Mandela Park Backyarders Press Statement
15 November 2010 – For Immediate Release
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In the early hours of Monday the 15th of November, about 100 people invaded the 100 unfinished RDP houses currently being built in Mandela Park. According to eyewitnesses in the community including Backyarders who are working on the construction site and according to our CLO at the site, these 100 people were escorted by police, by Ward 97 Councillor Ryder Mkutswana, by the recently dismissed local SANCO boss Mr. Makade, with the operation known and supported also by SEBRA (the managing agent) and by the provincial Department of Human Settlements. The entire operation was overseen by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
What is the councillor, SANCO, SEBRA, police and even the army doing organising a housing invasion? Who authorised the SANDF onto our township streets? Who could possibly be so dangerous that the army was needed? And why, if this was sanctioned by the province, did this begin before sunrise when Mandela Park residents were still asleep?
For the Mandela Park Backyarders, the answers to these questions are two-fold: (1) MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela does not want to give us houses and (2) the MEC is trying to divide and rule us poor people by giving preference to people from other areas over the needs of local residents of Mandela Park.
Madikizela’s refusal to engage
The Mandela Park Backyarders have done everything to try and get Madikizela to speak to us. He has been promising to visit use for over a year now. Recently we have embarked on a civil disobedience campaign to get him to come to Mandela Park and we have written letters to the National Housing department twice (here and here). But MEC Madikizela has promised and promised and promised but is yet meet with the Mandela Park community.
As reported by the Sowetan last year, Madikizela rescinded his promise to give Mandela Park residents 23 houses in a previous development.
In his most recent promise live on Radio Zibonele, Bonginkosi Madikizela said that he would come to Mandela Park in October. He never came.
A democratic government is a government that comes and listens to the views of the people. This is not a democratic government. This is not a democratic minister.
A ticking time-bomb. Another Hangberg, another TR Section.
Abahlali baseMandela Park are not happy. They are furious. And the anger of the poor can go in many directions.
Madikizela is the cause of this ticking time-bomb. The MEC is creating this conflict amongst the poor. We know that yesterday’s housing occupation was authorised by the MEC himself to escort residents of Gugulethu to occupy the houses in Mandela Park and prevent local residents from getting their promised 50%.
But who actually occupied the houses yesterday? We know that many occupants are not even on the housing waitlist. Many already have houses of their own. Many, because of their salaries, do not qualify for an RDP house. Many plan to rent out their occupied houses. Many are not even from Gugulethu.
Councillor Ryder is also involved in this problem. Since he wants to maintain his own corrupt power base in nearby Town Two, he organised his supporters to occupy some of the 100 houses. The people of Mandela Park yesterday witnessed Ryder escorting residents of Town Two pushing trolleys to occupy the houses. Why did Ryder’s friends get these houses? Why is Ryder helping people occupy houses before they are completed and sanitation systems installed?
Things are about to explode here in Mandela Park. This is another Hangberg in the making. People are so angry that they will employ whatever means to send a message.
Yesterday, angry residents of Mandela Park went as far as vandalising some of the houses and intimidating its occupants.
It must be clear that the people who vandalised the houses did so against the decision of the hundreds of masses that gathered our Backyarder meeting yesterday evening at 6pm. These are our houses and we as Backyarders do not want them vandalised. Hundreds of Backyarders decided in the meeting to stage a peaceful protest but a few enraged individuals refused to listen to the consensus of the meeting and went straight to the unfinished homes to intimidate the occupants. We called off our protest.
As the community gets angrier, more and more residents will take actions into their own hands. Yet while these actions might be violent, we, as Backyarders, place the blame squarely on the Ward Councillor and the MEC for stoking the anger.
It is this government that is promoting violence, not us. This is not only the direct violence of the police against the poor. This is also the violence of divide and rule by a government pushing the poor to attack other poor people over the scattered left-overs of neoliberal development.
Way forward for the Backyarders
Everything must stop. The construction on these unfinished houses will come to a standstill again. The residents of Mandela Park will not allow further construction until this crisis has been resolved and we receive a binding agreement that 50% of the houses currently under construction will go to local residents.
The community of Mandela Park is angry and ready to take back these 100 houses. We are appealing to the outsiders who occupied these houses to leave these houses. We give MEC Madikizela until Thursday the 18th to make sure the occupants vacate these houses. As a gesture of good faith, the residents of Mandela Park will not occupy these houses if they are voluntarily vacated by the recent occupants from Gugulethu and Town Two.
But, until the MEC comes to Mandela Park, the entire Mandela Park community will be ungovernable. The community has just started to show their feelings through last night’s vandalism. The anger of the poor can go in many directions and we as Backyarders may not be able to control it.
We have followed the right procedure. We have approached the Ward Councillor. We have approached the MEC. We have approached the National Department of Human Settlements. They’ve all ignored us.
We are going to fight until our demands are met.
For more information, please contact:
Sluja @ 071 433 1101
Nolinki @ 082 267 8118
Khaya @ 078 024 1683
Siyanda @ 078 874 5921
PS – As we are gathered at Andile Nhose Community Centre in mass writing this press statement, it is still Monday the 15th at about 23h00 and the Harare police have attempted to break into the Centre by clipping the locks to our gate. Is this a police state? Do we not have the freedom to assemble? We are lucky that they did not see us in here or they may have beaten us and arrested us.