Housing battles in post-Apartheid South Africa: The Case of Mandela Park, Khayelitsha


Anti-Eviction campaign member Stoney Sithole shows a house where a wall collapsed and the top structure came undone from the foundation. The owner is still expected to pay the bond! (Photo: Cape Times) 

by Martin Legassick

Mandela Park is situated in Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s largest township, some 26 kms from the city center. It was established by the Botha government from 1983 with the initial intention of housing all Africans in the area. This of course proved impossible: Crossroads, KTC etc as well as the established townships of Gugulethu, Nyanga, Langa remained. Instead the repeal of the pass laws in 1986 resulted in the mushrooming of Khayelitsha, partly from other parts of Cape Town, but mainly from new immigrants from the Eastern Cape. The township grew to perhaps 300,000 by 1990 and to 500,000 and more during the 1990s – and is possibly the second (after Soweto) or third (after Mdantsane) largest in the country. Mandela Park was established within Khayelitsha in the late 1980s, by the banks, who bought the land and started building housing on it in 1986 – one of the few areas in the country where Africans bought housing through bank bonds.

Not only is Mandela Park named after our former President. Every street in the community is named after a struggler for liberation in the ANC tradition – James Calata, Albertina Sisulu, Wilton Mkwayi, Robert McBride, Jenny Schreiner, Peter Mokaba, Bram Fisher, Winnie Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Thandi Modise, etc. etc. This reflects the fact that those who moved into the new houses in Mandela Park were overwhelmingly ANC supporters and activists. An ANC branch and Youth League, as well as SANCO, flourished at the start of the 1990s.

A recent survey by PLAAS at the University of the Western Cape found that half of all households in Khayelitsha had an income of less than R167 a household member and the bottom third had a monthly income of R39 a person.1 Mandela Park residents, living in houses and not in shacks, are not “the poorest of the poor” in Khayelitsha. But they have suffered seriously from the consequences of GEAR. Many of the production line workers who could at the start of the 1990s hope to afford to buy a house have since been retrenched. There is substantial unemployment in the area as well as in the whole of Khayelitsha.

Today most residents of Mandela Park are deeply disillusioned with the ANC and SANCO. They feel they have been deserted by those in whom they put their trust. The underlying reason for this is that government has been unable to resolve their housing problem with the banks, and when they have taken action about this, they have not been listened to or discussed with, but arrested and charged. Hundreds have thus been criminalized by ‘their’ government. It is indeed sad and ironic to witness, outside the court in Khayelitsha, more than a hundred women singing the old anti-apartheid song “Senzeni na – what have we done?”- and asking that of their ANC government. In addition, several members of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, a community-based social movement that speaks for the residents of the area, are presently under apartheid-style bail conditions – having to be in their homes from 6pm to 6am, and forbidden from attending political meetings.

The banks own the land on which housing is built in Mandela Park – as well as the vacant land in the area. This has meant that there has been no absolutely no development — no new schools or clinics built for example.

This whole strategy – of no negotiations, only arrests — is presided over by the Western Cape MEC for Safety and Security, Leonard Ramatlakane, provincial chair of the South African Communist Party – so the disillusionment extends to SACP leaders as well, as the cover picture of Mandela Park residents demonstrating outside parliament vividly illustrates.

Research method
This paper is based mainly on oral rather than written sources, though it could be supplemented by more of the latter.2 My research method over more than ten years has been what Leslie Bank has recently referred to as “deep hanging out” – namely circulating in the area, speaking to people informally, and gathering information on an ad hoc basis.3 My first encounter took place in 1991 when I returned from exile. I took part in a reading group with shop-steward comrades of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the ANC, one of whom lived in Mandela Park. At the same time – though I had been expelled from the ANC in 1985 — I was working with ANC comrades in the neighbouring Solomon Mahlangu area, building the ANC branch, Youth League and self-defence units there.

On 24 June 1992 Solomon Mahlangu branch and the neighbouring Makhaza branch organized a march on the council offices to protest against rent rises.

A month later, on the night of 22 July, one of the Makhaza leaders of the march, Nelson Sithole, was assassinated at his home – by men with their faces hidden by balaclavas, probably police. “Why do you tell people not to pay rent?”, they asked.4 The murder has been investigated by both the TRC and the Scorpions, to no avail. Nelson’s widow, Hilda Phoswayo, has been since then a close political comrade.[Congress Militant reporting on the assassination]

One day in 1993 I had just dropped Hilda off at her home in Makhaza when my car was stoned by youth and the windshield broken. It was the period of unrest following SACP leader Chris Hani’s assassination at Easter — in which the American Amy Biehl, in a similar situation in Gugulethu, got out of her car and was killed. I simply trod on the accelerator and fled the area. Hilda, and other comrades in Solomon Mahlangu branch took up the issue at public ANC meetings, but in the mood of the times were not listened to. The other day, in contrast, I was walking in Mandela Park by myself and crossed paths with a young man – or rather, he went out of his way to approach me. We did not know each other. “It is very unusual to see a white walking around in our places”, he said. “It is a revolution. Congratulations. Keep it up.” I felt embarrassed, and thanked him.

A comrade of ours stood as councilor for the ANC in the 1995 local elections. He was also one of the leaders of the 1992 rent march. We warned him that if he stood on the existing ANC programme, rather than a socialist programme for the ANC, he would become unpopular. He went ahead on his own anyway. Since then the ANC has degenerated. This councilor for example rules even in his own particular area mainly by fear, carries a gun, and has an array of ‘strong men’ around him. He is one of the main local opponents of the Anti Eviction Campaign.

Since 1995 I have continued frequent visits to these parts of Khayelitsha, working particularly with a previous ANC local leader, become SANCO leader and SACCAWU shop steward, as well as with a SACTWU shop steward. I eventually met the leaders of the Anti-Eviction Campaign in October 2002.

Background: Africans in the Western Cape
But, before dealing with that, let us remind ourselves of the history of Africans in Cape Town, where they have always been marginalized and excluded. Out of the defeat of the Xhosa fight against colonial dispossession many Xhosa were forced to Cape Town. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, segregation became the dominant motif in the cities, and Cape Town’s first ‘location’, Uitsig (later Ndabeni), was established. In the 1920s Ndabeni’s residents were moved to Langa (established in 1927).

During and after the Second World War the African population of the Cape Peninsula grew enormously. Most shunned the official ‘locations’ and lived rather in privately-owned and rented high density flats and houses along the docks-Observatory axis or scattered through the predominantly white and Coloured residential areas of Cape Town as plot owners or tenants. The new urban influx however lived mainly in unregulated ‘pondokkie’ settlements in the peri-urban areas around the fringes of Cape Town.5

Under apartheid in the 1950s, Cape Town “became a test case for influx control and racial segregation”.6 Shortly after the election of the NP government in 1948 the Minister of Native Affairs, Mr E.G. Jansen, said that a “question which will require very serious consideration is whether the population of Natives in the Western Province must not be reduced very drastically”7 In 1953 the Secretary for Native Affairs, W.M. Eiselen, complained of the “ring or outer circle of unplanned, uncontrollable and without exception illegal concentrations of Bantu who drift towards the cities” settled in camps which local authorities “cannot control”8 In 1954 the Manager of Native Affairs for the Cape Town City Council told ANC stalwart Dora Tamana and the young Ben Turok that “the policy of this government is to reduce the number of African families living in the Western Cape… The labour needs of the Peninsula are to be met by migratory labour”.9

Government policy, implemented by local authorities, forcibly removed the African population by means of the Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act of 1945 (as amended in 1952 and 1955) and the Prohibition of Illegal Squatting Act 52 of 1951.The first of these acts made provision for establishing locations and proclaiming compulsory residence in them. This was a powerful measure for forced removals from non-location residence. In 1946 the whole of the Cape Peninsula was declared a proclaimed area under Section 23(1) of the 1945 Act.10 The Prohibition of Illegal Squatting Act of 1951 provided for the establishment of emergency camps and the removal of Africans squatting ‘illegally’ to such camps, the demolition of shacks without requiring a court order, as well as compulsory location residence, and compelled local authorities to cooperate.11 The imposition of passes on women from 1954 also was a powerful instrument for organising forced removals.

The unregulated areas of residence were destroyed and Africans were forcibly removed — moved to single men’s hostels in Langa, or to ‘emergency camps’ in portions of the the new locations of Nyanga (established in 1946) and Gugulethu (established as Nyanga East in 1958 and renamed in 1961) where ‘illegals’ were sifted out for deportation from the Cape Peninsula area altogether, or, if they qualified to remain as ‘families’, allocated housing.12 It involved “a spatial re-mapping of the Cape Peninsula.”13 Women were particularly severely treated, and many endorsed out of Cape Town altogether. The aim was to turn as many of the African population as possible at first into single migrant labourers – by attacking family relationships — and later to eliminate them altogether.14 Together with this the Western Cape was formally declared a Coloured Labour Preference (CLP) area from 1954/5.15
In 1955 the largest concentrations of Africans in the Peninsula outside locations were estimated to be at Windermere (15000), in the northern areas (Elsies River, Goodwood Acres, Oakdale in Bellville, etc) (13000), in the city centre, District Six, Woodstock and Salt River (9300), in Retreat (5500), in Athlone/Rylands (5200), and in Cooks Bush (Grassy Park) (3800). All these settlements were destroyed and the people moved out. In many cases ANC and CP activists organised determined resistance. But there was not one successful defence of residence rights at this time. The first successful such resistance was at Crossroads, established as a ‘squatter camp’ from February 1975. This was not without bitter battles.

The struggle over Crossroads was preceded by the struggle to resist removal of three squatter settlements which had developed around the University of the Western Cape from about 1974. About 10,000 people were evicted from Modderdam during the week following 8 August 1977. An activist observer reported: “As the camp was razed, squatters chanted hymns and freedom songs, charged columns of policemen, and hurled furniture onto Modderdam Road. Many burnt down their own shacks. Police used dogs and teargas to disperse the crowds of hymn-singers, spectators and demonstrators. Several squatters were hospitalized with dog bites. One woman, treated for chest pains, was discharged back to the camp with instructions to rest in bed for two weeks. Two women in labour were rushed to an emergency room. A third gave birth to a girl under a plastic tarpaulin next to the sidewalk. As a bulldozer approached one shack, a government official heard a baby scream. He ran into the shanty and yanked a two-week old boy from his mother’s arms. ‘God knows it is an inhumane task’, he told a reporter as he cuddled the child, ‘but I am trying to make it as humane as possible.’”16 Following this, Werkgenot, with a population of 5000, was demolished on 25 August 1977 and Unibel, with a population of 15,000, between 16 and 20 January 1978.17

Crossroads, due to the experience and consciousness of the womens’ committees in the camp, survived.18 The success of Crossroads gave impetus to the UDF campaign to oppose the establishment of Khayelitsha – though in May and June 1986 vigilantes forced 70,000 squatters surrounding Crossroads to move in what Josette Cole calls “one of the most brutal forced removals… ever to take place in South Africa”.19

This was one of the early examples of state-sponsorship of “black-on-black violence”, together with Inkatha in Natal from 1986 and the huge wave of counter-revolutionary violence in the Transvaal from 1991 almost to the 1994 elections.

As already mentioned, Khayelitsha developed out of the post-1986 flood of movement to the big cities. Even last month (February 2004) I saw a big new movement of shack-building in Makhaza, turning a road through the bush on the edge of Khayelitsha into the centre of a new settlement.

Meanwhile the first small steps have been taken to redress the forced removals in Cape Town, with the restitution of land to those evicted from Ndabeni, and – after long long delays — the first houses handed over in early 2004 to people evicted from District Six in the early 1970s.

Background: Anti-Eviction Campaign
The Anti-Eviction Campaign was formed in Mandela Park in late 2000 to deal with long-standing problems: (a) bank-promoted evictions from houses where the owners had built up arrears in bond payments (a) water and electricity cut-offs by the municipality of people who had built up arrears.20

The banks began building houses in Mandela Park in 1986 and people first moved into them in 1988. The deposits on the houses were low, about R500. But the houses were not complete. They had no ceilings, or only one door, or no ventilation. They had cracks. They had rising damp. There was no plaster. The lot size was too small as the banks built two houses on a single plot. The problems still exist in many of those houses today – 15 years later (except where people have solved them at their own expense). The community at the time said they were not prepared to pay for the houses until the banks resolved their problems. In the early 1990s – in common with the general boycott on rent and service payments in townships up and down the country – Mandela Park residents refused to pay their bonds.

As a result of the boycott there were negotiations with the banks facilitated by the ANC and SANCO. No solutions came up. A local Joint Task Force for housing was created, with the ANC-SACP-SANCO alliance on it. People were told all their demands would be met. But they were still not sure how much they should pay on their bonds. Fieldworkers, paid R2500 a month, were hired by the taskforce from the community to evaluate the houses. Heated debates developed in report-back meetings. Eventually proper report-backs stopped. SANCO would call meetings promising that the housing question would be discussed. But when people turned up at the meetings, the housing question would not be on the agenda. When other petty items were discussed, people would get fed up and leave – and then housing policy would be raised late in the meeting under ‘general’ when very few people remained to agree or disagree. People started to boycott these meetings.

From paying to FNB and Standard, many people were told to pay the bonds to Khayelethu Home Loans. Others still pay to NBS, Standard, FNB, Nedcor, Saambou and Absa. In 1996 SANCO and Khayelethu Home Loans distributed a letter speaking of a Joint Cooperation Agreement they had signed. It stated that “all our clients are obligated to pay their bonds and failure to do so will result in legal action.” As we understand it, it was at around this time that SANCO was given a shareholding in Khayelethu Home Loans of around 20%. So the organization that people had looked to to protect and advance their interest against the banks was now a part of the bank itself.

In 1995 Servcon was formed in terms of the 1994 ‘record of understanding’ signed between the new ANC-dominated government and the banks. Servcon is half owned by the government and half by the banks. It was meant to serve the interests of the people, and to deal with the ‘historical problems’ (as it is put) of incomplete houses, arrears, etc. In fact, in the view of the AEC, it has acted as the agent of the banks. Servcon offers four options: ‘rightsizing’, rental, buybacks, or evictions. ‘Right-sizing’ meant being moved to tiny houses far away from the community. All these options favoured the banks and the community opposed them all. But Servcon said that people must find a method to pay or else be evicted. The problem was that people could not afford to pay what the banks demanded. This was especially so when they had built up arrears, for whatever reason. High interest rates over the past period have also vastly inflated the cost of these houses. Originally the houses cost R25, 000. But many people have paid thousands of rand more than this for them over ten years and still don’t own them.

The first evictions took place around mid-day in September 1999. There were a lot of police, in Casspirs and in small vans, together with sheriffs, with dogs, teargas and rubber bullets. They cordoned off one street at a time and started to evict people. The whole area came out, as well as neighbouring areas in Mandela Park, to try and prevent the evictions. People were beaten with batons and bitten by police dogs. Teargas was fired by the police to disperse the people, and rubber bullets were fired. There were numbers of injuries. The police managed to evict only 13 families on the first day. Many people who were evicted were restored to their houses by the community.

After this ANC ward councillors came in promising to solve the problems – but on condition that people must pay to prevent evictions. Their problems were not listened to. Small workshops were organized, with just a few people together with councilors and SANCO people etc. Vulnerable people were targeted – pensioners, the disabled, single mothers and so on. In fact the March 1998 briefing document of Servcon states that “people over 65 years or disabled” can apply for assistance not to be relocated. But many such people have been evicted and right-sized in Mandela Park. They were intimidated by the representatives of the Alliance. This is a main reason why there was a low vote in the area for the ANC in the local elections in 2000.

After the elections evictions started on a much bigger scale. People didn’t have the energy to fight back all the time and were confused. At least 190 families must have been evicted. They were “right-sized” – relocated to smaller houses elsewhere in Khayelitsha far away from Mandela Park, in Harare or Makhaza. By 2001 the sheriffs and police were evicting more than 30 houses a day. In some cases people’s houses were put up for sale by the banks even before they were evicted – because there was no new smaller house ready for them. And they still had to continue to pay the bond on the original house.

The Anti-Eviction Committee began to organize and campaign from the end of January 2001. Through SAMWU shop stewards in Mandela Park, they came in contact with the Anti-Privatisation Forum and met other people facing the same problems. In particular Tafelsig in Mitchell’s Plain had fought evictions the year before. The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign with whom they linked up also had members in Athlone, KTC, Valhalla Park, Gugulethu, Delft, Tambo Square, Mfuleni etc. A two-pronged campaign, combining negotiation and mass action was launched, based on a mobilized community. Western Cape safety and security MEC Leonard Ramatlakane has claimed that the AEC was comprised of only “a handful of people” (Cape Times, 8/11/02). However consistently since 2001 the AEC in Mandela Park has held twice weekly meetings, on Wednesdays and Sundays, which are attended by hundreds of people, young, middle-aged and old, with a predominance of women.

In the course of its existence the AEC has had solidarity from activists visiting from many countries, including Argentina, Canada, Italy, Norway, the United States, Germany, India, and Palestine – as well as from fellow-social movements in Johannesburg and Durban.
During 2001 the AEC began to slow down the rate of evictions and by June 2002 had essentially halted them. From March 2002 the AEC started returning people to their original homes. In June the Cape Times (18/6/2002) reported favourably on this. It highlighted the AEC’s concern with the shocking living conditions of pensioners in the homes to which they had been “right-sized”, and the fact that they were being returned to their original homes.

Examples
Let us take some examples of what has happened to people:

Mr Ncama is an 80 year old card-carrying ANC member. She is a care-giver to 5 children. But she was evicted from her home in Mandela Park on 25 July 2002.21

Hleliwe Nosense Elsie Gaji is 63 years old. She was born in Molteno in the Eastern Cape and followed her husband to Cape Town in the 1970s where she lived in Crossroads, and went through all the experiences of Crossroads. In 1989 the Gaji’s moved to a house in Mandela Park. On the day of Mandela’s release Hleliwe and her husband joined the huge crowd on the Parade listening to Mandela speak – of the Freedom Charter and nationalization; there is still a picture of Mandela in their home. But the pension on which the Gaji’s live has not been enough to keep up with increasing bond demands. In 2001 they were ‘right-sized’ to what they describe as a ‘dog kennel’ n Makhaza. “We went hungry. In Mandela Park our neighbours were family. They fed us. Here we are alone.” Hleliwe’s husband grew very depressed. But then the community came to them and told them their home in Mandela Park had been taken back from the banks and they could go back to it. “The Gaji’s were marched, ran, sang and danced back into their old home” write Desai and Pithouse. Hleliwe says “At least my husband died in the house he lived for.” Desai and Pithouse comment that Hleliwe has “made her whole life within a cycle of dispossession, resistance, repossession and repression that has moved seamlessly from apartheid to post-apartheid South Africa, from Botha to Mbeki.”22

Mr Mcondobi, a pensioner, was evicted and ‘right-sized’ in February 2002. He was in good health when he was moved but was moved to a house with no inside plastering, a leaking roof, and no bath or shower. As winter set in, he contracted pneumonia and died. Bheki Nkonyane of the Western Cape housing ministry claimed in a letter to the Cape Times that Mr Mcondobi “subsequently went to the Eastern Cape and only died there two months later.” (15/11/02). But Mr Nkonyane was misinformed. Mr Mcondobi died in Khayelitsha and the Anti-Eviction Campaign arranged for his funeral and his burial – in Khayelitsha. At least seven other old people from Mandela Park also died, and possibly 15 through Khayelitsha, as a result of Servcon’s campaign of eviction and right-sizing.

Vakele Alfred Hempe is 55 years old. He illustrates what happens when there is no community anti-eviction campaign. He came to Cape Town from Aberdeen in the Eastern Cape in 1958 after his father, a farm labourer, died and his mother could not afford to look after 13 children. In 1979 he started work as a Hyster driver for South African Breweries, and was earning R30,000 a year by 1988. He bought a house – elsewhere in Khayelitsha than Mandela Park. with a loan from what is now ABSA of R58,000. In April 1998 he was retrenched and found it impossible to keep up bond payments. In early 2000 he was served with a summons by the bank, and the ANC and SANCO refused to assist him. On 31 August 2000 his house was repossessed by ABSA and Hempe, his wife, three children and three grandchildren were evicted. He eventually managed to reverse the eviction – at the cost of having to pay R800 a month, eating up almost all his wages as a casual at a company called Giant. Though he has never missed a payment, the bank has renewed attempts to evict him and he lives in fear of the sheriff’s knock.23

Broadening the Struggle
In 2001 the sheriffs also started cutting off water and electricity in Mandela Park, and confiscating goods as payment for bills in arrears. In one such eviction, on 8 July 2002, sheriffs and many police came to try to repossess a woman’s furniture because she had R800 arrears on her water bill. All they found was a battered mattress and old clothes – they seized all the clothes. The community tried to prevent them. Teargas and rubber bullets were fired by the police. 10 people were arrested and held overnight in jail in Khayelitsha, and refused medical treatment for injuries. Instead they were called ‘kaffirs’ and ‘fucking bushmen’.

The anti-eviction campaign broadened its concerns to these questions. People had built up ‘arrears’ because they could not afford to pay. This is why the AEC raised the demand for a R10 a month flat rate service charge, and this is what its members pay each month to the council. In April 2002 hundreds of AEC members sat in at the municipal offices in Khayelitsha to protest these cut-offs and to demand R10 a month service charge. In November they marched to the electricity company who agreed to reinstall electricity boxes they had taken out.

Throughout this period the AEC wrote letters to the banks, and it began writing to the Western Cape ministry of housing after the ANC/NNP government came into office in the province in late 2001. There were no positive responses, and further direct action was launched. On 30 May 2002 some 250 AEC members went to the center of Cape Town and held a sit-in at NBS to complain about vulnerable people being ‘right-sized. They also raised the issues of the small plot sizes, the rising damp, and the fact that residents had installed ceilings and roofs in the houses, had repaired faulty electrical wiring, and plastered and filled in cracks also at their own expense. They raised the question of the purchase of the land in Mandela Park by the government.

On 12 June more than 200 AEC members sat in at the offices of Khayalethu Home Loans. When the head of the organisation appeared they showed him a videotape of conditions in the houses, and of the struggles they had waged. They told him to scratch the arrears due and to drop the prices of the houses. KHL agreed to scrap the arrears, and also stated they would never again evict pensioners and the disabled. But the other banks have still refused to scrap arrears.

In June the banks took out a court interdict against the campaign, trying to prevent them from resisting any more. The AEC had no money to hire lawyers to oppose it. This interdict is still in force – and has been used as the basis for holding activists in prison for lengthy periods without trial.

From the time the ANC entered government in the Western Cape in late 2001 the AEC wrote numerous letters to the provincial MEC for housing, Nomatyala Hangana. She refused all invitations to come and visit Mandela Park to discuss the evictions and the problems with Servcon. From the government the AEC wants payment of the subsidy for first-time home buyers to people in Mandela Park and elsewhere facing these problems. And they want the government to buy back from the banks the land the houses are on and to develop it. Eventually on 26 June 2002 hundreds of AEC members went to Ms Hangana’s offices in Wale Street. “Officials would not tell us if Nomatyala was there. While we were waiting for the Managing Director of Servcon to arrive as we had been told, police surrounded the building, sprayed teargas inside, and arrested 44 of us. Some of those arrested were pensioners and children. We were charged with trespassing – in a ministry of our elected government! Among our bail conditions were that we never appear in Wale Street!”24
In contrast, a delegation from the national Housing Ministry did visit Mandela Park, and wrote in appreciation of the “warm reception” they received at the AEC weekly meeting of 20 July. They said they had “compiled and collated all the views that were expressed at the meeting and have submitted them to the Minister for her attention and action.”25 However nothing further has transpired from this.

In September one AEC member, a shop-steward, led a strike against privatization at his workplace, a sewage works in Khayelitsha. He was charged with continuing with his AEC activities and held in Pollsmoor. He was dismissed from his job in consequence.
In September also, ANC ward councillors came and broke down doors of the houses in Makhaza to where some of the Mandela Park people had been ‘right-sized’. They threw these people out of the houses. The AEC believed they wanted to move their friends into these houses. The councilors were arrested – but then the charges against them were dropped.

On 26 October 2002 the AEC (together with the APF) and the ANC held rallies on the same day in Khayelitsha. AEC leaders reported: “We only had money for four buses but 6,000 people came to our rally… The ANC had 12 buses moving all around the Western Cape and nice loudhailers. Jacob Zuma was the main speaker. Nobody came. The [ANC] rally was postponed. They said it was because Pirates were playing Sundowns but people came to our rally at the same time.”26 The same story – of no attendance at the ANC rally – was reported on e.tv news that evening.At the AEC-APF rally in Khayelitsha, 26 October 2002 (Photo: Vukani)

Repression
The events of 26 October may have been the last straw for the ANC-SACP establishment. Until this point the AEC had had favourable coverage in the press and on TV. However on 8 November, the Cape Times ran a front-page lead story on the AEC: ” ‘Champions of the poor’ target homeowners” was the headline. A second story on the page was headed “Felicia’s title deed fails to deter eviction bullies.” It was a vicious attempt to portray the Anti-Eviction Campaign as themselves “evictors”.

In the article Leonard Ramatlakane was quoted as instructing the provincial police commissioner Lennit Max to “deal with the anti-eviction group, which is behaving as if it is representing the state. It’s unacceptable that a handful of people run around positioning themselves as people who have the right to allocate houses and evict people… I have asked Max to bring order to Khayelitsha and he must make sure the group is dealt with. It is manipulating the concerns and real problems of the community and should be brought to order.”27

The Khayelitsha police commissioner Risimati Shivuri, quoted in the same article, however said that “Arrests will not solve the problem, political intervention is needed” (my emphasis). To this day, that political intervention – in terms of conducting negotiations with the AEC and listening to the voice of the community, has not been forthcoming.

The ‘Felicia” mentioned in the second headline was Felicia Petani, a domestic worker, who had been bought a house by her employer, one Tanja Truscott – a house repossessed by the banks from someone in Khayelitsha, who was reinstated in it by the anti-eviction campaign. The story was a scare story. In a subsequent letter in the Cape Times, Tanja Truscott claims that she “established” that the original owner “approached the banks to be right-sized over 10 years ago, in 1991.”28 No-one in Mandela Park was “right-sized” in 1991, nor did anyone even know of the idea! The first evictions (“right-sizings”) were in 1999 and most took place in 2001. “The house stood empty for many years”, says the employer. This is simply not true – and the person clearly does not know Khayelitsha where no house would stand empty for many years! The original owner was removed from his house for at maximum ten months (not ten years) before returning to it.

Truscott also claimed that the AEC “throw people onto the street at a moment’s notice.” AEC insists that neither with Felicia nor with anyone else did this happen. Other new owners after discussions with the AEC agreed to move, and the AEC assisted them in finding other vacant houses. They assert that they have not left a single new owner without alternative accommodation. Even Truscott was compelled to admit in her letter to the Cape Times that Felicia “was told they would move her to another house.”(13/11/02) – a fact which incidentally was not mentioned in the original Cape Times story on her by Eric Ntabazalila (8/11/02). The AEC anyway regards it as very irresponsible of Servcon and the banks to sell off these houses, which are in dispute, to new owners.

On December 8th local councilors and SANCO representatives attended a mass meeting in Mandela Park called by the AEC. Councillor Mbongeni Ngombane claimed that the AEC “hijacked” the meeting, but the people wanted Ramatlakane, who was present, to speak, and he refused. This caused much anger and “chairs were thrown about.” Ngombane also asserted, quite incorrectly, that “the majority of people in Mandela Park want to pay for their houses” – what Mandela Park residents want is affordable bond payments. The meeting was “rescheduled” at a venue outside Mandela Park and was “poorly attended” – in fact only by the councilors, Ramatlakane and their henchmen.29 “Members of the Anti-Eviction campaign” – who were in the majority – “toyi-toyied outside and chanted slogans against the ANC and President Thabo Mbeki.” At this meeting Ramatlakane took a tough line. Ignoring the hundreds of evictions instigated by Servcon, he focused on the new ‘owners’ – “People with title deeds have to be protected and no-one has a right to just come up and claim that you are staying in their house and you have to leave… people are going to be arrested.”30
The AEC objected to the fact that government ministers refused to negotiate directly with them, and instead invited SANCO, the ANC, COSATU, the SACP etc to participate in the negotiations. For the AEC, these organizations either have no concern with the matter, or else are on the side of the banks. Both COSATU and the SACP, they believe, should have been supporting the anti-eviction campaign, but they had not. Why should they attend the meeting just because they are in alliance with the government? Are they invited to prop up the government’s position? Why should the ANC be there as well as the government? And why should SANCO be there, when it has a shareholding in Khayelethu Home Loans and is on the side of the banks.

School
In January 2003 the Mandela Park AEC took a further step and launched the People’s Power Secondary School for learners refused admission to other schools on grounds related to fees, failing exams, or age. 1800 students turned up from all over Khayelitsha and 28 unemployed teachers began teaching on a voluntary basis. From the start the AEC entered negotiations with the Western Cape Department of Education for registration of the school. The Mail and Guardian had a cover story (with cover picture) on the school in February.

David Macfarlane, in an article titled “Education by the people” pointed out that around the country fees, transport and school uniform costs were resulting in the exclusion of students from school. Salim Vally, acting director of Wits University’s Education Policy Unit said that “The Anti-Eviction Campaign and other social movements have been bringing multiple instances involving violation of constitutional rights to the attention of the E[ducation] R[ights] P]roject].” He added that “These community initiatives are important…The unleashing of creative community energies needs to be encouraged and tapped, not undermined. While we are waiting for the government’s review of its education finance policies, children are still being denied their rights on an ongoing, daily basis. The Khayelitsha initiative is a striking case of what the ERPO has been recording nationally – a groundswell demand for justice that is gaining momentum.”31

Negotiations with the WCED were very protracted, and included demonstrations and mass action by the students at the WCED offices in Kuils River. In May the WCED agreed “in principle” to register the school. But in August the WCED refused registration and closed the school down. Only eight primary school students were registered at a nearby school and the rest, including 200 matric students, were not accepted by the WCED. The unemployed teachers were refused jobs. “The Acting chairperson of the school’s governing body, Chris Ndabazandile, reported that most of the students were now sitting at home and that the school was closed despite meeting all the requirements for registration. ‘We were told that the reason the school is closing is that the African National Congress does not want it. Why…are they playing these unconstitutional games with us.”32 Later in the year Chris was to be arrested on framed up charges (later withdrawn), and held overnight in Site B police station where he was subjected to racial abuse – called a “kaffir”.

A week after the first report on the school, the Mail and Guardian also reported on the arrest of AEC member Max Ntanyana and four others on charges of ‘intimidation’ and ‘breaking bail conditions’. The AEC blamed the arrests on the favourable publicity the school had had. A regular Sunday AEC mass meeting was “monitored by undercover police officers” admitted Police Commissioner Lennit Max. “Ntanyana was abducted outside his house after the meeting by three men [in plain clothes] who jumped out of a black car with no number plates. They grabbed him and dragged him into the car.”33 Ntanyana has been made by the police the scapegoat for the AEC. He was held in Pollsmoor for more than three months, and released only on stringent apartheid-era-like bail conditions, which the AEC regards as unconstitutional and which are being taken up by the Freedom of Expression Institute

Workshop
From about May 2003 I have participated in a workshop for youth in Mandela Park. We have discussed capitalism, the imperialist war in Iraq, the Russian revolution and Stalinism as well as other topics. Right-wing columnist David Bullard, examining the potential apathy of voters in the current elections, wrote recently that “one can all too easily dismiss South African youth as being more interested in sex, jobs, sex, kwaito, sex, fashion and sex than they are in politics.”34 But if the youth have been turned off “politics” in Mandela Park and elsewhere it is because they see much corruption together with much indifference to their suffering at the top. Indeed through persecution and repression from the top, their suffering is even added to.

At the first workshop I asked all those present – aged between about 13 and the early twenties – to write a letter to President Mbeki telling him what they wanted. There follows the letters that they wrote:

What we children want

I write this letter to tell you about the struggle of Khayelitsha. Our struggle is based on water, electricity cutoffs and people who have been taken out of their houses. We are trying to stop this eviction in Khayelitsha as a whole. We as children are trying to get even a free education and a better education. People have been taken by the police from the house to the jail because of fighting for their rights.
Mzwandile Panda

We are the poor: don’t cut our water
Our struggle is about water and electricity. It’s not right to take people out at 1am to go to jail when they’re not guilty. It’s not right to cut our water because we are the poor. He was given a house without a roof, but then he was taken out of that house and given a house with only one room, but in that house there are six in the one room.
Theresa

We can’t afford to pay our bills
I’m writing this letter because of our problem in Anti-Eviction Campaign. I am concerned of police who arrest people in their house. The problem is we can’t afford to pay bills because we are unemployed. And we are not born in the same equal so other people don’t have money to pay their bills.

They turn off our electricity and water because we didn’t pay our bills. If we were employed we would have a chance to pay our bill. Even the whites are not born in the same equal level. In our life we have stages so if we were the same people or if we were employed we will have chance to pay our bills
Jocefinna Peters

Moved to smaller houses
People of Anti-Eviction are fighting for their rights and people are kept outside their houses because they can’t afford to pay their rents. So they are given smaller houses in other location which they don’t like to live in.
Funeka

“The police are not doing their job”
I write this letter about what happened to me and the other people. I’ve got complaints about the police, the way they treat us. They treat us like dogs or thiefs, murderers. On 1st May this year I was at the police station, with other comrades. The police shoot me at my back three times with a rubber bullet and now my back is not the same as before.
After 9pm the other police came and found me at my neighbour’s house. They took me to the van and when I asked them they said it’s the new law, because they found me in my neighbour’s house after 9pm, so its trespassing and intimidation. So every week I must go to the court and I don’t know what I did. So I don’t like this new law because the murderers and the robbers are out there and the police don’t do anything about them. The police are not doing their job, that’s all.
M. Zodwa

The new law of South Afrca?
I am a very concerned Mandela Park resident. What really troubles me is that: how can this government promise but don’t deliver? Something that bothers me the most is how can people live in this manner. I feel very disturbed about the way people are being handled by the police. Police treat people with disrespect. They shoot us in the police station and arrest people in court. Tell me is this the new law of South Africa or did our parents vote to be treated as criminals or animals? What we want to say is please police treat us with respect because we are all human beings.
N. Makhendlana

Evictions, arrests, and shootings
We don’t need any water cut-offs and switching off our electricity because we are unemployed people so we can’t afford to pay higher bills. Evicting people from their homes, especially old people or pensioners. Police arresting people in the middle of the night and harassing people. Shooting people by rubber bullets and a real bullet. And as we are the Anti-Eviction Campaign people are accusing us of burning the housing burning government cars and harassing people but we are just fighting for our rights. We don’t have anything to do with the things they accused us of.
Nduthando Ndeleni

Promises not fulfilled
I’m writing this letter because I would like to emphasise my views on the changes that are happening in our everyday life, after all the promises were made by our government.
First people were promised free water, electricity, education. People were hoping to get houses and people were told they had a right to freedom in everything including expressing what they feel but now many people are arrested for that. People’s furniture is repossessed by sheriffs because they can’t afford to pay water and service charges. People also get evicted from houses, thrown on streets, and children can’t go to school without paying school fees. Where is the free education? When is all this going to stop? When is our country going to change from a privatization country to an anti-privatisation country?
Nosisi Ndeleni

We can’t pay; its not we don’t want to pay
I saw your paragraph in the Cape Times of 16 May where you complained about the Anti-Eviction Campaign, saying members of the campaign don’t want to pay for their houses and other charges like water and electricity. I was very disappointed when I read that paragraph because we people of Mandela Park are struggling. Some of us have parents who can’t pay the rent because of unemployment. I would like the government to take part in this action and talk to the banks and see if they can make a plan about those who are unemployed.
Miss N. Metho

“All we want is our rights”
I’m concerned about the accusation the Cape Times has made about the Anti-Eviction Campaign. My concern is that all these accusations are false. Speaking from experience, I’m one of the members. All we want is our rights as the community. Not because we want to destroy our country. We voted for a black president because we had hopes and dreams. Not to be evicted from our houses.
We demand freedom, we demand our rights. We demand equality.
Linda Kuhla

“Banks evict our mothers from their houses”
In Khayelitsha we have a problem about banks, sheriffs, cops. Banks evict our mothers from their houses. If our mothers are pensioners the bank throw them outside their houses and the sheriff take the stuff of our parents and the cops take us and our parents to jail for nothing. If you read a newspaper you see that the president complains about Anti-Eviction that we are criminals, we rape, that’s not true. We are just fighting with banks only. We don’t fight with people and we don’t make crime or make something stupid or hurt the people. I like to say to the president please come to Mandela Park to listen our problems. We have a big problem here in Khayelitsha about our houses.
Patricia Bosman

“Enough is enough”
I want to tell the government that enough is enough for the people of Mandela Park. No more arresting any more.
T.L. Macwili

Our parents cannot afford us because of their bills
I write this letter to complain about our councilor and African Nationalist Congress party…. The police they do the wrong thing to take clothes and furniture outside the house. So that’s why I said things are changed when Thabo Mbeki was president. Our families our parents cannot afford us because of their payment a month. So maybe Mr president can have something to do to increase the money of our parents.
Thank you to be grateful
N. Simanya

We won’t stop the campaign
I’m writing this letter because I don’t like this thing that they are doing to us taking us out of the houses and want us to pay the water. It’s not right that when they see us walking in the street and take us to be arrested for no reason. When we ask why you arrest us they say we must stop the Campaign or they are going to arrest us. The president Thabo Mbeki he don’t even support us, he just wants to eat the money of government. He don’t want to help people. There are people who don’t have parents they are sleeping outside and they don’t have clothes.
Nokuthula Mpandle

We are not thugs, we are the people
The banks don’t want to respond to the problem of Mandela Park. Pensioners have been evicted to Etubelitsha to 1-bedroom houses with one door, not in good condition. People have been arrested every night including Max Ntanyana. We are the poorest of the poor but the government keeps on arresting the comrades. The struggle of Mandela Park will continue until the banks, government, corrupt councilors, fish and chips parties, meet our demands. I want the government to hear us. We are not the killers, thugs, we are the people/community that fought for their rights.
A. C. Ruth

The government is representing the rich
The Anti-Eviction is a campaign that is fighting against the banks and is also fighting against evictions. But I’ve got a problem because now we have been arrested and it seems like we are fighting against the police but we are not. We are fighting for our rights and our demands because the government has promised us a better life but until now there is no better life, instead we’re getting poorer and poorer. We as a community of Khayelitsha are going forward with the struggle, because it seems like the government is representing the rich. A lutta continua!
Vuyo Mthathi

The government forgets who put them there
What will happen to the budget? Will it be used for building houses, roads, parks? Will it be used to save us charges? We are looking for these things because the capitalists have everything we don’t have. Those who have the money and land in their hand are making their families richer and us the poor become poorest for the rest of our lives. So let the government change every member of parliament. So we struggle for us not for them: let us have something in our hands, whereby equality for every one as South Africans. We voted for government, but he ran away from us after he got the seats in parliament for his gravy train members and they forget who put them there.
Eric, Lulamile, Sivuyile, Enoch

More repression
In October 2003, Max Ntanyana was arrested again. Ten days before this he had once again been abducted by police in the middle of the night and this time — offered substantial sums of money to become a police spy against the AEC. He refused. As a result he was arrested again, at 4.30 am on 13 October, on a completely fabricated charge. This went along with a new wave of arrests, also on fabricated charges. There was massive policing of the area. The atmosphere in Mandela Park at that time was almost like being under the apartheid regime again. Ntanyana was released from Pollsmoor on 8 November, and the charges against him were so ridiculous that the magistrate virtually laughed them out of court. The way people in Mandela Park understood these arrests was as the attempt of the local ANC leadership in Khayelitsha to eliminate opposition prior to the elections, particularly opposition around the social questions of daily life. In this sense it was an illegitimate use of the state to promote party interests.

In the course of exchanges on these arrests on the Debate listserve, leading SACP member Mazibuko Jara asked for more information on what was happening in Mandela Park. The Mandela Park AEC e-mailed him in November, asking him to arrange for publication of its standpoint in the SACP publication Umsebenzi, and for a reply from Leonard Ramatlakane. Here, slightly edited to avoid unnecessary repitition with what has gone before, is what they wrote:

“What has been taking place in Mandela Park for more than ten years is a struggle between the community and the banks. In Mandela Park and other parts of Khayelitsha the banks own the land and financed houses in the areas. People paid initially low deposits to move in. But when they moved in, the houses were below-standard condition, with no ceilings, no plaster, only one door, rising damp, etc. There was a bond boycott. Then the ANC and SANCO were involved in negotiations with the banks, but in Mandela Park we were not kept informed about the progress of these negotiations and could not make any input.

“Meanwhile, because of rising interest rates, and the massive disemployment in the area (which suffered largly from the GEAR policies) many people fell into big arrears with their bonds. They could not afford to pay. The original cost of the houses was R25, 000 but many people have paid much more than this over ten years and still do not own their houses.
“Everyone knows the banks as greedy profiteers. The refusal of the banks to finance low-cost housing has been an obstacle to development nationally. The SACP has correctly launched a campaign against the banks.

“Under the agreement Slovo made with the banks as Minister of Housing, Servcon was set up. Servcon offered so-called “alternatives” to people with arrears: rental, buyback, ‘right-sizing’ or evictions. None of these options has been satisfactory to the people of Mandela Park and we have expressed this many times in letters to relevant authorities.
“Eventually, in September 1999, after much protest and resistance, families — including pensioners and the disabled, began to be evicted — “right-sized” (the Servcon term) from Mandela Park to other areas, into smaller and worse housing. This is though a March 1998 briefing document from Servcon states that “people over 65 years or disabled” should not be evicted. There was widespread community resistance to the sheriffs and police who carried out these evictions.

“With massive support from the community, the Mandela Park Anti-Eviction Campaign refused to accept this “right-sizing” and has restored people to their original homes. Together with this the community has gone en masse to NBS, to Khayelethu Home Loans, and to the Western Cape MEC for housing, Nomatyala Hangana’s office and peacefully occupied them to negotiate proper solutions. These were political actions of civil disobedience which are in the traditions of protest movements in our country, and which have been engaged in recently, for example, by the Treatment Action Campaign.
“For over two years the community has regularly attended twice-weekly mass meetings of hundreds of people to discuss the strategy of the campaign.

“As a result the Mandela Park community has been subjected to harassment and victimization by the police. This is a campaign authorized by the provincial government. Thus in the Cape Times of 8 November 2002 Leonard Ramatlakane, MEC for Safety and Security in the Western Cape, as well as provincial chair of the Communist Party, is quoted to have instructed the police commissioner to “deal with” the AEC. This was despite a statement in the same article by Risimati Shivuri, police commissioner in Khayelitsha, that “Arrests will not solve the problem, political intervention is needed.”

“The Western Cape Housing Ministry’s attitude has been that the people restored to their original homes are “trespassing” and hence must be arrested. When one person is ‘trespassing’ that is an individual act. Here more than 300 people have been charged with ‘trespassing’. That represents a political movement that needs to be dealt with politically. But the Housing Ministry has handed matters over to Ramatlakane to deal with, and his police methods are being supported by ANC councillors and SANCO leaders in Khayelitsha. There is complete insensitivity to traditions of protest and to the context of the so-called ‘crime’

“Leonard Ramatlakane has criminalised a political question — a part of the question of how to solve the housing problem. As a result, people have been spending time in jail…
“Comrade Leonard Ramatlakane, as the Minister responsible, as provincial chair of the SACP, is centrally involved in the strategy. The SACP website describes the SACP as “the leading force for socialism in South Africa”. But what does Ramatlakane’s strategy have in common with the socialist or indeed the ‘national democratic’ aims of the SACP? For people who are experiencing and seeing SACP-managed repression in the townships, the rhetoric of the SACP about ‘building socialism now’ is ludicrous. The SACP is seen as policing the working class — on behalf of the ANC.

“It is not an excuse to claim that Ramatlakane is an ANC minister not accountable to the Communist Party. As an SACP member, the SACP bears responsibility for his actions. In our view, if Ramatlakane finds his position incompatible with SACP policies he should resign as a minister or resign from the Communist Party. For the moment, all SACP members should hang their heads in shame at what he is doing.

“The SACP would like everyone to join their recently-launched campaign against the banks. In Mandela Park people have been campaigning against the banks for ten years, but we have never had support from the SACP – though this campaign has sprung out of the actual grievances of the working class. Instead, through Ramatlakane, the SACP is instrumental in trying to repress this campaign.

“In our view, the SACP should insist that he changes his strategy immediately. “All charges should be dropped, and negotiations entered into with the Mandela Park AEC by the national and provincial housing ministries and the banks. If members of the SACP cannot secure such a change of policy, we would ask, ‘what are you doing in a party that can entertain a comrade engaging in such activity?’”

No reply was received from Jara, and the document was not published in Umebenzi.

South African Labour Bulletin, 27, 6, December 2003.

3 responses

20 06 2010
The ‘Mandela Park 23′ to appear in Khayelitsha Magistrates court tomorrow at 9am | The Mandela Park Backyarders

[...] mass rallies supporting our fellow residents who had been wrongfully arrested. For a full history, see this report written by Professor Martin [...]

16 05 2011
On State Violence « The Zoetendal Blog

[...] being the most common, as well as bail conditions that restrict basic political rights, have long been routine. As the years pass accounts of torture are making their way from the activist [...]

1 03 2012
Mr F Z . Gwaza ( from Saacso)

The ‘voices of our people is their future’ ; Western Cape harassment , terrorism acts by SAPS moved faster to every part of the country worse in Gauteng Province . There have been Court Orders (12/04/2011) from Contitutional Court which up-to-today has been grossly violated by both Judiciary , SAPS (custodians of the Law) and every other person who has found housing issue and poor people houses as the grazing land which greedy capitalist feed on . Please Comrade , let’s keep contacts and communication lines open to fight this uggly act of eviction of our people from the only investment our people have .

With regards
Mr. FZ. Gwaza .

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 719 other followers

%d bloggers like this: