South African shack dwellers challenge Slums Act in court

13 May 2009 - 3:48pm

As South Africa prepares for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the government has made plans to develop ‘World Class Cities' by eliminating the ‘slums' which are home to millions. This week our partner organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo is set go before the Constitutional Court to challenge the Slums Act, a law that will displace thousands from their homes.

In November 2008 Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM, literally ‘people living in shacks'), a Durban-based shack dweller movement and War on Want partner organisation, applied to the Durban High Court in order to challenge the constitutionality of the Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act. This Act, which was introduced by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in 2007, is expected to lead to a large number of evictions of shack dwellers from their homes to temporary housing in so-called ‘transit camps'. These camps are often located far away from vital services and job opportunities, and many lack decent water and sanitation facilities.

ABM challenges the slums act

Watch a video of ABM members explaining the impact of the Slums Act on their community.

While the government refers to the camps as ‘temporary', many shack dwellers fear that they will be stuck in ‘government shacks' for years. Organisations such as ABM are campaigning for an upgrading of existing shack settlements and for the right of shack dwellers to a place in the city and against being dumped on the outskirts of urban areas in ‘transit camps'.

Despite the organisation's efforts to contest the constitutionality of the Slums Act, the Durban High Court dismissed ABM's application in January 2009, arguing that the Slums Act would make "things more orderly in this province" and that "the Act must be given a chance to show off its potential to help deal with problems of slums and slum conditions". The court outcome was a big blow to poor shack dwellers in KwaZulu-Natal Province whose livelihoods in many ways depend on living near to their places of work. Workers who have been moved to the camps are forced to spend the vast bulk of their income on transport.

In order to protect the right to a place in the city, ABM has now taken the Slums Act to the Constitutional Court. On the eve of the court challenge on Thursday 14 May 2009, War on Want supports ABM's fight for shack dwellers' right to the city and its struggle for the safety, dignity and equality of the poor.

South African Diary: Attending a workers' meeting

10 May 2009 - 9:00am

In the late afternoon we headed towards a farm where a workers' meeting was being held. It was almost 7:30pm when we arrived at the unheated community hall, where about 30 workers had gathered. Union or community meetings are typically over lunch or in the evenings outside of work hours and must be authorised by the farm owner.


South African Diary: One farm worker's story

10 May 2009 - 8:00am

We continued on our way to meet with some members of Sikhula Sonke whom we had arranged to speak with about their work. Tesco claims that its products are produced under ethical conditions. However, Kitty de Kock's story paints a very different picture. Kitty earns 325 rand a week (about £25) for 45 hours of work. She has two children and pays 330 rand a year for each child's school fees. On her wage she only provide her family with bread and coffee for breakfast and lunch and rice, potatoes and occasionally some meat for dinner. Buying new clothes, school materials and toys for her children would require a miracle.


South African Diary: Tesco makes billions, but workers continue to suffer hardship

10 May 2009 - 12:00am

This was a busy day not only for us visitors, but also for the farm workers in the provinces of Wellington and Ceres that we met.

Wendy Pekeur, General Secretary of Sikhula Sonke, spoke to a reporter for The Guardian about evictions, one of the most pressing issues facing South African workers. 'One million farm workers, of whom 77 % are women and children, have been evicted from their homes since 1994. Of all the evictions, 99% are illegal, despite the fact that the South African constitution holds that no person can be evicted without a court order.'War on Want invited The Guardian journalist to South Africa in order to experience first hand the conditions facing thousands of workers who supply Tesco with fruit and wine.


South African Diary: Strengthening our partner's work

9 May 2009 - 12:00am

We started the day very early; the morning was chilly as the South African winter is approaching. Today our main aim is to assist our partner Sikhula Sonke with its financial systems and procedures. Prior to our visit, Sikhula Sonke staff had explained to us that they needed technical support to strengthen their internal financial procedures and provide transparency to members. In light of this need, War on Want's Finance Director carried out a training session with staff and helped the administrator to set up an action plan to follow throughout this year.


South African Diary: War on Want visits partners in South Africa

8 May 2009 - 12:00am

Sharing experiences, knowledge, skills and working in solidarity with partners in the global South is at the heart of War on Want's values. One of the ways in which we share with our partners is by visiting them, as well as the people they work with. Graciela Romero, International Programmes Director, writes about her experience visiting partners in South Africa.

The journey from the Cape Town airport to Stellenbosch town, where the headquarters of our partner Sikhula Sonke are located, made a deep impression on us as we passed by kilometres and kilometres of land occupied by people living in shack settlements. This landscape contrasted in a disturbing way with the wealth and infrastructure we saw in Stellenbosch.


‘EU policies deepen jobs crisis'

7 May 2009 - 3:21pm

NEWS HOOK: Thursday, 7 May 2009 European jobs summit, Prague

European leaders are today accused of promoting free market policies that will lead to more job loses in the EU and the rest of the world.

The accusation comes from the British charity War on Want, in response to an EU summit held in Prague today (Thursday, 7 May) that was supposed to tackle the impact of the global economic crisis on employment in Europe.

War on Want's latest research, Trading Away Our Jobs, was the first-ever report to calculate the numbers of jobs lost globally in the wake of trade liberalisation and to analyse the impact of free trade on employment. The report highlights how free trade agreements have already caused tens of millions of job losses over the last 20 years.

War on Want trade campaigns officer, Dave Tucker, said: "For decades, the EU has consistently pursued trade policies that have caused mass unemployment around the world and led us to financial meltdown. Now European workers are feeling the impact of these free trade policies. The EU must wake up and refocus on the needs of European people, not its corporations."

During the free trade 1990s, the jobless in Latin America soared from 7.6 million to 18.1 million, with unemployment rises in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Between the early 1990s and 2006, farming jobs in Mexico slumped from 8.1 million to around six million as a result of trade liberalisation. Now a third of all the region's workers face insecure employment. The report says these same policies will also create millions of jobless people in Europe itself.

According to the charity, recent judgements by the European Court of Justice have also undermined fundamental workers' rights, allowing companies to play workers from different countries off against each other.

The summit comes at a time when global unemployment is already rising fast, with the International Labour Organisation forecasting over 50 million more people worldwide could lose their jobs by the end of this year, and 200 million workers fall into extreme poverty. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says that by next year jobless numbers in rich nations could rise by eight million.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728



Workers around the world celebrate May Day

1 May 2009 - 3:57pm

As the global economic crisis deepens, today workers from around the world are celebrating May Day. Laia Blanch, International Programmes Officer at War on Want, takes a look at how our partner organisations are marking this occasion.

At a time when the jobs and livelihoods of millions of workers have been lost due to the global meltdown, the celebration of May Day -- also known as International Workers' Day -- becomes not just a celebration, but an opportunity for people to express their discontent and demand a new system.

May Day is an important date for labour movements across the world -- it is a day both to celebrate the achievements of the movement and, most importantly, to raise awareness worldwide of workers' struggles and their demands for the recognition of their rights.

More than ever War on Want's partners are involved in advocacy and lobbying activities. From Asia to Latin America, War on Want partners are fighting to guarantee the livelihoods of millions of workers and their families despite the global economic meltdown, which has affected developing countries the most.

Our partner in Sri Lanka, the Free Trade Zones & General Service Employees Union (FTZGSEU), will use its May Day campaign to protest against labour law reform being promoted by factory employers that will significantly reduce workers' rights.

In Bangladesh, the National Garment Workers' Federation are organising a women workers' May Day rally in Dhaka and a Garment Workers' May Day rally in the Chitagoang, Narayangoang, Savar and Gazipur garment production areas.

In Central America, the Honduran Women's Collective (Codemuh) will participate in a large scale demonstration involving Honduran trade unions and grassroots organisations. Codemuh will use street theatre to raise awareness of the impact of aggressive sweatshop production operating at the expense of workers' health.

War on Want will celebrate May Day 2009 alongside and in solidarity with its partners on the ground and on the front line in the fight against poverty.



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