Interview with Symphony Way about their new book

10 03 2011

** Special interview by 3CR Community Radio in Melbourne, Australia.  They interviewed the Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers on their new book: No Land! No House! No Vote! Voices from Symphony Way

** Click link to download the interview which is in .m4a format *

Book synopsis:

Many outside South Africa imagine that after Mandela was freed and the ANC won free elections all was well. But the last two decades have led to increased poverty and inequality. Although a few black South Africans have become wealthy, for many the struggle against apartheid never ended because the ethos of apartheid continues to live.

Early in 2007 hundreds of families living in shacks in Cape Town were moved into houses they had been waiting for since the end of apartheid. But soon they were told that the move had been illegal and they were kicked out of their new homes. They built shacks next to the road opposite the housing project and hundreds organised themselves into the Symphony Way Anti-Eviction Campaign, vowing to stay on the road until the government gave them permanent housing.

This anthology is both testimony and poetry. There are stories of justice miscarried, of violence domestic and public, of bigotry and xenophobia. But amid the horror there is beauty: relationships between aunties, husbands, wives and children; daughters named Hope and Symphony. This book is a means to dignity, a way for the poor to reflect and be reflected. It is testimony that there’s thinking in the shacks, that there are humans who dialogue, theorise and fight to bring about change.

** Click link to download the interview which is in .m4a format *


“The Symphony Way pavement dwellers are the voices of struggle from below – of the landless, homeless and shelterless. The book is a compelling testimony to the ingenuity of the people to organise themselves and invent ever-newer forms of struggle. In their summation of ‘No land! No home! No vote!’ the pavement dwellers are denying what is an oppressive state, despite its democratic pretensions, the means to legitimise itself – the vote.
– Issa Shivji, Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan African Studies, University of Dar es Salaam

“I put the telephone off and went to the local park to read the manuscript this afternoon. It was an extraordinary experience. This book really does capture something of the texture of an actually existing popular struggle.”
– Richard Pithouse, Department of Politics and International Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa

“The Symphony Way occupation was a real attempt at an insurgent and tenacious solidarity against increasingly exclusionary and brutal society. It was an experiment at the outer limits of the often innovative and courageous grassroots militancies that have emerged in South Africa in recent years. This book is an experiment at the outer limits of radical publishing. It gives invaluable and often moving insight into the lived experience of the occupation. All the tenacity, beauty, pain, desperation and contradictions that breathe their life into any popular struggle haunt the pages of this searing book that must, if we are to do it justice, inspire rebellion against the social logic that dismisses some of us as less than others.”
– Richard Pithouse, Department of Politics and International Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa

“There are moments of excitement when one recognises transformational action is already ongoing and moments of recognition that new ways of knowing are being produced. This is one of those moments. An extraordinary collection of writings from the spirit of resilience and strength of the collective which lay bare the betrayal of the people in post-apartheid South Africa.”
– Sokari Ekine, author and award-winning blogger

“This book carries not only the suffering of the Symphony Way communities but of the millions of poor people of the world. I, in my capacity as a leader of South Africa’s Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement, commend this work of political empowerment of the poor by the poor. We all know that when the poor gain their power through mass mobilisation, it is often violently resisted by elites and that any social progress will be hard won and at considerable personal cost. It is through this courage that we can all hope for the real struggle that intends to put human beings at the centre of our society.”
– S’bu Zikode, a leader of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement, South Africa

“A magnificent and moving account of a long and hard fought struggle over not simply the space of the pavement and for social justice in the post-apartheid city No Land, No House, No Vote is a clarion call for basic of human rights and for human dignity. A powerful insider’s view into the landscape of poverty in neoliberal South Africa.”
– Professor Michael Watts, director of African Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, author of Curse of the Black Gold.

“Voices from Symphony Way evinces a world-weary longing that stretches back through the history of class struggle and should evoke a storm of protest worldwide. These powerful and poignant testimonies that have emerged from the blockade of Symphony Way are voices ensepulchered by the South African state yet they refuse to be silenced, voices that are struggling against great odds for a future of human dignity, voices that cannot be stopped by razor wire or police vans, or choked into submission by pepper spray or batons. In attempting to sweep away the detritus of apartheid, the South African government is merely echoing the brutality of its former colonisers. This is a story of horror conjugated with hope, compellingly told with a brutal directness and an eloquence that often springs up from the abysms of despair.”
– Professor Peter McLaren, University of California, Los Angeles, author of Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Pedagogy of Revolution

“It is hard to be heard above the din of mainstream debate in contemporary South Africa, with its heavy doses of elite squabbling, white middle class angst, and celebrations of consumerism. But of course the reality is that the majority of the people in the country of my birth live on a planet far removed from the one reflected in most of our public discourse, a planet where they struggle to maintain even very basic lives. This book – unmediated, raw, written in the voices of ordinary, marginal people rebuilding communities and reclaiming democracy in small ways – points to the hard, cold struggle South Africans still face to achieve full citizenship in their own country.”
– Sean Jacobs, born on the Cape Flats, teaches international affairs at The New School in Manhattan

“To read this book is to be humbled by the crassness of our presumption as middle-class African journalists and activists to know the best interests of those deliberately excluded from ‘Mandela’s Miracle’, the poorest amongst us. We thought we were telling their tale of painful transition fairly, but here we are surpassed, and now the people themselves speak truth to power – including our own. In this, the world’s most unequal society, it is a direct, revolutionary challenge to hear the voices of the poor on their own terms – not mangled by the way we would prefer them to speak, but unfiltered. Their truths, spoken with their hearts on their sleeves and in their sharp vernacular tongue, fly straight to the heart of the matter: the betrayal of hope by the shadowy forces behind a false dawn of ‘liberation’; and the transcending belief in the popular classes’ common destiny as the lever that can – and will – shift the burden of our history to create a more equal society.”
– Michael Schmidt, journalist and co-author of Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism




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