Do not vote, shack dwellers told

April 28 2011 at 10:09am – Cape Times


ct Shack fire summit8942DARK DAYS: Mzonke Poni consoles Nolusindiso Ketani, whose child now suffers a disability after injuries sustained in a shack fire in 2005, at the Shack Fire Summit in Khayelitsha. Community members demanded that the city supply their shacks with electricity to prevent fires. Picture: David Ritchie

Sandiso Phaliso

A SHACK-DWELLERS’ movement, Abahlali Basemjondolo, has urged people not to vote in the May 18 local government election because “politicians are self-centred”.

“By voting you are giving away your powers to politicians. Your vote is not your voice and politicians use poor people as a ladder to enhance the rich and their interests,” its chairman, Mzonke Poni, said to loud cheers at a meeting of about 100 people in a tent in Khayelitsha’s QQ section.

Abahlali had called the meeting to look into what caused shack fires, how adequate government intervention programmes were and how best residents could react in a fire, but speakers instead voiced concern about a lack of service delivery.

Community members demanded that the City of Cape Town provide electricity to their shacks to prevent the loss of life and property.

With Freedom Day yesterday, Poni said: “The people living in informal settlements cannot celebrate 17 years into democracy because there is nothing to celebrate.”

He urged the crowd not to “liaise” with political parties and to hold back from taking part in the election.

Although he acknowledged every individual’s right to cast a vote on May 18, he discouraged those who were enthusiastic about voting, declaring: “The freedom we have is so limited. People are still living in appalling conditions.”

Referring to residents who were leaving the ANC to join the DA, Poni said: “People are not joining these political parties because they have confidence in them, but because they are disappointed with empty promises.

“Politicians should be ashamed that old-age people in the townships still use plastics when they want to relieve themselves because services to the people are lacking.”

Another speaker, Loyiso Mfuku, the chairman of the Mandela Park Backyarders Association, told the crowd that “if politicians cannot tell us what they will be doing in the next five years, we should not vote. As long as people don’t govern, there is no democracy”. Nolusindiso Ketani, 29, whose baby was permanently disabled by injuries sustained in a shack fire that swept through Langa’s Joe Slovo informal settlement in 2005, could not hold back tears.

She said that next week her family and neighbours will gather again in commemoration of the tragedy. Today, the six-year-old Indiphile Ketani’s right side is not functioning properly and he cannot go to school. He has been in and out of Red Cross Children’s Hospital 10 times already, she said.

Another speaker, controversial pastor Xola Skosana, who made headlines for saying Jesus was HIV-positive, said the electorate should think twice before casting votes.

“Any government that allows its people to continuously live in shanty conditions is an evil government. Why vote if the people still live in houses with broken windows and doors, leaking roofs and littered streets?” asked Skosana.

He said until the government had put its house in order, people should not think about voting.

The crowd, led by Skosana, marched through some Khayelitsha streets, singing and holding placards and photos of shack fires, and returned to the tent to light candles in remembrance of those who had lost their lives in the fires.

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About antieviction

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign was formed on November 2000 with the aim of fighting evictions, water cut-offs and poor health servi
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