Anyone who has read anything on this site will agree I’m not one to automatically think the worst of post-apartheid South Africa. Far from it. However, a new report has made me question my optimism in the run up to the 2010 World Cup.
Poor targeted by evictions in World Cup city
According to campaign group Democracy Now “While Durban completes the finishing touches on its new stadium, thousands of the city’s poor who live in sprawling informal settlements are threatened with eviction by the ruling African National Congress or ANC’s slum clearance policies.”
And not just threatened, it seems. “On Saturday, an armed gang of some 40 men attacked an informal settlement on Durban’s Kennedy Road killing at least two people and destroying 30 shacks.”
The report includes brief interviews with campaigners speaking out against the anti-poor policies in post-apartheid South Africa. One is now apparently in hiding.
It alleges that members of the Durban Shack Dweller’s Movement, which demands the right to fair housing in the city, were holding a youth camp when they were attacked by local ANC members.
The report in full
South Africa's Poor Targeted By Evictions
A response from Durban
I asked one of my contacts in South Africa if these stories are true and what impact they are likely to have on next year’s tournament.
Karen Lotter of Vuvuzela South Africa [www.vuvuzelasouthafrica.co.za] says migrants from the countryside and the rural areas have moved to the cities in vast numbers looking for jobs and economic opportunities. Many of them live in shacks that are erected from corrugated iron, wood and plastic. This presents a major challenge but it is one the local council is rising to.
“The eThekwini Municipality (Durban) has built the most houses of any municipality in the country - TT has an integrated and coordinated slum clearance programme. The few people who are eventually forcibly removed have been asked and warned again and again. They usually occupy land that belongs to private citizens or to the municipality. And they don't just get removed - they get allocated alternative housing - real housing with water and electricity and sewage - not shacks that are unsanitary and a fire-hazard.”
Karen says she doesn’t know what really happened at Kennedy Settlement, but “Anyone who claims that the poor are being targeted by the ANC is making mischief. It seems most of the reports are from Abahlali baseMjondolo [http://abahlali.org/taxonomy/term/1525], the shack dwellers' movement. They are very well organised and love to stir up a froth - they have plenty of resources, as you can see. According to the police eight of the perpetrators have been arrested.”
She also doubts whether this is the work of an armed ANC gang and maintains it has nothing to do with the municipality or the government. “They have enough clout to move in in broad daylight with security forces and remove people who are illegally on land. They don't attack a youth camp at night with a wide array of weapons - including a sword!”
“South Africa is a democratic country and we celebrate freedom of speech,” added Karen, who is sympathetic to the aims of organisations which champion the cause of the poor.
“Abahlali baseMjondolo is a network of passionate activists who sometimes get a bit carried away, but the poor most certainly need someone to speak up for them as authorities do overstep the boundaries at times and in ABM they have a loud (sometimes shrill) voice.”
That said, Karen is adamant this story is “a storm in a teacup. It has nothing to do with the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”
And she is unimpressed by the people behind the story.
“As for Democracy Now's headline - that is just one big time tabloid distorted exaggeration- they should hang their heads in shame.”