Opinion: Listen to the shack-dwellers

24 06 2009
Source: Mail & Guardian

Tens of thousands of shack-dwellers in South Africa are doomed to be evicted to transit camps.

Last week the Constitutional Court gave the green light for the eviction of 20 000 people from Cape Town’s Joe Slovo settlement to make way for the N2 Gateway Project. Most residents are to be relocated to the Delft temporary relocation area (TRA).

In 2005, 2 400 families from Langa, Cape Town, were relocated to a camp called Tsunami. In Johannesburg, 6 400 families in Protea South, Soweto, fought a plan to move them to a decant camp in 2007. In Durban, 52 families in Siyanda, KwaMashu, were evicted in December last year and moved to a transit camp to make way for a new freeway. Read the rest of this entry »

Bio of famous New Zealand anti-apartheid activist who is to visit AEC communities today

14 04 2009

AEC Note: Famous anti-apartheid activist John Minto will be visiting Anti-Eviction Campaign communities on April 14 and April 15.  He will be sleeping on Symphony Way today (April 14) in solidarity with the Symphony Way residents.  He can be interviewed in person on Symphony Way between April 14 at 15h00 and April 15 at 10h00.

To interview Mr Minto and for more information, contact Ashraf at 076 186 1408 or Mncedisi at 079 305 1066 between the hours of 15h00 today and 10h00 tomorrow.

Short bio on John Minto:

John Minto is visiting to South Africa for two weeks from 12 to 26 April.

John is a political activist who was spokesperson for HART – the New Zealand Anti-Apartheid Movement during the 1980s and was the public face of the campaign to stop the 1981 Springbok tour to New Zealand. (He was arrested numerous times during the protests and has a medium-sized criminal record!)

Early last year there was public controversy when he wrote a letter to Thabo Mbeki rejecting a nomination for the Companion of OR Tambo Award as he said the anti-apartheid campaign was not waged simply to enrich a few black millionaires but to bring economic and social change to benefit all South Africans (M&G article).

He is very critical of the economic policies of the ANC, in particular it’s reliance on free-market strategies which wherever they have been applied bring wealth to the few at the expense of the many.

After completing a physics degree John trained as a high school teacher and has taught most of the last 25 years. However he currently works for Unite Union – a trade union for low-paid workers in New Zealand. He is a spokesperson for Global Peace and Justice Auckland and the Quality Public Education Coalition.

It is John’s first visit to South Africa. The main purpose of the visit is to see first hand the development of post-apartheid South Africa and meet with groups struggling for a better deal under ANC policies. For example he will visit groups such as Abahlali baseMjondolo (the Durban-based shack-dwellers movement), Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Anti-Privatisation Forum and meet with union representatives and activists in Ditsela (Development Institute for Training, Support and Education for Labour). He will address two university-based seminars – in Durban and East London.

He will also be meeting with South African activists from the sports boycott era.

John is 55 years old with two teenage boys and lives in Auckland.

The purple shall govern – again!

7 10 2007
October 7, 2007 at 9:57 pm
Source: Afrodissent

ON A PAVEMENT in Burg Street, Cape Town, stands a double-sided graphic by renowned artist Conrad Botes (of Bitterkomix fame) commemorating the last protest march to be actively opposed by the apartheid regime in 1989.

During the staged sit-in, one of the protesters climbed onto a police vehicle and sprayed dye (meant to make the identification of protesters easier) from the mounted cannon onto the police, daubing the surrounding buildings in purple. The following day of the march, graffiti around Cape Town announced “The purple shall govern.” The next time a protest occurred in Cape Town, marchers were allowed to protest without police repression.

The memorial is part of a Sunday Times centenary heritage project and is remarkably relevant artwork, perhaps reminding us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On Thursday morning I watched hundreds – if not thousands – of marchers streaming in a joyous, ululating fashion through Cape Town station’s concourse. They were residents of the Joe Slovo informal settlement on their way to the Cape High Court where they are seeking to prevent their forced removal to Delft. The land the residents currently inhabit is to make way for the next phase in the N2 Gateway development (which the current Joe Slovo residents will not be benefiting from).

A few weeks ago, Joe Slovo residents protested violently, occupying the N2 highway for several hours. This column is not an attempt vindicate their behaviour, yet their actions – seen in a certain light – are understandable. It says much about the post-apartheid political landscape. We are faced with an increasingly disillusioned populace who are tired of the ANC’s empty promises. Frustration, steadily mounting at the appalling state of service delivery in South Africa, is sowing the seeds of explosive dissent which has not only been expressed that September day on the N2 but also in many townships across South Africa before that.

Government is out of touch with its electorate. Lindiwe Sisulu’s (who occupies the unenviable position of housing minister) haughty approach to the Joe Slovo crisis only serves to confirm this. Service delivery is clearly not a priority in a government obsessed with political survival against the backdrop of sordid succession race that is steadily tearing the ruling party apart.

Government’s indifference is not the only concern – so is the way service delivery protests are being treated by the police. In townships across South Africa, cases of violent (and incidentally illegal) police repression is being documented by the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI). In a press release on the institute’s website, police reactions to a protest over housing in the township of Protea South is described:

Maureen Mnisi, a community leader and Gauteng Chairperson of the Landless People’s Movement, was arrested while trying to speak with the media. She and at least five other community members were taken into custody and released, without being charged, after spending the night in jail. FXI staff overheard a police captain admitting that he had “always wanted to arrest” Mnisi.

We were shocked by the police violence. SAPS members fired at random towards the protesters, leaving the pavement covered with the blue casings of rubber bullets. Police also deployed a helicopter and water cannon, and we saw at least two officers using live ammunition. One Protea South resident, Mandisa Msewu, was shot in the mouth by a rubber bullet, and several other residents were attended to by paramedics due to police violence.

The release goes on to explain that this is not an isolated incident, and cites examples from other areas.

The authoritarian – and more often than not unconstitutional – reaction to service delivery protests would suggest a frightened government at war with its own people. It is startlingly reminiscent of the previous regime’s brutal approach to protests and possibly explains our limp stance on oppressive basket cases like Zimbabwe and Burma.

South Africans fought for their rights once, and they will do so again. The sooner the government realises this the better.


“The day the purple governed”The Sunday Times
“Police repression in Protea South an indicator of a national trend” – FXI