Struggle for Housing in Kliptown, South Africa Continues

19 November 2007 - 5:33pm
Press release

Since 1994 residents of Kliptown have waited patiently for visible signs of job creation, public housing construction, the provision of water and electricity and enhanced educational and recreational facilities, but nothing was forthcoming. The community's repeated attempts to engage in meaningful dialogue with their local councillor and with the Mayor of Johannesburg fell on deaf ears.

Instead, in 2002, the City of Johannesburg sent in the army to try and forcibly evict the entire community to the desolate and far-away region of Vlakfontein. The community fought back, successfully resisting their removal. After this, they were promised that thousands of houses would be built and that basic services would be delivered - but yet again the community was forgotten and little or no development has taken place in the last several years.

As a result of government inaction, the community of Kliptown, represented by the APF and by the Kliptown Crisis Committee (KCR), recently staged protests at the town Community Centre against the ANC's lack of movement on basic service provision. The first march handed over a memorandum to housing officials to highlight the fact that the government's Greater Kliptown Development Programme had been a dismal failure, with thousands still landless and without homes. More than 1,000 people gathered and as the community marched and sang, the Metro Police & the South African Police Service (SAPS) opened fire on the crowd, causing injuries and angering residents.

The Mayoral Housing Committee head, Strike Ralekgoma, met the delegates at this protest and told them that the construction of houses in the region would be subject to an application procedure, with preference being given to residents "who qualify". When questioned by community delegates as to exactly what was meant by "those who qualify". Ralekgoma did not answer.

The Mayor also said that anyone who was caught illegally occupying houses would be shot. On August the 16th, 1,500 Kliptown residents signed a petition supporting the recall of their Ward Councilor who had failed to act on the housing crisis. When community representatives took their demands to the streets, senior local and provincial government officials and ANC politicians ignored them.

Kliptown residents are not the only ones dissatisfied with the lack of housing. Other poor communities around Johannesburg have also protested against the lack of service delivery. They too were fired on by police and subjected to the same derisory treatment. Discontent with the government's position on housing is widespread. Meanwhile the suffering continues.

In total 49 activists were arrested in July and August, with police using excessive force. Community activists were threatened with violence should they carry out planned peaceful protests. The APF was able to provide legal support for those arrested, arranging for their release without charge and proving that the police was using illegal tactics on largely peaceful protestors.

The APF condemns the indiscriminate use of violence by the police against community protesters. We demand that the police immediately stop their harassment of journalists, community members and ordinary residents.

The legitimate grievances and protests of poor communities regarding service delivery for housing cannot be suppressed, and our voices will not be silenced. The ANC and the government have consistently failed to meet the most elementary needs of the landless. These displaced people have no homes, no adequate health services and no jobs. Their requests are not unreasonable and can be realised if only the national and local governments were genuine about resolving the housing problems that plague many poor communities around South Africa. The APF, the KCR and other social movements will continue to protest and act on behalf of the displaced until their human rights have been secured, until their dignity has been returned to them, until their freedom has been won.

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