‘The world cup will be our chance to make our voices heard’

6 05 2008
South Africa will host the World Cup in 2010 so construction – and corruption – is booming. But almost none of the building or the money can be accessed by the poor who live in shantytowns without proper water, sanitation or electricity. These inequalities could be a major issue in the 2009 presidential election.

By Philippe Rivière

“All people shall have the right to live where they choose,
be decently housed, and to bring up their families
in comfort and security.”

(Article 9 of the Freedom Charter adopted
by the Congress of the People at Kliptown
on 26 June 1955.)

There’s a house for sale for $125 just two kilometres from the beach at False Bay, in Khayelitsha, a township east of Cape Town, between Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope. The downside is that it is in the QQ section, an informal settlement on marshy land beneath the high-tension cables of Eskom, South Africa’s public electricity utility. Despite a ban, the area is covered with wooden shacks with corrugated iron roofs, the homes of hundreds of thousands of urban poor.

More than 20 years after QQ was squatted, its 600 families still have no sanitation and rely on eight taps for drinking water. An anarchic tangle of electricity cables, hidden beneath tarmac, connects the shantytown to metered supplies in the adjoining legal settlement. Fatal fires are frequent. Anything that can be let out is for hire, even a key to the latrines. Not far from Mzonke Poni’s home, a branch from the main supply cable is concealed in a corner, behind a pile of boxes: he has lived in QQ with his mother for more than six years and hopes to avoid being cut off during the next police raid.

“We’ve got our own Waterfront,” says Poni. QQ has appropriated the name of Cape Town’s smart district because, for four months of the year, winter rains flood all the shacks on low ground. Some residents have raised the soil by a few centimetres to buy themselves enough time to move chairs, television and personal effects to the home of a neighbour or family member.

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Jo’burg Taken to Court on Housing for the Poor - Again

6 05 2008
Johannesburg, 6 May 2008
Centre for Applied Legal Studies

On Wednesday 7 May 2008, the Johannesburg High Court will hear an application by 88 desperately poor men women and children for an order requiring the City of Johannesburg to say what it will do to provide them with housing if they are evicted from their homes by a private property developer.

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