Mandela Park Backyarders Press Statement
18 November 2010
Even though the Backyarders immediately distanced themselves from the violence employed by certain residents of Mandela Park, Madikizela is still treating us as criminals, denouncing us on radio, refusing to meet with us to diffuse the situation, intimidating our children, suppressing our right to assembly, and firing our members.
We tried to talk
The Mandela Park Backyarders have again suffered prejudiced humiliation in the provincial housing scheme taking place in our own community.
After frequent attempts to contact all relevant housing departments, none of them have come to meet with us in any meaningful way. As usual the police are used as instruments of the same cruel system that has governed this country for over 300 years. They come, not to prevent crime, but to harass innocent people who are just standing up for their rights. Ironically this dreadful system is now back under the guise of the right-wing Democratic Alliance.
Police suppressing our right to assembly
Thursday evening, as the Backyarders were concluding a mass community meeting, Andile Nhose Community Centre was besieged by a convoy of at least 10 police cans/vehicles. They entered the hall without permission, without a warrant, and without any suspicion of wrong-doing.
The unnamed officer in charge of the unit claimed to be the boss of all the SAPS stations in Khayelitsha and he said his mandate was to make sure that the Backyarders were prevented from holding their meeting. He said that this was an ‘illegal gathering’ which needed prior police permission and that his orders to disperse the meeting ‘came from the top’.
Pamela, one of the Backyarders, was arrested for allegedly ‘being drunk’. This was very confusing because she was coming straight from work and was sober. When she was put inside a police van, we all demanded for her release and because of pressure from the community, she was soon freed.
However, the fear of violence from the police, who had tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets cocked and ready, led to community members dispersing rather than challenging the police’s illegal suppression of the right to assembly.
Firing the community
Yesterday (Wed), at least 13 residents and the Community Liaison Officer were summarily fired from the construction of the 100 new Mandela Park houses. The reason? They were Backyarders or were supporters of the Backyarders. And we have heard that the firings are likely to increase today.
According to the contractor, Chiwari, in charge of the development, the orders had also come from the top – specifically, MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela. The contractor was told to choose between supporting the Backyarders and keeping their tender on the project.
While nearly everyone including the Community Liaison Officer was fired, the only Backyarder who retained his job was the Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance in Mandela Park.
Not only is this clear political interference in the development process, the actions by Madikizela also contravene the Labour Relations Act and the Constitution.
Whats going on?
It does not take a rocket scientist to see what is happening in Mandela Park. Instead of giving us the promised houses, the MEC has promised us huge jail sentences. He has gone on Radio Zibonele and publicly refused to meet with us. He calls us criminals and yet it is the MEC who plays politics with our livelihoods, contravenes labour law by ordering mass firings of Mandela Park residents, and prevents legal gatherings of residents in their own community hall.
For what? Senzeni Na? What have we done? To us, it seems we are being punished for telling the truth. We are being punished because we are trying to reveal the corrupt elements involved in the current housing allocation process in Mandela Park. We are being punished because we are making Madikizela look bad. (He used to be a councillor in Khayelithsa after all!)
The policy of the Department of Human Settlements is clear in terms of housing allocation. An applicant or anyone else in the household must not have received previous housing benefits from the Government. Except in the following cases:
* The applicant that qualifies for a Consolidation Subsidy
* The applicant has become disabled but qualifies in other areas
Why is the Department going against this policy in Mandela Park? Both councillor Mkhutswana and MEC Madikizela are desperate to maintain power and solicit votes from the next years local elections. Their power is maintained through patronage and the Backyarders are a threat to their patronage.
Call for an independent investigation
We are calling for urgent independent investigation from the current allocation of housing in Mandela Park as well as the political interference by Madikizela and Mkhutswana. We have proof that many individuals do not qualify for the houses they are receiving and that they were only given these houses because of their loyalty to their respective political parties. We also have proof of significant political interference in the development process.
Asserting our right to assembly
We are planning to call a mass meeting in the next few days against the orders of the police. This will be an open mass meeting for everyone inside and outside Mandela Park. Madikizela, as always, is invited. So are the media and even the police themselves. If the police try to illegally close our meeting, this time we will resist (just like the people of Hangberg did!). Time and date will be decided this evening.
Phambili Phambili Asibuyi Ngasemva!
For more information, please contact:
Loyiso @ 073 766 2078 (Backyarder Chairperson)
Mhlope @ 078 665 9061 (Former CLO)
Sluja @ 071 433 1101 (Former worker on-site)
Nolinki @ 082 267 8118 (Backyarder)