Gauteng landless communities march against evictions

Wednesday 29 October 2008 by Nic

Gauteng landless communities (Freedom Park, Protea Glen Bond Houses, Protea South Informal Settlement, Precast-Lenasia Extension 11, Chiawelo, Tembalihle Crisis Committee, Eldorado Park, Harry Gwala Informal Settlement) will be marching on the 30th October 2008 to demand free basic services, the removal of useless ward councillors and a halt to mass evictions. The march will start at Peacemakers Ground in Protea South and then proceed on Old Potch road and Union Road to deliver a memorandum to the Premier of Gauteng Paul “Mathousand” Mashatile.

Even though the government of the African National Congress is happy about what it has achieved in the past 14 years of democracy in terms of service delivery. the challenges that are facing the poor are immense and the gap between the rich and poor is widening. It is common knowledge that South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in world where more than 50% of the population live below poverty line (less than R20.00 a day) and almost 40% of the people are unemployed. The ANC is proud to say that they have created more than three million members of a black middle class since 1994 but this is in contrast to more than 23 million who live in abject poverty.

Many of the landless communities have on numerous occasions taken memorandums and petitions to the government to demand speedy service delivery with minimum success. The only answer that has been given by the Housing officials is that the residents are promoting “Anarchy”, are a “Third Force”, are “Instigators”, are “Agitators” and are “counter revolutionary”. This is despite the fact that people live in squalid conditions just like the residents of Protea South Informal Settlement who have being residing in the area since 1985. Many voted in 1994 for the ANC black government with a hope that the life’s of the poor will change from bad to good. All the poor people who live in informal settlements had the hope that life will be better when Nelson Mandela promised people free housing in their area of choice. But this has not been the case; we have seen bulldozers and red ants forcefully relocating people from their homes into far remote isolated places.

The residents are demanding decent houses for all and that there must a moratorium on evictions in the country. The Metro Police together with ESKOM have been roaming informal settlements and disconnecting people from electricity. People connect electricity illegally because 30% of South Africans don’t have access to electricity due to government’s failure. Why is it that people are still using the bucket system in a so-called “World Class City” like Johannesburg where many residents have no toilets and access to water? The majority of people living in informal settlement don’t have toilets and some have access to Easy Loo toilets, while others use pit toilets. Many of our people relieve themselves in the open field - is this the way to celebrate freedom? People are living like animals; even animals are living much better than many human beings. We voted for our ward councillors in 1994 but just like the African National Congress, they have failed to deliver the poor from the jaws of capitalism where many have enriched themselves at the expense of the poor majority. It is sad that many of the elected officials are aware of all the communities’ problems but they choose to ignore it because of the market/profit-driven policies that make them fat cats. To have access to water is a fundamental human right, not a privilege, but the people who are residing in informal settlements are denied this right and they are forced to make illegal connections. It is not people’s intention to forever stay in places such as the informal settlements but due to the apartheid system, many were forced to live under such hazardous environments.

All Government Officials make empty Promises.

Before the local government elections of 2002 Mayor of Gauteng Amos Masondo came to Protea South to campaign for elections and he promised the community that houses will be built for the people. He promised that every South African will benefit from the resources of the country within five years. The former premier of Gauteng Mbhazima Shilowa came on the 15th of April 2005 to make the very same empty promise before the local government elections in March 2006. On the 25th February 2006, MEC of Housing Nomvula Mokonyane also came together with Mayor Amos Masondo to make the same empty promises. Even the local ward councillors (e.g., Mapule Khumalo from Protea South) are arrogant and are failing to carry out simple tasks such as the collection of residents grievances. Instead they humiliate and insult residents in public meetings reciting that there will be no development for as long people reside in Protea South and any-other undeveloped areas for as long as they are in power.

Even today there are no signs of sustainable development in Protea South - instead the government has built a decant camp, willing to move people from shack to another shack next to the dumping site opposite the Midway Railway Station. The decant camp has been a white elephant since 2005 and the residents demand that it must demolished or they will demolish it themselves. The community of Protea South is divided as some residences are willing to be relocated to other areas of Soweto because the officials are claiming that the land is dolomite. But just like in Tembalihle Informal Settlement-Lenasia South, the land is dolomite when the government has to build people houses but when the private sector has to build malls (Lenasia Trade Route Mall and Protea South Mall) then the land is not dolomite. We know this for a fact that the land is suitable for building houses hence a geological test was done on both areas. As the landless communities we are aware of those residents who want to be relocated to other areas and we respect their right but we don’t want them to move under false pretence by the state that the land is not suitable for building houses.

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