Opinion: Can’t this city of prosperity find accommodation for 50 families?

14 06 2009

June 10, 2009 Edition 1

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission paid a pastoral visit to the people of Macassar in Nkanini and has these comments:

The ink from the recent national and provincial elections has not yet dried and peeled off our left thumbs and already the poor of our province, with their children as small as one month old, have been left to fend for themselves in wintry conditions.The judge, the premier, the mayor, the politician, all go home after deciding on the fate of 50 families who have been evicted from a piece of land they have called their home for more than two years. Their shack materials have been confiscated by the powers that be.

In this place and in this city full of prosperity, can we not find accommodation for 50 families? In the Old Testament, God promises those who have been trampled upon by authorities that He, their God, will never leave them and will fight their cause on their behalf.

The stories of people who live in informal settlements are sad. From Durban to Johannesburg and Cape Town, and in many of our towns, the marginalised people are oppressed in many ways. Anti-eviction organisations like Abahlali-Basemjon-dolo all over the country tell similar stories. People are fighting for what is fair and for what they should be receiving without first having to put up a struggle.

The people left on the side of the road and not even allowed to put up a tent have children who go to school, and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission wonders what these kids tell their school mates about home. After all these years of floods and fires in Cape Town, we still do not have the heart and imagination to provide structures at government expense where we can put up people during the rainy season. Madam Premier, where are the houses for the people?

At times those in authority fail to understand simple things about land and provision of housing. The principle of agrarian reform expects us to do the right thing when faced with a difficult situation regarding land. If a family was given a piece of land they would be able to plant on that land and produce something that would sustain people while the head of the household was being retrenched or unemployed.

People cannot wait for houses that will be built and perhaps completed in 2030; the situation is urgent now, today. In communities that struggle to make ends meet, huge frustration is caused by people responsible for land and housing.

The time has perhaps arrived when communities must be represented at the highest level where the decisions such as these that affect them are made. Social justice demands a fair share of the land for all people who live on the land. Those who are closest to the issue must decide on the issue.

The games played by politicians cannot be tolerated.

What happened to our humanity when we treat our neighbours the way we do? What happened to our ubuntu when we treat people as mere statistics and do not even bother to visit the situations they find themselves in? Our sense of solidarity and care for one another is to be questioned. What happened to all the promises?

At the end of the financial term the commission is certain there will be another budgetary roll-over and politicians will pat themselves on the shoulder and say they have done well.

What happened to emergency funds or resources?

Billy N Maseti
On behalf of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission
Archdiocese of Cape Town

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