The shackdweller movement in South Africa questions 17 years of “freedom”. The struggle was to ensure there would be land, housing and jobs for all and that South Africa really belongs to all who live in it. It was not to simply replace one group of oppressors with another which is what is happening.
On the 27th April the whole country will be asked to commemorate the seventeenth year of so called “Freedom”.
We cannot forget that many people died and fought hard and with courage and determination to gain this freedom from apartheid. We honour those people all the time. Many of our members struggled in trade unions and in community organisations. We have members whose ancestors fought in the war fought from the Nkandla forest and in the rebellion on Nguza Hill. The struggle against apartheid is our struggle.
But we have a clear understanding of what that struggle was for and it was not just to replace white politicians with black politicians. That struggle was not just to force white business to take on some black partners. That struggle was to ensure that South Africa belongs, really belongs, to all who live in it. That struggle was to ensure that there would be land and housing for all, that the doors of learning and culture would be opened to all and that there would be work for all. That struggle was for equality, to ensure that every person counts and that every person counts the same.
It is so sad to still hear and see that seventeen years after the end of apartheid there are millions of people who are ‘forgotten’ and yet they are being told that they are free. They are being told that they must go to the stadiums on an empty stomach to listen to politicians tell them how far they have come and then go home to a shack.
We are told every day that freedom means voting plus service delivery. We do not accept this definition and we will not be intimidated by all those who say that our refusal to accept this definition means that we are immature and unprofessional. As a movement of the forgotten it is our duty to continually ask ourselves what freedom really means. Freedom is always something that should be defined by the people.
Is it true that people are free if they are still living under the fear of being evicted? Are people free if they are still living under the fear of dying in shack fires because authorities deny them their basic right to have access to electricity? Are people free if they must still fear rape? Are people free if their children are still dying from diarrhoea? Are people free if they are still living in shacks? Are people free when they are being forced into transit camps or tiny badly made houses out in the human dumping grounds?
Are people free when they vote for councillors that never come to speak to them again till the next election? Is democracy really supposed to be a system for the politicians to use the poor as ladders? Continued