Cape town Freedom Song

31 08 2008
By Luke Zandstra (12 Years old)
Mowbray Cape Town

I was walking down the road,
When I saw a big  truck’
It was tearing down the houses and covering me with muck
I turned around a corner and saw them cutting down the trees
And then I saw some animals whose eyes were full of tears

They are tearing down the houses and cutting down the trees
Please look around I’m begging on my knees

Cape town was our city but it is no more
The wealthy ones have taken it and are sending out the poor
So give us back our city and the dignity of all

They are tearing down the houses and cutting down the trees
Please look around I’m begging on my knees

Cape town should be all of ours
And greed should be seized
Please look around I’m begging on my knee

Newfields Village children at risk after housing company leaves area strewn with hazardous rubble

13 08 2008

Press Alert
Wednesday August 13th 2008 at 3:30pm

HANOVER PARK - The Newfields Village community is angry that their children have been placed at risk by the Cape Town Community Housing Company (CTCHC).

The CTCHC is currently working in the area, having been forced to spend millions of rands on repairing all the faults it created by using substandard material to build the houses of Newfields Village some years ago.

However, the CTCHC is not removing the rubble after they finish working. Window frames and broken glass is strewn all over the community and this is extremely hazardous.

When the Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) asked CTCHC Project Manager Mdumiso Jikela to remove the rubble in a meeting this morning, he said that if children cut their feet open, it is not his problem.

“The CTCHC is again taking us, the community, as scrap” said the AEC’s Gary Hartzenberg.

The community is also at risk from the cheap window latches that the CTCHC is installing.

The latches are made of plastic, not metal and in three houses, thieves have already broken in simply by breaking off the latches.

The CTCHC has not learnt its lesson - it used substandard material to build houses for the poor and was then forced, after a long struggle by the community, to repair all the houses. But now it is doing the same thing all over again.

The AEC demands proper window frames and latches in all the houses.

For more information contact Gary Hartzenberg on

Hundreds take to city streets against attacks

2 06 2008
Note: for an explanation of the link between the eviction issues of South Africa’s poor and the evictions of our African brothers and sisters from their communities, please see this press statement.
Other news articles on the march:
  1. Refugee march turns tense
  2. SA and foreign nationals march against xenophobia
  3. Somali traders in S.Africa march against attacks
Candice Bailey - IOL
June 02 2008 at 03:46PM

Hundreds of immigrants and refugees marched through the city centre this morning en route to Parliament to condemn the recent xenophobic attacks and to ask government for urgent intervention. Read the rest of this entry »

AEC to march in support of refugees and to highlight the role of government in the attacks

1 06 2008
Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Alert
June 1, 2008

Cape Town - The Anti-Eviction Campaign will be attending the Anti-Afrophobia (anti-Xenophobia) march on parliament tomorrow to support fellow Africans in their struggle. The march will begin at Keizergracht Street by Cape Tech at 10am and will be led by a coalition of refugee and immigrant organisations.

The AEC will be highlighting the commonality between its members which have been evicted and/or threatened with evictions, and the plight of the thousands of refugees who have also been “evicted” by violence from their homes and communities.

In particular, the AEC would like to point out the following:

  1. That the attacks did not arise out of nowhere. Instead, hatred of foreigners has been approved of and often encouraged by the South African government and in particular the police. Raids on immigrant communities have been commonplace and police have dealt with these vulnerable groups an inhumane manner - especially the many incidents of torture and deaths at the Lindela Detention Centre. These acts by government have fostered and legitimised anti-immigrant feeling across the country.
  2. That the government’s abysmal response has done little to stop the violence and has infringed on the rights of undocumented Africans. In particular, the police have encouraged and even sometimes taken part in the looting. Moreover, the “temporary” refugee camps are in disgusting conditions which has earned sharp reprimands from both the refugees and the United Nations.
  3. That the anger of the poor is substantial and legitimate. But rather than being directed at other helpless Africans, it should be directed at the perpetrators of their poverty - the oppressive government and the wealthy elite.
  4. That the only long-term solution to afrophobia (xenophobia) and other forms of violence is to end the oppression of all poor people living in South Africa. If the poor had houses, if the poor had jobs, if the poor had decent health-care, reasonably priced food staples, and meaningful redistribution of land, they would not be blaming and fighting their neighbors for the little scraps they do have. It has been well documented that most of the actual violence in Cape Town had very little to do with hatred for foreign Africans and everything to do with it being an excuse to snatch a bag of mealies. When people are hungry, they’ll do almost anything to feed their family.

And so, we invite everyone to come join in on tomorrow’s march to parliament. We, as the poor of South Africa, will march along with thousands of Somalians, Nigerians, and Zimbabweans because we believe that the perpetrators of Afrophobia are the same people who are evicting us from our houses.

For comment, please call Mncedisi at and Gary at

Click here for COHRE’s scathing critique of the South African government’s role in the recent attacks

No home sweet home for Soetwater Somalis

29 05 2008
by Kate Stegeman
Business Day - 29/5/2008

DISPLACED Somalis have been at the forefront of the mounting tension, political mudslinging and sour relations dogging the Soetwater disaster management area in Cape Town.

Now there are calls to close down the camps. Read the rest of this entry »

Afrophobia spreads

23 05 2008

Violence Spreads to Settlements in Durban & Cape Town

In Durban people have been chased out of their homes in Chatsworth and Cato Manor. There have been no incidents in any Abahlali settlements and the movement is working 24 hours a day across the City to oppose this. In Cape Town, there have been reports of incidents in Site C (Khayelitsha), Woodstock, Gugulethu, Dunoon (Milnerton). Click here to read about for the causes of these events. For news articles, see below:

Read the rest of this entry »

Press Alert: Pavement Dwellers to tackle Mayor Zille

13 05 2008
Delft-Symphony Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Statement
May 12, 2008

Tomorrow (the 13th of May, 2008), all 300 families of the Delft-Symphony Anti-Eviction Campaign will be going tomorrow to the Cape Town Civic Centre. The pavement dwellers will be coming to Town with the purpose of personally delivering handwritten letters indicating our wishes to Mayor Helen Zille.

We are upset because our opinions and needs are being ignored by the city. The letters will, amongst other things, demand a change in the way the city treats its poor. We demand to be treated as citizens of this country and to be respected as equal human beings by city officials.

We invite the press to join us at the Civic Centre tomorrow morning to find out the details of our grievances and support us in holding the city accountable to the South African Constitution.

For comment, please call Auntie Jane at and Jerome at .

Cape High Court Orders Eviction of Joe Slovo Shack Settlement; Residents Vow to Resist

16 03 2008

A Report for Abahlali baseMjondolo by Kerry Chance

Monday, March 10 2008, CAPE TOWN - Cape Judge President John Hlophe ordered residents of the Joe Slovo shack settlement to be evicted from their homes in Langa and relocated to Delft, as part of the N2 Gateway Project. Thousands of shack dwellers from Langa, as well as some from Delft, congregated at the steps of the Cape Town High Court to express their opposition to the eviction. They carried signs that read, “If We Lose, We Will Appeal” and “We Will Resist the Red Ants.”

In the packed courtroom, singing could be heard from the remaining crowd outside. Following the decision on Monday, shack dwellers shouted “Phansi Hlophe!” and “Phansi [Housing Minister] Lindiwe Sisulu!” An Anti-Eviction Campaign banner was raised at the front of the crowd that read: “Down with Evictions, Water Cut Offs, & Privatisation, Forward to Community Struggles. Phambili! No Land, No House, No Vote.” Approximately a thousand residents returned to Joe Slovo settlement for a mass meeting to discuss a “resistance Plan B” and the possibility of further legal action in the Bloemfontein Court of Appeal. Residents expressed their solidarity with Delft backyarders, some of whom also attended the meeting.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, in a press release, referred to the decision on Monday as “bureaucratic madness.” Joe Slovo residents “do not want to go” to Delft, but “there are thousands of backyarders in Delft who need the housing being built there,” stated the press release. Currently, Delft backyarders are living on the pavement alongside new, empty houses. Backyarders previously occupied the new houses and were violently ejected from them last month. The houses are now encircled with barbed wire fencing, and patrolled by private security and metro police.

Joe Slovo shack dwellers will not be guaranteed occupancy of new houses in Delft, but rather will be placed in “temporary accommodation,” for an unspecified period of time. Residents already relocated to the Delft “temporary accommodation” found that it was made with cancer-causing asbestos, now a matter of investigation. Complaints also have been lodged that the “accommodation” was defective in a variety of other ways, including huge cracks in the walls and leaking roofs.

The land in Langa, where Joe Slovo shack dwellers have lived for at least nineteen years, will be used for bonded flats, which are too expensive for current residents. Construction of the bonded flats is already underway. Unlike the land in Langa, Delft – dubbed the “Delft Karoo” for its sandy, barren landscape – has no train station, transport costs are high, and it is far from the city centre and Langa, where residents respectively work and children attend school. An estimated 6 000 people will be affected by the eviction order.

In his decision, Judge Hlophe directed Joe Slovo residents to assist in the removal of their homes, and gave authority to the Sheriff to enforce the order. Residents are required to vacate the land in accordance with a timetable, reported the Cape Times, beginning on March 17 and ending on January 19, 2009 – in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. In the courtroom, Judge Hlophe cited no reason for the eviction, but directed residents to the fifty page judgment to read his decision in its entirety.

The case against Joe Slovo residents, who were represented in Court by the Legal Resources Centre, was brought by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Western Cape Housing MEC Richard Dyantyi and Thubelisha Homes, a company in partnership with government and the manger of the N2 Gateway Project, responsible for building the new houses in Delft and the “temporary accommodation.” Judge Hlophe said in his decision that the company and the government are to file affidavits to the courts every eight weeks to report on the implementation of his eviction and relocation orders.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign stated in a press release, “The residents of Joe Slovo wish to make it clear that this is just the beginning of the struggle.”

On the same day that Judge Hlophe handed down his judgment the report of Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, on his mission to South Africa was released. It is not uninteresting to compare the two documents.

No compassion for people who do not drive a Porsche?

16 03 2008

by Pierre De Vos (Professor of Constitutional Law at UWC)
Source: Constitutionally Speaking

One would think that it would have been hard for Judge President of the Cape, John Hlophe, to order the forced eviction of 20 000 poor, black people from the Joe Slovo informal settlement. After all, when he was in trouble for taking hundreds of thousands of Rand from the Oasis company and then lied about the reasons for these “out of pocket” expenses, he presented himself as a champion of transformation and a victim of racism.

But I suppose now that he is safely back in the saddle and he can enjoy his ownership of a wine farm while driving in a shiny new black Porsche, he has forgotten the values of the Constitution that requires him to consider the human dignity of the poor people whose forced eviction he has now ordered. Who cares that the order will destroy this community and that the people now living close to work opportunities will be dumped in the gramadoelas in Delft?

Yesterday the judge President handed down a judgment in Thubelisa Homes and Others v Various Occupants and Others that seems to me completely devoid of compassion and also legally misguided because it essentially ignores recent decisions by the Constitutional Court, while purporting to follow them. Thubelisa Homes applied for the eviction order so that it could bulldoze the shacks next the the N2 before erecting shiny new homes where only a few of the original occupants of the informal settlement will ever live.

The starting point of the judgment is that the residence of Joe Slovo - who have been living on the land since 1994 and have been given tacit approval for living there by the authorities - are unlawfully occupying the land needed for a vanity housing project (the N2 Gateway project) and that it would therefore be fine to remove them to Delft because it would actually “undoubtedly [be] for the benefit of the residents of the informal settlement and in line with the Constitutional values”. These pesky residence just do not want to know what is good for them. Obviously bureaucrats and a judge driving a Porsche knows much better what is good for them than they would know themselves. After all they are only poor and black.

The judgment refers to an earlier Constitutional Court judgment in the Port Elizabeth Municipality case where justice Albie Sachs stated that a court should be reluctant to grant an eviction order against relatively settled occupiers unless it is satisfied that a reasonable alternative is available. Thus, Justice Sachs continued, the legislation expressly requires:

the court to infuse elements of grace and compassion into the formal structures of the law. It is called upon to balance competing interests in a principled way and to promote the constitutional vision of a caring society based on good neighbourliness and shared concern. The Constitution and PIE confirm that we are not islands unto ourselves. The spirit of ubuntu, part of the deep cultural heritage of the majority of the population, suffuses the whole constitutional order. It combines individual rights with a communitarian philosophy.

But the judgment then approvingly quotes from the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment (handed down by that champion of transformation, Harms ADP) in City of Johannesburg v Rand Properties (since overtaken by the Constitutional Court judgment two weeks ago!) to the effect that the Constitution does not give a person a right to housing at State expense at a locality of that person’s choice and concludes that it is fair and reasonable to dump the 20 000 Joe Slovo residence in Delft - even though it is 15 kilometers from Joe Slovo, far away from the city center of Cape Town.

This line of reasoning is perplexing, to say the least, as the Constitutional Court in the City of Johannesburg case in effect overruled the SCA judgment by ordering the parties to negotiate with one another and by implicitly accepting that it would not be humane or in conformity with a respect for the human dignity of the inner city dwellers to dump them at alternative accommodation 35 km outside of town. In that judgment Justice Yacoob stressed that the human dignity of those affected by removal must be respected and that their views must be heard.

This seems to imply that high handed and unilateral action by officials or judges telling people what is good for them will not suffice. A real and meaningful engagement is required and merely telling the people of Joe Slovo that it was in their own interest to be dumped in godforsaken Delft would not be good enough. What is sorely lacking in the Hlophe judgment is the “grace and compassion” that Justice Sachs spoke about.

For me what permeates the judgment is a complete lack of compassion for the plight of the Joe Slovo residence. There might be a case to be made to upgrade the Joe Slovo informal settlement, but then it should surely be done within the confines of the Constitutional values of dignity and respect. By repeating over and over that the Joe Slovo residence are living unlawfully on the land, the judgment seems to suggest that they are criminals who are thus less deserving of concern, compassion and respect.

It accepts that the government policy that would force most Joe Slovo residence to permanently live far away from their places of work is completely reasonable because the government says that it is reasonable. It emphasises the need for the court to respect the separation of powers and thus suggests that the court should take at face value assurances by the government that it would be better for Joe Slovo residence to be moved. It completely ignores the fact that the Joe Slovo residence do not think it would be better for them to go and live in the veld.

It is hard to argue that “elements of grace and compassion” animate the conception of reasonableness in this case. It suggests that it is perfectly acceptable for the state to forcibly remove a large group of people who have been living on a piece of land for thirteen years merely because the government of the day has decided this is what needs to happen.

Maybe I am too harsh on the judgment, but it seems to me that given our history in which the apartheid government forcibly removed people at the drop of a hat, courts should be extremely sensitive to give eviction orders where such a large group of people will be moved and their lives disrupted for ever. In this case there is a complete absence of this historical perspective.

To my mind it once again shows the difficulties of judicial transformation and poses questions about what kind of judges we need on the bench. Surely real judicial transformation requires judges who are sensitive to the needs of the poor and destitute and at least an honest engagement with their fears and complaints. In this judgment there is a complete absence of such engagement and the Joe Slovo residence and their needs are completely ignored. They are treated as recalcitrant individuals standing in the way of the government housing programme and their needs and wishes are completely ignored.

Before the law they have once again become invisible. They are not treated as individual human beings with feelings and needs but merely as a problem to be dealt with. What we need are more judges who really wrestle with the very difficult issues presented by gentrification of informal settlements and the real hurt and pain of forced removals. This is what the Constitution - as interpreted by the Constitutional Court, not the SCA - requires.

Perhaps this is too much to ask of a judge who might experience this informal settlement on the N2 as an eyesore and a stumbling block to progress - even as he speeds to his wine farm in his shiny Porsche.

Pictures: Joe Slovo judgement - March 10, 2008

13 03 2008