an  accomplishment for him.

With the above, it is clear that Escobar was just a criminal fat cat who used the vulnerable, the poor, to hide from law enforcement, and to maintain his drug cartels. And it worked for him. He once said the essence of the cocaine business was “Simple—you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back.” Hence, he bribed the poor.

Pablo is just one case I have elected to discuss in this column, there are many other cases of similar kind  – in politics, in sports, in media – where money will buy anything.

Expect same tactics from South African politicians

Poverty is one of the worst things that can happen in any person’s life. If you’re poor, not only can’t you afford to put bread on the table, some people  will buy you, manipulate you, use you, for their benefit. s. Politicians will buy you groceries worth R1000 in times of election campaigns. And then after the elections, they will disappear.

In previous election campaigns, some political parties, including the ruling party the African National Congress (ANC) have bought poor people groceries and t-shirts. . Such a disgraceful act shows how manipulative politicians are. South Africa’s poor are not only hungry and vulnerable, they are also uneducated, which subjects them to abuse by politicians. Because let’s be frank, it is abuse.

Lack of education amongst the poor highlights the importance of political education. As a society we must strive for a politically informed society. We must consider and implement political education programs for every South African of every race and every income class. The private sector can do this, NGOs can do this, the government can do this.

It’s not only groceries that are used to manipulate the poor, social grants are now a method to buy the votes of the poor.

The number of social grants recipients was less than 5 million in 1998, today that number is more than 20 million. This increase in social grants recipients is celebrated by the ANC, which is shameful. Handouts and social grants must be seen as a failure in South Africa, not progress. Every abled South African deserves a job, not a social grant, and every child deserves to be raised with the finances of his or her parents.

You will think that it’s only the ANC that speaks favourably of social grants, the Democratic Alliance (DA) too supports grants and has said that South Africans could get more. This is disappointing from the DA, because it would have been nice to have a major opposition political party arguing for an alternative to social grants. South Africa’s democracy deserves such a political stance in this matter.

The year ahead will be interesting in South Africa’s politics. As citizens we must be on the lookout for politicians who attempt to bribe us for votes. It is unfortunate that the poor will be manipulated for votes. However, being poor does not mean that you’re brainless and that you cannot think for yourself. You can be poor and still make the right decision at the ballot box, without being influenced by the gifts from politicians. PM

This article was first published on


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.