Urgent appeal for food aid for Delft roadside

26 03 2008
By Aziz Hartley
Source: Cape Times
25 March 2008

With aid dwindling fast for the more than 300 destitute families squatting next to a Delft main road, the Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) has made an urgent appeal for food assistance, particularly for small children.

Available milk and bread was distributed to families, but it was not enough to provide nutritious meals for about 500 children, many of them babies, AEC leader Ashraf Cassiem said yesterday. The 346 families were among about 1 000 evicted from N2 Gateway houses they had illegally occupied.

“The situation is becoming more dire by the day and is aggravated by a shortage of water. Access to four water points was easy until a fence was erected and people got cut off. We have to ask a contracting company on a housing site to let us have some of their water.

“The children are our main concern. Any assistance such as vegetables, fruit and cereals will be welcomed. The situation is bad here, but we try very hard to make things as comfortable as possible. Adults are content, but it is their children they don’t want to see suffer.

“With schools closed for the holidays, we have programmes for children, but there are no resources. Anything will help,” Cassiem said and added that there were about 300 pupils, 60 toddlers and 48 babies.

Wheelchair-bound pensioner Maria Davids said: “We try to make a way for the children to eat before we worry about ourselves. Milk and bread is fine, but children need proper nutrition. We hope and pray all this suffering comes to and end and that we’ll get a proper house. Conditions are a bit better than at the time we were thrown out on the street, but I’m worried what will happen if the rain comes, because the canvas over our heads is full of holes.”

The AEC is to have a follow-up meeting on Wednesday with provincial housing authorities.

Cassiem said the meeting was to get the housing department’s confirmation that the families’ housing subsidy applications had been registered. “We met the department last Tuesday when it undertook to check the names we gave them with that on the list of housing company Thubelisha Homes,” Cassiem said.

Provincial housing department spokesman Vusi Tshose, said: “We did not want all those people to stand in the sun and wait, because it takes time to process more than 200 applications. We agreed that on Wednesday they will return, so that by then the department will be able to say whose subsidy applications had been registered and whose should still be registered.

“If it is found that they have applied for a subsidy, they will be treated the same as all other people who have applied and who are on a list.”

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#2 – Pavement children speak from the heart and urge compassion from Lindiwe Sisulu

25 03 2008

Attached you will find a second batch of Letters from the Delft children who are living on the pavement of Symphony Way. Representatives from Delft Symphony are planning to hand over the children’s 42 letters at a meeting with provincial housing officials.  For the first batch, please see the previous article here.

The second batch can be found here:

Also attached, you will find a letter from one of the adult pavement dwellers. She was inspired to write her letter by 8 year old Nikita who was the first child to write a letter to Lindiwe Sisulu.





Delft Update: Pavement children speak from the heart and urge compassion from Lindiwe Sisulu

23 03 2008

Monday, 24 March, 2008 (Easter)

A few days ago, Nikita McQuena, 8 year old child decided she was tired of the South African government ignoring her parents and the other adults living on the pavement of Symphony Way in Delft. Nikita, a fiery little girl who speaks isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English, is not quite sure which racial category she might fit under and brushes aside the inciting racism of party politics. She thought that if the government, the media, and wealthy South Africans refused to listen to the pleas of poor adults, maybe they would be moved by her words and those of the other children living on the Delft Symphony pavement.

Nikita says that she does not care for political parties such as the ANC and DA who continually promise to give her parents a house during election time, but never fulfill these promises. She says that her mother has been waiting patiently on the wait-list for over 15 years. However, she has trouble understanding how a few elite South African can drive fancy cars, have holiday homes, and travel all over the world, while the rest of South Africa struggles to put food on the table or a roof over their heads.

In the first page of the document below, you will find Nikita’s letter to the Minister of Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu. After writing this letter, Nikita – who is on a personal mission to appeal to the heart of government bureaucracy – organised over 30 other children and helped them write their own personal letters to Sisulu.

It is a tragedy children of this age, instead of enjoying their childhood, have to constantly worry about things like housing, food and education – all human rights guaranteed in South Africa’s constitution. But, at the same time, its heartening to see children of all ages demanding their rights. If Nikita is any indication of South Africa’s future, then we can have hope that the oppression of the poor will one day be abolished.

For more information, please contact Ashraf at 076-186-1408 or Auntie Jane at 078-403-1302

Nikita McQuena speaking to Delft Residents

Nikita McQuena speaking to Delft Residents 





Cape High Court Orders Eviction of Joe Slovo Shack Settlement; Residents Vow to Resist

16 03 2008

A Report for Abahlali baseMjondolo by Kerry Chance

Monday, March 10 2008, CAPE TOWN – Cape Judge President John Hlophe ordered residents of the Joe Slovo shack settlement to be evicted from their homes in Langa and relocated to Delft, as part of the N2 Gateway Project. Thousands of shack dwellers from Langa, as well as some from Delft, congregated at the steps of the Cape Town High Court to express their opposition to the eviction. They carried signs that read, “If We Lose, We Will Appeal” and “We Will Resist the Red Ants.”

In the packed courtroom, singing could be heard from the remaining crowd outside. Following the decision on Monday, shack dwellers shouted “Phansi Hlophe!” and “Phansi [Housing Minister] Lindiwe Sisulu!” An Anti-Eviction Campaign banner was raised at the front of the crowd that read: “Down with Evictions, Water Cut Offs, & Privatisation, Forward to Community Struggles. Phambili! No Land, No House, No Vote.” Approximately a thousand residents returned to Joe Slovo settlement for a mass meeting to discuss a “resistance Plan B” and the possibility of further legal action in the Bloemfontein Court of Appeal. Residents expressed their solidarity with Delft backyarders, some of whom also attended the meeting.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, in a press release, referred to the decision on Monday as “bureaucratic madness.” Joe Slovo residents “do not want to go” to Delft, but “there are thousands of backyarders in Delft who need the housing being built there,” stated the press release. Currently, Delft backyarders are living on the pavement alongside new, empty houses. Backyarders previously occupied the new houses and were violently ejected from them last month. The houses are now encircled with barbed wire fencing, and patrolled by private security and metro police.

Joe Slovo shack dwellers will not be guaranteed occupancy of new houses in Delft, but rather will be placed in “temporary accommodation,” for an unspecified period of time. Residents already relocated to the Delft “temporary accommodation” found that it was made with cancer-causing asbestos, now a matter of investigation. Complaints also have been lodged that the “accommodation” was defective in a variety of other ways, including huge cracks in the walls and leaking roofs.

The land in Langa, where Joe Slovo shack dwellers have lived for at least nineteen years, will be used for bonded flats, which are too expensive for current residents. Construction of the bonded flats is already underway. Unlike the land in Langa, Delft – dubbed the “Delft Karoo” for its sandy, barren landscape – has no train station, transport costs are high, and it is far from the city centre and Langa, where residents respectively work and children attend school. An estimated 6 000 people will be affected by the eviction order.

In his decision, Judge Hlophe directed Joe Slovo residents to assist in the removal of their homes, and gave authority to the Sheriff to enforce the order. Residents are required to vacate the land in accordance with a timetable, reported the Cape Times, beginning on March 17 and ending on January 19, 2009 – in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. In the courtroom, Judge Hlophe cited no reason for the eviction, but directed residents to the fifty page judgment to read his decision in its entirety.

The case against Joe Slovo residents, who were represented in Court by the Legal Resources Centre, was brought by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Western Cape Housing MEC Richard Dyantyi and Thubelisha Homes, a company in partnership with government and the manger of the N2 Gateway Project, responsible for building the new houses in Delft and the “temporary accommodation.” Judge Hlophe said in his decision that the company and the government are to file affidavits to the courts every eight weeks to report on the implementation of his eviction and relocation orders.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign stated in a press release, “The residents of Joe Slovo wish to make it clear that this is just the beginning of the struggle.”

On the same day that Judge Hlophe handed down his judgment the report of Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, on his mission to South Africa was released. It is not uninteresting to compare the two documents.





No compassion for people who do not drive a Porsche?

16 03 2008

by Pierre De Vos (Professor of Constitutional Law at UWC)
Source: Constitutionally Speaking

One would think that it would have been hard for Judge President of the Cape, John Hlophe, to order the forced eviction of 20 000 poor, black people from the Joe Slovo informal settlement. After all, when he was in trouble for taking hundreds of thousands of Rand from the Oasis company and then lied about the reasons for these “out of pocket” expenses, he presented himself as a champion of transformation and a victim of racism.

But I suppose now that he is safely back in the saddle and he can enjoy his ownership of a wine farm while driving in a shiny new black Porsche, he has forgotten the values of the Constitution that requires him to consider the human dignity of the poor people whose forced eviction he has now ordered. Who cares that the order will destroy this community and that the people now living close to work opportunities will be dumped in the gramadoelas in Delft?

Yesterday the judge President handed down a judgment in Thubelisa Homes and Others v Various Occupants and Others that seems to me completely devoid of compassion and also legally misguided because it essentially ignores recent decisions by the Constitutional Court, while purporting to follow them. Thubelisa Homes applied for the eviction order so that it could bulldoze the shacks next the the N2 before erecting shiny new homes where only a few of the original occupants of the informal settlement will ever live.

The starting point of the judgment is that the residence of Joe Slovo – who have been living on the land since 1994 and have been given tacit approval for living there by the authorities – are unlawfully occupying the land needed for a vanity housing project (the N2 Gateway project) and that it would therefore be fine to remove them to Delft because it would actually “undoubtedly [be] for the benefit of the residents of the informal settlement and in line with the Constitutional values”. These pesky residence just do not want to know what is good for them. Obviously bureaucrats and a judge driving a Porsche knows much better what is good for them than they would know themselves. After all they are only poor and black.

The judgment refers to an earlier Constitutional Court judgment in the Port Elizabeth Municipality case where justice Albie Sachs stated that a court should be reluctant to grant an eviction order against relatively settled occupiers unless it is satisfied that a reasonable alternative is available. Thus, Justice Sachs continued, the legislation expressly requires:

the court to infuse elements of grace and compassion into the formal structures of the law. It is called upon to balance competing interests in a principled way and to promote the constitutional vision of a caring society based on good neighbourliness and shared concern. The Constitution and PIE confirm that we are not islands unto ourselves. The spirit of ubuntu, part of the deep cultural heritage of the majority of the population, suffuses the whole constitutional order. It combines individual rights with a communitarian philosophy.

But the judgment then approvingly quotes from the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment (handed down by that champion of transformation, Harms ADP) in City of Johannesburg v Rand Properties (since overtaken by the Constitutional Court judgment two weeks ago!) to the effect that the Constitution does not give a person a right to housing at State expense at a locality of that person’s choice and concludes that it is fair and reasonable to dump the 20 000 Joe Slovo residence in Delft – even though it is 15 kilometers from Joe Slovo, far away from the city center of Cape Town.

This line of reasoning is perplexing, to say the least, as the Constitutional Court in the City of Johannesburg case in effect overruled the SCA judgment by ordering the parties to negotiate with one another and by implicitly accepting that it would not be humane or in conformity with a respect for the human dignity of the inner city dwellers to dump them at alternative accommodation 35 km outside of town. In that judgment Justice Yacoob stressed that the human dignity of those affected by removal must be respected and that their views must be heard.

This seems to imply that high handed and unilateral action by officials or judges telling people what is good for them will not suffice. A real and meaningful engagement is required and merely telling the people of Joe Slovo that it was in their own interest to be dumped in godforsaken Delft would not be good enough. What is sorely lacking in the Hlophe judgment is the “grace and compassion” that Justice Sachs spoke about.

For me what permeates the judgment is a complete lack of compassion for the plight of the Joe Slovo residence. There might be a case to be made to upgrade the Joe Slovo informal settlement, but then it should surely be done within the confines of the Constitutional values of dignity and respect. By repeating over and over that the Joe Slovo residence are living unlawfully on the land, the judgment seems to suggest that they are criminals who are thus less deserving of concern, compassion and respect.

It accepts that the government policy that would force most Joe Slovo residence to permanently live far away from their places of work is completely reasonable because the government says that it is reasonable. It emphasises the need for the court to respect the separation of powers and thus suggests that the court should take at face value assurances by the government that it would be better for Joe Slovo residence to be moved. It completely ignores the fact that the Joe Slovo residence do not think it would be better for them to go and live in the veld.

It is hard to argue that “elements of grace and compassion” animate the conception of reasonableness in this case. It suggests that it is perfectly acceptable for the state to forcibly remove a large group of people who have been living on a piece of land for thirteen years merely because the government of the day has decided this is what needs to happen.

Maybe I am too harsh on the judgment, but it seems to me that given our history in which the apartheid government forcibly removed people at the drop of a hat, courts should be extremely sensitive to give eviction orders where such a large group of people will be moved and their lives disrupted for ever. In this case there is a complete absence of this historical perspective.

To my mind it once again shows the difficulties of judicial transformation and poses questions about what kind of judges we need on the bench. Surely real judicial transformation requires judges who are sensitive to the needs of the poor and destitute and at least an honest engagement with their fears and complaints. In this judgment there is a complete absence of such engagement and the Joe Slovo residence and their needs are completely ignored. They are treated as recalcitrant individuals standing in the way of the government housing programme and their needs and wishes are completely ignored.

Before the law they have once again become invisible. They are not treated as individual human beings with feelings and needs but merely as a problem to be dealt with. What we need are more judges who really wrestle with the very difficult issues presented by gentrification of informal settlements and the real hurt and pain of forced removals. This is what the Constitution – as interpreted by the Constitutional Court, not the SCA – requires.

Perhaps this is too much to ask of a judge who might experience this informal settlement on the N2 as an eyesore and a stumbling block to progress – even as he speeds to his wine farm in his shiny Porsche.





Press Update: Two newborn babies living on side of road in Delft with 300 other children

15 03 2008

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) Press Update                                                                                                      Friday 14 March 2008 at 5pm

DELFT, CAPE TOWN – The AEC is again making an urgent appeal for food for the 3000 plus “non-DA supporters” living outside on Symphony Way, Delft.  The 3000 include two newborn babies, born yesterday and the day before, and 32 babies under one year old. There are well over 200 toddlers and children over one year old living there too.
The AEC is also living with the people on the road and is making a strong appeal for food for the 300 children. Right now, we have only onions and two large gas tanks (supplied today by Islamic Relief). The police and city police are still blocking, through use of a checkpoint, all delivery of any other food or relief stuff.
Just metres away, a much smaller group of Delft evicted people who are DA supporters have been provided by the city with tents and hot meals daily. When an organisation contracted by the city to feed this group has food left over, they continue to throw it away into the bushes even though they were already photographed doing this shameful thing.
The AEC particularly appeals for bread, samp, beans, jam and any other tinned foods for the 300 children on Symphony Way.
Of course, the ANC and ID and other political parties are also doing nothing to support the 3000 people living on Symphony Way. These 3000 are depending on the efforts of progressives in the city to mobilise support for them.
It is very important that they are supported because this will send a strong message to the DA City that people are not pawns who will willingly be used in their dirty game to win the province from the ANC in next year’s election. Similarly, the people are showing the ANC that even though the ANC has ridden totally roughshod over them in implementing the N2 Gateway Housing Project, they will remain steadfast and visible in their struggle for decent housing.
Please contact Ashraf Cassiem urgently if you can supply anything for this community – call 076 1861408




Pictures: Joe Slovo judgement – March 10, 2008

13 03 2008