A Tale of Three Cities

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The protests that took place the last couple of weeks, sprouting spontaneously throughout the island, pounded the last nail in the coffin of the notion that we are all living in the same Mauritius. If we are, this country must have three distinct cities.

There is the city where politicians live. It is oozing with money and benefits. They are borrowing as if there was no tomorrow and spending with absolutely no accountability. In this city, arrogance comes so effortlessly so questions about money spent and paid to cronies are totally ignored. In this city, the dreams are big and so are the delusions. Heritage City, Metro Express, Côte d’Or stadium, Safe City… There are no small banknotes. Everything is counted in billions. 

“If their belongings have been washed away, their houses are floating in brown stuff and they have no water, well, they can drink champagne on the beach.” 

Just below this Mauritian city and totally dependent on it is the city of the hangers-on. This city, euphemistically referred to as Lakwizin, is reserved for the near and dear. Those who make their way to this holy land have nothing to worry about for generations. Somehow, these lucky ones are found to be the most suitable candidates for any top position going. And because they are such a rare species, they get inane salaries, increased whenever they decide, no questions asked. These salaries are topped up with per diem and international travel. Naturally, the working hours are highly ‘flexible’. Many people have been watching a lady recently appointed to a full-time position to defend our rights pitching up at the office at 11am and rolling out at 2pm to carry on with her modelling activities.

In this city, the same clique takes all the civil service posts, with the complicity of a lax Public Service Commission which has got used to delegating its powers to politicians. This is how we found out the doctors recruited to work in our public hospitals, for example, are largely related to ministers. We also saw the number of people recruited by each ministry in different positions, not least useless advisory ones. Naturally, all government contracts are swept clean by those living in the same city. Not a crumb is left behind. From prisons to the airport, port, schools, legal services (lawyers and notaries)…, the inhabitants of this city are always the lowest bidders and the best suppliers. Notice, for example, that Nawaz Khan Chady, who was vying for a contract at the port, told our sister publication l’express, that he was the lowest bidder even BEFORE the bids had been opened! I mean it’s just so obvious that they are always the best, isn’t it?

The existence of these two cities is perpetuated by fine rhetoric and spin, worthy of Goebbels. “Marshal Plan against poverty”, “Care for the poor”, “Empowering people” (not sure what this means, do you?) The rhetoric is meant for the consumption of the third city and is systematically served as a daily diet with our evening meal thanks to the good services of a national broadcaster that has hit rock-bottom.    

The third city is made up of people who are struggling to meet the most basic needs. Some are working hard to be able to survive. Others are living in abject poverty with no prospects of coming out of it or seeing their children lead better lives. Many have to live in violent and crime-ridden areas and make do with odd jobs when they get them. Their miserable lives have been made more miserable through a total lack of interest from the authorities: water that takes days, at times weeks, to hit their taps; lack of proper drains, which makes the slightest rain a real calamity that sweeps away everything they have worked for; sewerage water that has become a daily occurrence in their homes and streets!  The inhabitants of this city – so alien to those who are discovering the new delights of eating free fine food and drinking free champagne – sit and listen every day in awe at the astronomical sums of money being spent on prestige projects that will in no way make their lives better. In the last two weeks, they took to the streets to express their distress and frustration. Men, women, accompanied by children and babies, spent hours protesting and asking for help. To their justified tears, the government responded with arrests and tear gas, sending children and even babies to hospital! People have no right to protest when they hurt!

If their belongings have been washed away, their houses are floating in brown stuff and they have no water, well, they can drink champagne on the beach.

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