The manner in which the evictions of the Nomzamo /Lwandle informal settlement or shack dwellings was carried out is a reflection of the political and economic system embraced and practiced by the ruling elite or class in this country. The treatment of the poorest of the poor, the have-nots and the dispossessed is not surprising although shocking. Some of us were not surprised though shocked and disgusted by the brutality with which this was done because the interests of the rich and privileged were questioned or challenged and had to be protected including the status quo on the land issue , which is the underlying problem to housing in this country.
This is also a reflection of lack of decisiveness by the ruling elite whose hands are tied by a constitution that does not protect or defend the interests and aspirations of the poorest of the poor, the have-nots and the dispossessed of this country who are also the indigenous people of this country. The Nomzamo situation highlights the acute issue of landlessness of the majority indigenous in this country and the concomitant homelessness. This situation is corroborated by the recent publication of the latest land audit that shows that “private individuals and foreigners own close to 80 percent of South African land” (Pretoria News, Friday, Saturday September 6, 2013, Front Page).
There is no land for housing for the poor. This is admitted by some of the municipalities. In some municipalities, there is no land or space for cemeteries. The case in point is Soshanguve where they have been using the Mabopane cemetery because theirs is full and there is no land nearby. If any is available, it is either owned by a van der Merwe or a van Vuuren and the government cannot do anything about that because it is private property protected by the constitution (Property Clause 25).
The situation in this country is said to be unique or special. Sobukwe, the founder-leader of the PAC, rejected this ‘South African Exceptionalism’ because South Africa is an integral part of the African continent and is the outcome of colonialism – classical or settler colonialism (Remember the Berlin Congress of 1884-1885). As a result of this ‘exceptionalism’, the struggle for liberation in this country has not meant liberation of our land occupied by the settlers who are not prepared to share it with the landless majority.
The ruling elite have been made to believe but also believe and in turn have made the poor believe that any change in land ownership will affect food security. They even go to extremes by misrepresenting what has happened in Zimbabwe without admitting that the future generations there are secured with regard to land ownership whilst we, our children and their children have nothing and will have nothing. The Zimbabweans are now hands on with regard to the use of land for food production and food security whilst we depend on others for food security. One may also ask the question food security for what and for whom? For export and for the rich and privileged who have the means! This explains the Nomzamo situation where we have seen women and children crying painfully and in desperation because the only homes they had were demolished by heartless agents of those who own the land and the country in the name of private property.
After causing destruction, mayhem, suffering, fear, loss of personal belongings, interruption of children’s schooling and creating homelessness for the already homeless and exposing them to severe winter cold weather, the representatives of the ruling elite come around to shed crocodile tears and also accusing one another for the tragic situation they have caused. Then they tell the people to go back to what is now a waste land whilst others are temporarily accommodated in overcrowded community halls and other public facilities where there is no privacy let alone enough toilettes. They have been stripped of their human dignity. In the meantime, the government is telling the suffering displaced, helpless people and their innocent children to wait whilst they are looking for an alternative land (ba loma ba fodisa).
This clearly shows how poor people have become political football of parties that represent the rich and the privileged. This also explains the type of freedom we got. Our freedom needs to be freed or liberated if we truly want to claim to be really free. It is not surprising to hear voices saying not yet UHURU. Without control and ownership of our land and its resources below and above ground we are lying to ourselves, lying to others and lying to the world about the human rights and freedoms we claim to enjoy in this country. All these are academic, meaningless and have no substance for the poor and are enjoyed by the rich and the privileged who have forgotten who they are, where they came from and how they came to be where they are.
The last word remains with the poorest of the poor, the have-nots and the dispossessed of this country. Their time will come and they will remember what happened to them at Nomzamo informal settlement and other parts of this country.
Izwe Lethu! I-Africa!
By Molefe ‘Ike’ Mafole
The writer is a Member of the PAC of Azania (PAC) and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) Military Veterans Association. He can be contacted on 072 630 2206.