ANC on a downward mission in Kliptown

Tuesday 24 June 2008 by Ahmed

The African National Congress (ANC) retraces its roots to the signing of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown on the 26th June 1955 while betraying the people who live there

Empty Promises of the People’s Conversion

"WE, THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA, DECLARE FOR ALL OUR COUNTRY AND THE WORLD TO KNOW: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people; - that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality; - that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities; - that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthrights without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief; And therefore, we the people of South Africa, black and white together - equals, countrymen and brothers - adopt this Freedom Charter. And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes set out here have been won."

Many of the leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) are embarking on a downward mission of visiting the informal settlement of Kliptown to listen to the voices of the poor. This is a political mission to reclaim the confidence of the people of Kliptown as they have failed to deliver services for the people since they took power in 1994. What is important about this visit is that it coincides with the historic signing of the Freedom Charter on the 26th of June 1955 in Kliptown, the day that symbolizes the dream and aspirations of a non-racial, free South Africa. This was an historic achievement by the oppressed people of the country under the violent and brutal force that created a system of separate development. Today we see the political leaders of the ANC (Mayor Amos Masondo and Jacob Zuma) coming down to the people of Kliptown to repeat what they declared almost 58 years ago. Johannesburg mayor, Amos Masondo, was invited by the community of Kliptown on the 6th February 2008 to a People’s Inspection but he failed to come down to the people, yet he still had the indecency to tell the media that he didn’t receive an invitation. He was also invited on several occasions to receive a community petition on the vote of no confidence in the local ward councilors but he never responded. On the 18th June 2008, to the amazement of the people, he visited Kliptown accompanied by the Greater Kliptown Development Forum (GKDF) in a grand tour around Kliptown.

Crisis of housing

Many of the residents demanded that the mayor fast track the process of the development of houses in the area while making it clear that the people of Kliptown are not willing to be relocated to another area. Some of the residents have been living in the area since the early 1940s when their parents settled there and whose children today face the similar danger of not getting proper houses. One woman indicated in the meeting that her shack burnt down on the previous day and no official responded to her plight. She is now living with her neighbors who have given her and her eight-month old baby girl temporary accommodation.

The Kliptown residents also told the mayor on his grand tour of Kliptown that they want to be given ownership of the houses that are built on the old Pimville golf course. The mayor’s response was that people who have been on the 1996 housing waiting list would be given priority for occupation. He also reported that the City has budgeted more than R710-million for the development of housing in Kliptown and that the City is committed to service delivery. The mayor indicated that the people should be involved in the Integrated Development Programmed (IDP) at their local level as it outlines the City’s plan in terms of development in the area. The current IDP implementation period is from June 2008 until June 2012 with a housing allocation of R10-million for all the wards in Kliptown. Mayor Amos Masondo could only say what the City is planning to do but he failed to state when the plans will be implemented - just as many other politicians (Premier Sam Shilowa, MEC of Housing Nomvula Mokonyane, MMC of Housing Strike Ralekgoma, MEC of Department Social and Welfare Zola Skweyiya) have done in years past. The community is impatient with the situation of immobility that prevails, and will mobilize for their rights to decent housing and basic services.

Water and sanitation

There was an outbreak of cholera in April but the City of Johannesburg together with Johannesburg Water continue to claim that the drinking water is 100% safe. Yet, Johannesburg Water embarked on a mission to distribute water purifying bleach in the area, advising people to boil their drinking water. They will not admit the water is contaminated because they will then be culpable for the deaths of two residents. Residents have for many years said that there needs to be proper infrastructure for the development of the area. The real situation is that 45,000 families are allocated more or less thirty communal taps in the area. The Mayor of Johannesburg and the Premier of Gauteng have both declared that eradicating the bucket system in the province, and in Kliptown particularly, would be dealt with as a priority. But what has been done so far is the deployment of the very VIP toilets that the community is opposing. We all have to remember that Mayor Amos Masondo opposed the recent High Court ruling on prepaid water meters. Judge M.P. Tsoka ordered that the residents be given freedom of choice about what type of system they want in their own yard.

Political games

The main reason that the ANC leaders are coming to Kliptown is that the national elections around the corner in 2009 and they want to reassure the people that the ANC is a caring organisation. Currently, the City is spending more than 10-million in building basement parking at the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication (WSSD) next to the R41-million Soweto Holiday Inn. The speaker of the Johannesburg Council Chamber, Nkele Ntingane, visited Kliptown on the 18th of June 2008 to respond to a memorandum that was sent by the Kliptown branch of the South Africa National Civic Organisation (SANCO). But it is not surprising that Madame Speaker Nkele is the Gauteng national chairperson of SANCO and that SANCO’s memorandum was not as controversial as the one that the residents submitted. On the 14th August 2007, the residents of Kliptown marched to the Region D/G offices in Eldorado Park to deliver their memorandum including a petition that was calling for the resignation of the three local ward councilors (Ward 17- Patience Peterson, Ward 19- Mandla Mtshali and Ward 37- Zodwa Nxumalo). It was delivered to the late Shimi Mogale who then took it to the relevant authorities including the City of Johannesburg Council but there was no answer from that chamber until the Madame speaker Nkele visited Kliptown to resolve the SANCO memorandum, ignoring other memorandums that were sent to her office from Kliptown residents.

Mass Action

It is clear that the visit by African National Congress President Jacob Zuma on the 26th of June 2008 will be another parade of the empty promises by the ANC as his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, had done in his address on the 50th anniversary celebration of the Freedom Charter in 2005. The people of Kliptown remember this celebration very vividly because the government spent millions of rand in bussing people to Kliptown to enjoy the significance of the day. This year there are no big celebrations but there is a political ploy by the ruling party to be seen to be listening to the demands of the residents and committing themselves to addressing the problems.

A world giant, Nelson Mandela, will be celebrating his birthday globally in July and the President of Liberia will be in Kliptown to join the celebration. The people of Kliptown would also want to celebrate with the world the fruits of democracy and the Freedom Charter. But how can the people celebrate when many of them are living in these terrible, inhumane conditions?

The visit by the ANC to Kliptown is an occasion to mobilize the community to stand in solidarity with the eight Kliptown comrades who were arrested on the 3rd of September 2007 for public violence. These are the comrades who were fighting for service delivery in the area and were arrested because of government’s failure to deliver on their empty promises. These are the objectives of the struggle of the Kliptownians, a struggle which the South African government has recognised as legitimate and as deserving international support. The residents will continue with mass action in demanding service delivery in the area and the eradication of the bucket system. It should be a day to pause and pay our respect to all those who have lost their lives in the course of the struggle and those who have been imprisoned, interned or subjected to other restrictions for having opposed the ANC’s neo-liberal policies that have seen the extension of the apartheid regime in further impoverishing the people.

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