Price hikes, steel shortage delay Delft move

2 04 2008

Note from the AEC: The so-called steel shortage is merely another excuse by the City of Cape Town for the continued neglect of Delft Symphony Pavement Dwellers. Pavement Dwellers do not want temporary shacks – they have already built their own temporary homes. They will continue to refuse to move from Symphony Way until the South African government recognises their immediate right to decent housing and enters into negotiations with residents in order to acheive this right.

02 April 2008 12:10
Source: Mail & Guardian 

Shortages of steel and massive price hikes mean that there will be a delay in moving thousands of Delft evictees to temporary homes, Cape Town mayoral committee member for housing Dan Plato said on Wednesday.

He said the “three- or four-week” time frame that the city originally set for the move had already lapsed, and that it could now take months.

About 800 families have been living in council-provided marquees, or roadside shelters, after being evicted from newly built homes in the area last month.

The homes are part of the N2 Gateway project, and are meant largely for residents of the Joe Slovo informal settlement elsewhere on the Cape Flats.

Most of the 800 families were backyard dwellers in the Delft area, and all of them are on the city’s housing waiting list.

Plato told a media briefing that the council had identified a nearby piece of land for the families, and had completed preparatory earthworks and services.

It had been the intention to get construction of the 6m-by-3m temporary homes, with galvanised iron walls and roof, under way this week.

However, the council had now learned that a result of power cuts there was a shortage of iron from supplier ArcelorMittal, and the earliest expected delivery was the beginning of May.

In addition, there had been two massive steel price hikes, which meant that the prices on the supply tender the city had already secured were no longer feasible.

The city would have to put out a new call for tenders.

“That for us is a major setback, it’s a dramatic setback,” Plato said.

“It hit us like cold water in the face, and we have faced up to that challenge.”

The news would be communicated to the evictees in the next 24 to 36 hours.

Plato said he appealed to them to bear with and trust the city.

He hoped the relocation would be completed “in the next two to three months”, though it could drag on longer.

The city’s director of housing, Hans Smit, said the price hikes, coming in the space of a single month, meant the cost of the galvanised iron for the homes had gone up from R4,9-million to R6,2-million.

The city has been providing food, water, toilets and security for the evictees.

According to Plato the “whole exercise”, including the still-to-be-erected galvanised homes, would cost the city just over R20-million.

“We fulfilled our humanitarian obligation. We fulfilled our constitutional obligation … we have walked the extra mile to ultimately assist these people,” he said. — Sapa


Solidarity: Thubelisha strikes again….

2 04 2008
The Herald 2/4/2008

Shack dwellers upset over delays in RDP housing completion


PROSPECTIVE RDP housing recipients in Mossel Bay remain extremely unhappy and anxious about the lack of building progress, even after a meeting was held on Monday night in an attempt to alleviate the situation.

Community members broke down their shacks in June and July last year as requested to make space for RDP houses. Families then constructed smaller, temporary, one-room shacks on the edges of the stands, to have somewhere to live while their RDP houses were being built.

Mossel Bay Ward 2 committee member Ernest Kanana said: “Not a single house has been completely finished since July last year and many houses are already cracked.”

He estimated there were about 100 houses and said the families for whom the houses were intended were still squashed into one- room shacks, which provided no privacy.

Thobeka Beyi, one of the housing recipients, said: “My new RDP house has two holes in the roof. Soon it will be winter and it will be raining, and there are old people here as well.”

Municipal housing, environment, sport and facilities head Johan van Zyl said: “We are also anxious and find ourselves in a predicament.”

He said Thubelisha Homes was an agency appointed by the government to assist municipalities with delivery of RDP houses and Thubelisha had, in turn, appointed Ujima Contractors to build the houses.

“The two companies are in a legal dispute, so now there is a stand-off. The council has assurance from Thubelisha that the project will continue and that houses will be completed, but not on time.”

He said the council was not party to Thubelisha‘s contract with Ujima Contractors.

Thubelisha Homes spokesman Xolani Tyilana said: “Thubelisha Homes was appointed by the Mossel Bay municipality to manage the building of RDP houses for the community of Elangeni. The houses were to be built on the same plots where people‘s shacks were. People were never asked to vacate their plots at any stage.

“Thubelisha appointed a contractor to build the houses. The contractor under-performed and Thubelisha had no choice but to terminate its services.

“We hope that by the end of this month the new contractor will be on site. We urge the people to stay where they lived before, and not to move anywhere else until advised by Thubelisha Homes, the Mossel Bay municipality or the new contractor.”

Solidarity: Facing Escalating Protests, Chiapas Frees 30 Political Prisoners

2 04 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Source: MyWordIsMyWeapon

With 15 prisoners still inside, the Other Campaign declares April 3 an International Day of Action

In what has been declared a stunning but partial victory for the Other Campaign, the Chiapas government freed thirty political prisoners last night in response to years of protests for their freedom, but not before giving some of them one last thorough beating. Fifteen prisoners remain incarcerated in Chiapas and Tabasco, fifteen of whom are on a hunger strike that has lasted 37 days so far. Prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families and supporters are gearing up for an increasingly tense battle for the freedom of the remaining political prisoners. Outside medical experts say that the symptoms the hunger strikers report and the amount of time they’ve gone without food has put their lives in danger, and that they may begin to die as early as Sunday. The state government, however, declared that it refuses to negotiate over the remaining prisoners.

The liberated prisoners have declared that they will remain in the plantón (permanent protest encampment) outside the state government headquarters in Tuxtla until all of their compañeros are free. They maintain their fearless resolve despite the government’s best efforts to keep them away, including threats and physical violence. Police refused to allow prisoners from the Cereso #17 prison in Catazaja to see the route they were taking to arrive at the government’s press conference where it released the prisoners as part of a media stunt. According to the recently released prisoners, the police beat them on the way to the press conference until their heads and arms were purple and they were bleeding. Their wrists were bound tightly with tape, cutting off circulation to their hands. After the press conference, the police loaded them back into a government vehicle, beat some of them again, and told them they were going to be returned to jail, but then released them.

Their Crime: Being Indigenous and Poor

The prisoners belong to a variety of organizations, including EZLN bases of support, adherents to the Zapatistas’ Other Campaign, an evangelical Christian organization, and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD in its Spanish initials). The amount of time they’ve spent in jail varies: the two Zapatista prisoners in Tabasco have been imprisoned for twelve years, other prisoners for one year.

The prisoners were incarcerated under a wide array of circumstances. Paramilitary organizations accused some Zapatista support bases of crimes the paramilitaries themselves committed. Antonio Garcia Flores, for example, is a member of the EZLN and participated in the Zapatista’s 1994 uprising. He was arrested then in Ocosingo after members of the paramilitary organization Chinchulines turned him in, then later released under an amnesty law that freed all Zapatista prisoners. The Chinchulines later dissolved and integrated themselves into the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Oppdic in its Spanish initials), an anti-Zapatista paramilitary organization with a civilian face of legitimacy. In 1999, Oppdic members accused him of “robbery with violence,” and in March 2006 the government imprisoned him under those charges. After serving two years in prison for a crime he did not commit, he was released last night.

Other prisoners, such as Julio Cesar Perez Ruiz, who became an adherent to the Other Campaign in prison, were imprisoned because a crime was committed and the government needed to jail someone for it, and any poor indian would do. While Perez was working in his cornfield with his father, a homicide occurred 40 km away. Despite his alibi and witness accounts of other suspects entering the area of the homicide, the government, having no desire to do the necessary work to solve the murder of a poor campesino, decided to jail another poor campesino and wash its hands of the whole matter. Perez was not released last night and remains on hunger strike.

Most of the ex-prisoners report that they had inadequate legal defense and did not understand court proceedings because the government did not provide a translator into their native languages of Tsotsil and Tzetal. In this sense, the common thread that links all of the political prisoners is that they are poor indians.

Years of Struggle Inside and Outside the Prison Walls

According to Jose Perez Hernandez, father of Julio Cesar Perez Ruiz, the movement within the prison began when prisoners from various organizations began to talk to each other about how they were unjustly imprisoned. In this way they became aware of the epidemic of unjust imprisonment and their common willingness to do whatever it takes to win their freedom, so they decided to organize.

Two years ago, members of the prisoners organization “La Voz del Amate” in el Amate prison began a plantón within the prison. They camped out day and night on the prison grounds in a vocal protest of their unjust imprisonment, petitioned the state government for their release, and organized outside support through their families and activists who visited them in prison. Through their various organizational affiliations and outside support, they organized across four different prisons, including the Carcel Publica Municipal in Tacotalpa, Tabasco, where two Zapatistas are imprisoned. On February 12, 2008, Zacario Hernandez Hernandez, a member of La Voz del Amate, stepped up the protest and declared a hunger strike to demand their freedom. This sparked an escalation in the prisoners’ tactics, and in the following weeks dozens more prisoners in the four jails joined the huger strike and plantónes. At its peak, 37 prisoners participated in the hunger strike with twelve more joining the plantón who couldn’t hunger strike for health reasons. Many other prisoners supported the plantónistas and protected them from the prison guards.

On the March 24, the 29th day of the hunger strike, families and friends of the prisoners declared a planton outside the Palacio de Gobierno, the Chiapas state house in Tuxtla. They hung signs on the walls and windows of the Palacio and left coffins on the front steps under a banner that says, “This is how the government wants us to end up.” A week later, on March 29, Other Campaign adherents from Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Mexico City marched on the Palacio de Gobierno and encircled it in protest. The following day dozens of supporters and family members attempted to visit the prisoners, but after taking their IDs and recording all of their personal information, the prison authorities suddenly declared Sunday a families-only visit day and turned away all but one non-family visitor.

On March 31 the government announced that it planned to release 137 prisoners at a press conference that evening, including some of the hunger strikers and plantónistas. In a staged media spectacle called “Freedom to Do Justice,” the government released the prisoners and unilaterally ended negotiations over the remaining prisoners due to its claim that all unjustly imprisoned Chiapans were now free. This contradicts Gov. Juan Sabines’ position up until said press conference, wherein he denied that there were any political prisoners in Chiapas. In the press conference the government laid out fruit and yogurt for the prisoners, hoping that the media would snap pictures of hunger strikers accepting food and reconciliation from the government. Refusing to be pawns in the government’s public relations strategy, the released hunger strikers refused all government food and only ate once they were released and joined the plantón. Family members of the prisoners protested the press conference, repeatedly interrupting government officials with chants of, “We’re not all here! Other prisoners are missing!” and “Sabines! Listen up! The prisoners don’t sell out!”

Journalists and activists want the list of all 137 pardoned prisoners because they suspect that the government used this opportunity to free many paramilitary members.

The Struggle Continues

When the family members declared their plantón outside the Palacio de Gobierno, they agreed that none of them would leave until all of the protesting prisoners were free, even if some individual family members were released. Upon learning that some but not all of them would be released, the prisoners met and agreed that prisoners inside the jails would continue the plantónes and hunger strike, and those on the outside would immediately join the plantón outside the Palacio de Gobierno.

The Other Campaign in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, has also vowed to continue their protests until all prisoners are freed. Given the striking prisoners’ grave health situation and the notice that this might be the last week to act before prisoners begin to die of starvation, the Other Campaign will hold a march and procession of coffins to the central plaza in San Cristobal on Thursday, April 3. The Other Campaign declared Thursday, April 3, an international day of action for the freedom of the striking prisoners and calls on activists outside Mexico to stage protests and actions at Mexican embassies and consulates.