Delft squatters banish memory of evil

10 04 2008
April 08 2008 at 02:25PM
Source: IOL

Along with the shrubs and desiccated undergrowth, Delft’s “Bush of Evil” was cut from people’s thoughts a long time ago.

Even Delft squatters sleeping on the ground that was once a hotbed of child rape and murder have shoved the sordid memories, like that of six-year-old Kim Abrahams or six-year-old “Little Rock” who survived after being abused and set alight, to the back of their minds.

But for Esmeralda Josephs, the mother of Kim Abrahams, it is difficult to forget.

“Most people don’t know what it is to lose a child, you never get over it,” she says, gently rocking the pram of her son, Waslie.

‘Most people don’t know what it is to lose a child’
She keeps him close, not letting him out of her sight for even a moment.

Every few seconds, she looks up at the faces of the other squatters standing in the food line, and while she knows most of them, she trusts very few.

She was pregnant with Waslie, she says, when Joey died just two years ago.

Her three-year-old daughter was lured from her home by a stranger offering her 50c. Her half-naked, battered body was later discovered just 3km away, concealed deep in the bushes near Leiden, Delft.

Now, this same piece of dune-like land has, ironically, become a safe haven to hundreds of families who were forcefully removed from unfinished N2 Gateway houses in February.

‘It feels like a refugee camp’
Josephs is just one of many with a heart-wrenching story to tell.

“When they evicted us, I just lost it. Those same policemen couldn’t arrest my child’s murderer, but they can kick us poor people out of the only houses we have.”

As she edges further towards the front of the queue, Josephs tries to recall how many times she has moved but eventually gives up, saying: “There’s too many times to count.”

She has set up a makeshift “hokkie” towards the back of the Section One camp.

It is positioned on the very spot where Joey’s body was uncovered.

She says it may seem strange to some, but it has helped her come to terms with her daughter’s murder.

“All I want is a house of my own where my son will be safe.

“Joey never had that,” she says.

But Josephs is not the only former backyard dweller fighting for a house to call her own.

The Delft families, who have set up camp on the outskirts of the N2 Gateway project for the past seven weeks, have all demanded formal housing.

They squatted there in a defiant act against the Cape High Court’s eviction order, enduring appalling living conditions in the hope that they will one day be given one of the finished two-bedroom houses.

In reality, only 30 percent of them will eventually get one.

“It’s a race thing,” explains resident Aziza Rhoda, as she washes sand from her crockery for the sixth time that day.

Like many other members of the tight-knit community, she believes she is being sidelined because she is “coloured and not black”.

“The African people from Joe Slovo don’t want to move here because it’s too far. If they don’t want it, why should we, as the people of Delft, not get it? The government only cares about the coloured people when it’s time to vote.”

As Rhoda speaks, she struggles to move around in her part of a 4×4-metre tent, provided by the City of Cape Town and shared with three families.

Nonetheless, she is thankful that she recently moved from the bigger tent, where even more families were housed together.

“When I was there, there were two times when women woke up in the night screaming because there were men trying to rape them. that’s when I decided to move,” she says.

And the last few days have been even harder on Rhoda and Josephs, both of whom had pinned their hopes on a move to a new Delft site in the next few days.

However, these hopes swiftly evaporated when the city announced that, as a result of building material setbacks, residents would remain where they were for at least another three months, well into the cold winter season.

Some hopeful residents still cling to a pamphlet they were handed by the city long ago, promising each family a 7×7-metre piece of land and materials to build a waterproof 18m? iron structure with a door and window.

It appears a cruel situation for the squatters, who wake up every day to see the “real houses” they so desperately fought for lying empty, just over the wire barrier that fences them in.

One woman, identifying herself only as Priscilla, describes life on the dusty dunes of Delft as a constant battle – if they weren’t fighting for houses, they were fighting off the cold and sand at night with nothing but a few blankets and the shelter of flimsy tents.

As winter approaches, they fear this could worsen.

A mother of two, Hania Albshary, says she would have no qualms about moving back into the vacant houses if her family could not bear the cold, in spite of the consequences that may follow.

“My husband is sick, he can’t work. I must think about him. I must think about my children,” she says.

Children as young as two, seemingly oblivious to the dire circumstances, occupy their time by scooping up buckets of sand or climbing in and out of a large rubbish container near the boundary of the site.

Most have stopped going to school because their parents fear they will be taunted for being dirty, others are too sick with diarrhoea and the flu, which they have supposedly picked up in the surroundings.

“It feels like a refugee camp,” says Priscilla angrily. “We are closed in with fences like animals and we’ve been living in tents for weeks. If we are on the housing list, why should we have to go through this?”

Twice a day, residents are given a warm meal, a load shared by the municipality and Islamic Relief South Africa , but at meetings residents make their feelings heard.

“We don’t want food,” one man shouts, “it’s not food we need, it’s houses!”

The same sentiments echo through the Gateway’s second camp, a group settled on a Symphony Way pavement bordering Section Two.

This group has largely been perceived as rebellious because it has declined the help of the city.

More significantly, the members have fervently refused to move to the new site, even if that means a repeat of February’s violent evictions.

Like Josephs they fear that, even after 14 years of democracy, they may just be forgotten.

Behind the empty promises of politicians, the frantic fight for houses and an immense housing backlog they will remain just another name on an ever-growing housing list.


Solidarity: Still no word from the mayor (East London)

10 04 2008

Daily Dispatch – 2008/04/09

RESIDENTS of informal settlements from Mdantsane, who marched to East London’s city hall last month to hand over a list of grievances to executive mayor Zintle Peter, are still waiting for a response.

Read the rest of this entry »

Solidarity: Court says: rebuild shacks or go to jail (Sowetan)

10 04 2008

Sowetan 9/4/2008
by Alex Matlala

The Pretoria high court has found the Blouberg municipality in Limpopo guilty of contempt of court after it failed to comply with two of its orders to rebuild shacks it demolished.

The court has for the third time ordered the municipality to rebuild them within 14 days or else councillors will be imprisoned or fined.

Read the rest of this entry »

Solidarity: Residents patch up houses as winter looms

10 04 2008

Solidarity from AEC:  The Anti-Eviction Campaign works with a number of communities (such as Newfields in Hanover Park) dealing with the corruption and mismanagement of the Cape Town Community Housing Company.  We post this in solidarity with all residents of council homes in Cape Town.

April 09 2008 at 07:40AM
Source: IOL

With repairs to their homes delayed by several months, some residents of the more than 2 400 faulty houses built by the Cape Town Community Housing Company have expressed their distress at the delay.

On Monday, company executive Fungai Mudimu told the city’s housing portfolio committee that the provincial housing department had agreed to pay the extra costs of repairs to houses in Manenberg, Philippi, Mitchells Plain and Gugulethu.

The costs had shot up from the initial R35-million to more than R90-million.  Sindiswa Mponze, who lives in Luyoloville, said many of her neighbours had refused to pay their rents of between R400 and R800 because of the shoddy construction.

‘There has not been a single winter where rain has not seeped through the roof or the walls’
“I moved into my house in 2001 and there has not been a single winter where rain has not seeped through the roof or the walls.

“How can they demand rent from me when we have to deal with this every winter?” Mponze said as she pointed out several cracks in her living room.

Some residents of Luyoloville, tired of waiting for teams to fix their homes, have attempted repairs with varying degrees of success, most of them by filling cracks with plaster and painting over damp walls.  Rizaan Young, whose Heideveld home was being repaired by an independent contractor, said her first winter in the house seven years ago had shown up the shoddiness of the construction.

“Before the repairs, there were two holes in the living room floor and my windows could not be shut properly as they had become rusted.”

Young said she was happy with the improvements to her house, which had included installing an insulated ceiling and waterproofing the inside and outer walls.  A foreman on the site said repairs included “lifting up” floors that were sagging and cracking.  Sagging ceilings were also being repaired. Waterjets were being used to strip off old paint before applying waterproof paint to walls.

“The main problem that tenants experienced was water penetration, especially during the winter,” said the foreman.

Solidarity: PASSOP Press Statement on Zimbabwe elections

10 04 2008

Press Statement for Immediate Release

April 9, 2008

PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty) completely condemns the abuse of government officials in Zimbabwe, they have manipulated the release of the official presidential electoral results in Zimbabwe. The current leadership has grossly abused their political positions to alter and postpone the electoral results.  The global community is fully aware of the results that were to be announced by the ZEC.  It is a disgrace that they were not permitted to do so by President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.

PASSOP also condemns war veterans and the youth militia emerging on the streets in Zimbabwe at this sensitive time.  Although their demonstrations have been peaceful, it is obvious they were meant to intimidate the public and the opposition. We further question if the same liberty to protest would have been provided to the MDC opposition party.  We also question whether, under Zimbabwe’s strict Gathering Act, the proper paperwork was done in order for such protests and demonstrations to be held or if the law is being selectively implemented to favour the current ruling party.  We appeal to the South African Government’s sense of justice. We encourage our government to be proactive and strongly condemn the hate speech, intimidation and bribery.  We further hope they will take the necessary steps to prevent a situation out of which genocide may arise in Zimbabwe. It is our view that mismanagement of the economy has resulted in a mass migration, into South Africa, of poor desperate Zimbabweans and that this is an attack on South Africa’s sovereignty, the Zimbabwean issue is one which South Africa has to involve itself, no longer can South Africa respect Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and pay for it by supporting Zimbabweans in South Africa.

We are preparing to protest.

For more information contact Braam Hanekom 0832561140

Police watchdog ‘toothless’

10 04 2008

Note from AEC: most AEC communities have experienced SAPS firsthand and therefore welcome the call for a stronger Independent Complaints Directorate.

by Adriaan Basson
07 April 2008 11:59
Source: Mail & Guardian

It is supposed to police South Africa’s cops, but the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) is severely understaffed, underpowered and mostly ignored by the men and women in blue.

Research released this week by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) suggests that the ICD is essentially a toothless body whose recommendations are shrugged off by the South African Police Service.

Commissioned by the ICD to establish compliance with its recommendations by the police service, the ISS scrutinised 573 dockets of complaints against police officers drawn from all nine provinces. The alleged offences included deaths in police custody, criminal acts by police officers and misconduct.

The ISS found that only in 58% of cases did the police comply with the ICD’s recommendations of disciplinary or criminal steps against members. In 25% of cases (143 investigations) the police ignored what the ICD found and did not reply to the directorate’s letters.

Non-compliance by the SAPS is possible because of a lack of legislative enforcement powers for the ICD. The directorate was established in 1993 when the interim constitution made provision for an “independent mechanism under civilian control with the object of ensuring that complaints in respect of offences and misconduct allegedly committed by members of the [police service] are investigated in an effective and efficient manner”.

The 1996 Constitution only briefly refers to the ICD, while the South African Police Service Act only empowers the ICD to investigate alleged offences by police members and make recommendations to the police commissioner concerned.

Relationship with SAPS
The ISS identified six problem areas that have to be overcome for the ICD to be an efficient investigating body:

Although the relationship between the ICD and police management at the top levels is good there is distrust between ICD and SAPS members at middle and lower levels. “There is evidence of poor personal relationships in some areas, mutual distrust, perceptions of an attitude of superiority by the police towards the ICD and a perceived reluctance by some police managers to act against members, notwithstanding ICD recommendations,” the report reads.

Police officers and ICD staff interviewed identified as problematic the fact that both bodies report to the same minister — Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula. This is perceived as a conflict of interest that impacts negatively on the independence and credibility of the ICD.

The lack of legal authority that compels the SAPS to report back on ICD recommendations. Currently the ICD can only make recommendations to the police regarding punitive steps.

The “general practice” of the police is not to respond to written communication from the ICD or to respond “irregularly”.

The absence of a prescribed coordinating mechanism between the ICD and the SAPS, which hampers the liaison between the two organisations. “In practice this has led to situations where there is either no contact or contact only via correspondence.”

The ICD is “frustrated with the police practice to first wait for the conclusion of a criminal trial before they consider the possibility of departmental steps against an accused member”.

The ISS has found that essential information is often missing from ICD case files. This happens to the extent that in some investigations researchers could not determine the names, gender or race of alleged perpetrators or complainants.

In 138 (24%) of the cases investigated because of “missing information” or information “left out” the ISS could not establish whether the SAPS did or did not comply with the ICD’s recommendations.

Severely understaffed
The ISS also finds that the ICD is severely understaffed, with only 247 (46%) of its positions filled. Of the 247 staffers only 100 are investigators who are actively involved in groundwork. That means one investigator per 1 630 police officers.

“The ICD is severely understaffed, especially when considering the increasing numbers of SAPS members. In addition, the investigators who fulfil the core mandate of the ICD need increased administrative support to effectively carry out their duties.”

Their efficiency is also restricted by a lack of vehicles to attend crime scenes and court hearings.

It emerged at the ISS discussion this week that the ICD was requested by government to open an additional 43 satellite offices, but only had money for two. “How can we be effective if we don’t have the resources?” asked one ICD staffer.

The ISS suggests a separate act, dealing specifically with the ICD, its powers and the ability to compel the police service to report back on what it has done with the directorate’s recommendations.

It is further recommended that the ICD and the SAPS report to different ministers or that a special parliamentary oversight committee be established to deal with ICD matters.

The ISS also argues for regular inspections by the ICD at police offices to monitor the outcome and impact of ICD investigations, for greater clarity on the referral of investigations to and from the police and for in-service training of police officers to prevent them from transgressing and that SAPS disciplinary hearings be attended by external police members who are not attached to the office of the accused officer.