Solidarity: Evicted People live on the Roadside for 7 months

3 03 2009

Not more than a kilometre from the Lanseria Airport stands a big striped tent and some makeshift shacks, along the R512 road. For seven months now families have lived on the roadside, they were evicted from the adjacent farm last July. More than 34 families were victims; most have disappeared into the sprawling squatter camp of Diepsloot. Those who are still on the roadside refuse to disappear. Their presence is their dignified resistance; they have chosen to rather live on the roadside than be forgotten with the many nameless, history less in the squatter camp.
Pricilla Masilo was born on the farm in 1943; her parents worked, died and were buried on the farm. She tells of how the security companies arrived without warning, they demolished houses; damaged furniture and stole some of their belongings under the protection of the police. By then, she had built herself (without any assistance from government) an eight-roomed brick house which was brought to the ground in minutes. Now she is being reduced to a destitute who lives in a tent on the side of a road, without water, food or ablution facilities. The evicted families lost everything. Mama Mashilo’s dignity comes from her undying spirit of resistance, “I want to go back”, is her defiant refrain.

Landless alive and landless in death!

Mama Mashilo tells her sad story without self pity. The only time she breaks down and cries is when she tells of how Avbob, the funeral services company, through the instruction of the land owner has desecrated their graves. All 56 graves have now been successfully exhumed. She talks about disrespect for the dead, and how the bones were exposed, mixed up and taken away. The evictees don’t know where the bones of their ancestors are re-buried or stored.

But what does the law say?

The law permits dispossession: Judge Fikile Bam, one of the struggle heroes of Apartheid, granted a consent order which authorised the eviction. Mama Mahilo and the other families deny strongly that they ever agreed to move from the farm voluntarily and to settle in Adelaid Tambo Emergency Settlement. They are long-term occupiers who in terms of the law cannot be evicted. Truth is, the property rights of the white owner and huge developers tramp the dignity of blacks. Judge Bam first dismissed the urgent application brought by Mama Masilo and her co-occupiers to rescind the so called “consent order” and secondly does not respond to the requests of Masilo’s lawyers to grant them a pre-trial to continue with the case. Because he is the judge President of the land claims court, Masilo and her family find themselves in a terrible predicament – and do not have a choice but to take drastic steps against Judge Bam in order for this case to be heard.

Why the eviction?

All this pain so that a new up-market cluster housing development can take place, golf course included.

What has the government done?

Mama Mashilo tells the story better; “they all pass here, Mbeki, Zuma, I mean all of them”. She says, “They simply look the other way”. The huge white and blue tent can’t be missed on the roadside. The DA apparently arrived and said the people must go join the squatter camp. The Gauteng Department of Land Affairs and Joburg Metropolitan council also know about these people, in fact a brand new squatter camp has been build ironically called Adelaid Tambo which serves as damping ground for the evicted around Lensaria. The poor are on their own!

What we would like see happen?

1. All the families returning to their land without being criminalised or shot at (as is the case in many other similar situations).
2. All exhumed bodies returned and buried where they were.
3. Compensation for all the losses, pain and suffering

Note: In the past 15 years almost all cases of this nature have been won by white capital and the protector of its interests, government. It’s very likely that what we’re demanding will fall on deaf ears but we have no option but to keep fighting.

Why is this particular case so important?

Shit like this happens to black folk all the time. This case is no different to people being forcefully removed for platinum or shopping malls. We’re just doing what we can.

We also question the roll of the Johannesburg Municipality and would like to know if Adelaide Tambo Emergency Settlement was established in order for the big developers to have a dumping ground for occupiers. A number of similar cases are been fought in court in the Lanseria area. Not the developers, white landowners or the municipality have any intention to make provision for poor people to stay on and be part of these developments. Many poor people have a long history on the land, but despite this and the governments “paper – policy “ of integrated suburbs these people are dumped on Adelaide Tambo Emergency Settlement – very near to a huge sewerage works – and forgotten off.

· Pay a solidarity visit to the tent people on R512 close to Lensaria Airport.

· Ask the municipality what there involvement is and why Adelaide Tambo Emergency Settlement was established.

· Question who is financing these developments and ask them for answers.

· Prevent the same thing from happening at the new planned Cradle City Development.

Blackwash stumbled upon a story of sorrow and official neglect. Once we have seen we can’t un-see. Once we know, we can’t un-know. We must all do what we can because we are somehow responsible.

· blackwashproject@gmail.com to find out more

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