The Poor Have the Right to be Housed in Well Located Land
by Rosalie de Bruijn (Dutch Researcher)
On Saturday the 22nd of May 2010 “the Right to the City Campaign” was launched in TT informal settlement, Site B, Khayelitsha. The aims of the campaign of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape (AbM-WC) are very clear: to show the world that the World Cup 2010 is not benefitting the poor, but is instead further marginalizing the urban poor from places they called home and from public spaces where they found their main sources of income. - “We want city life, tired of promises!” -
Besides creating this awareness about these evictions that were carried out during the preparations for the World Cup, this Right to the City Campaign is further used to claim the right to adequate housing and especially to claim ‘that the government must build houses within the city’ (AbM-WC).
“We are told that there is no place to build houses in the city, but they are building stadiums. They must not build houses far away from the jobs and everything, we as the poor also have a right to be housed within well located land.” - Mzonke Poni (Chairperson AbM-WC).
These are thus the main issues that the campaign will raise - accompanied with large collective actions - when all the eyes are focused on South Africa’s FIFA tournament.
During the speeches that were held before revealing the programme of the Campaign, the community leaders stated that they are waiting for 16 years on adequate housing, but nothing happened so far. They only received empty promises from the City. Besides this, the community members made clear that they want to be involved in the decision-making process and that the City officials have to come to the communities to ask what they want and to work together on an equal foot. However, space this for negotiation is limited and people are tired of promises made by the local government:
“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 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.” – Abahlali baseMjondolo.
Members of Abahlali baseMjondolo are currently mobilizing their communities and allies to stand up and to house themselves forcefully within the city just before the FIFA World Cup will be opened:
“We are going to build shacks near Green Point stadium. When it rains, we will take over public toilets and make them our homes. If there are empty buildings in town, we will occupy them. We will stay there and demand houses. We want to stay in the city and when we will be evicted, we will stay on the streets and go to court” – Mzonke Poni.
The FIFA World Cup will thus be used by the Right to the City Campaign as a platform to show the world ‘that this [South African] government is not accountable to the poor but to the rich’ (AbM- WC) and this mega-event will be used by those evicted and marginalized from their spaces and livelihoods to reclaim their Right to the City.
For comments please contact Mzonke Poni (Chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo) / abmwesterncape [at] abahlali.org