What does this notion (the right to the city) mean to the poor? This simply means:
- It means improving the quality of life (as the preamble to the constitution says the government has a duty to improve the quality of life of all citizen and free the potential of each person).
- It will promote social and economic development (as section 152 of the constitution says local government must provide services to communities in a sustainable way, it must promote social and economic development, and it further says that it must encourage communities and community organizations to be involved in the matters of local government.
- It will respect, promote, protect and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights – as section 7(2) of the constitution places a duty on the state to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the Rights in the Bill of Rights.
- The right to the city should not be seen as just a demand to be housed within the city but it should be looked at how it will improve the quality of life for the poor, we need to understand that 40% of South Africans are still living below the poverty line and more than 2 million South Africans are still living within informal settlements with no security of tenure and with possible evictions on their heads.
If 40 % of South Africans are still living below the poverty line, this means that section 21 (1) which says everyone has the right to freedom of movement will only be applicable to a certain class (this means its only the rich people who will only enjoy this right, at the expenses of the poor and be defended by relevant legislations, laws and by laws) and this means the gap between the rich and the poor will continue growing in South Africa.
As long as the South African government continues to undermine the afore-mentioned rights for the poor, then the poor are left with no option but to actively take responsibility to ensure that they restore their dignity and improve the quality of their lives.
This can only be done and achieved not by relying on government any more, we gave them opportunity to deliver services to our communities but 16 years down the line people are still living under appalling conditions with no access to clean water, electricity, toilets and descent houses and our people still continue to die everyday on shack fires, illegal electricity connections and etc.
Now is the time for the poor not to listen at empty promises any more,now is the time for the poor not to be patient any more, now is the time for the poor to do away with party politics and rally behind a united front, now is the time for the poor to do away with useless negotiation, time for negotiation is over, there’s no time to talk now is the time for action.
The time to wait for government to build houses for the poor in the city is over, now is the time for the poor to house themselves forcefully within the city.
During the 2010 FIFA world cup here in South Africa, all the poor must stand up and show the world that we are not excited about the world cup because it is not for the poor but for the rich.
The time to wait for government to identify land for the poor is over, we gave them enough time to do that and they failed but to identify land to build expensive stadiums which will only be used for 1 month and spend billions with ease. They even evicted many people forcefully just to ensure that they meet FIFA requirements and standard.
And it is clear that this government is not accountable to the poor but to the rich, now it is the time for the poor to occupy empty land within the city during 2010 world cup so that we can show the world how arrogant our government is when they evict us and demolish our structures.
It is the time now to occupy their offices and turn them into living space, so that we can show the world how heartless they are when they throw us out of their offices like dogs.
It is time now for those who were evicted under the bridge within the city to claim back their space so that we can show the world that we are still alive, visible and refused to dumped in the dumping sites which distract our liveliehood.
Chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape
Abahlali baseMjondolo: www.abahlali.org
The Poor People’s Alliance: Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with the Landless People’s Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People’s Alliance – a unfunded national network of democratic membership based poor people’s movements.