Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seventeen years after the end of apartheid South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. Cape Town is a city full of contrasts and social polarisation. Khayelitsha, which lies approximately 35 kilometres away from Cape Town, developed as a part of apartheid-architecture, is one of the biggest townships in South Africa with more than a million inhabitants. Unemployment reaches 60 to 70 percent in the townships and many children go to school hungry. Cape Town alone lacks approximately 400,000 houses and about half-a-million people have no access to sanitary facilities. Distribution of housing and infrastructure to the poor are prevented frequently by corruption and self-enrichment of the political and economic elite. Privatisation of electricity and water lead to heightening of prices - prices that, above all, people in the townships cannot afford. The commercialisation of land and the excessive wealth in South Africa must be questioned, as do the political priorities, which are predominantly oriented towards the interests of the rich and the economy.

Full article at

Now there are important struggles of the community-based movements for a better life. They concern the supply of common goods, like water, electricity and living space, as well as resistance against forced evictions. These grassroots-movements share the principle of self-organisation and the notion that the carriers and intellectuals of their struggles is no one but the poor themselves. The movements support the inhabitants of the townships to take the daily and political struggles into their hands, including 'illegal' reconnections of electricity and water, or organising social facilities, like kindergartens. Politicians brand the autonomous movements as 'radicals', just to avoid having to deal with the concerns of the poor. This is a strategy in dealing with oppositional positions and social protests which is aiming at de-legitimising social conflicts.

Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape supports the occupation of land: 'For the City of Cape Town to condemn people who occupy land is for the City of Cape Town to condemn the poor. Now that the City of Cape Town has admitted that they cannot house the people of Cape Town they have no right to stop us from occupying land, housing ourselves.'

Mzonke Poni points out, poverty is a political matter: 'There's no way that we can depoliticise poverty, otherwise we stand a risk of making privileges seem natural and normal. Poverty is political and need to be politicised.'

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