No more charity – but true sharing of land and housing!
Refuser la misère

An initiative in the Far South Peninsula against poverty, crime and disaster,and for peace, prosperity and decent housing for all.

Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is a task of justice.” Nelson Mandela

On 1 December 2013, four days before Madiba (Nelson Mandela) passed away, four residents of the informal settlement Wetlands in Masiphumelele lost their lives in a fire which also destroyed the homes of about 200 people. On Christmas Day, 25 December, a mother died in another fire which destroyed the homes of 20 families. These were not the first fires in this area and we all know that it will not be the last ones. The situation is getting worse every year. Charity is not enough anymore. To forget even one of the victims is forgetting Madiba’s legacy.

How long can we – all of us living in the far south Peninsula – continue to ignore growing and extreme poverty? Is there another way, other than food parcels and starter kits, to create social justice – not in general, but here where we live? What can we – each of us – do to reduce poverty, crime and disasters and ensure peace, prosperity, decent housing and jobs for all within a sustainable natural environment?

We, citizens living and working in the far south Peninsula, know that there are many residents, women and men, with diverse languages, religions and political opinions, rich or poor or middle class, who all want to live peacefully together and who are deeply concerned about the extreme growing poverty of some among us. Contemporary ideology naturalizes inequality – renders it normal and expectable.

But when the dispossessed rise up in anger and desperation, there is shock and surprise. There are three key steps to prevent the escalating disparities between rich and poor exploding in our faces, be it with growing crime or political extremism. These actions are independent of party politics. They are to be implemented irrespective of election dates. We have listened to members of different communities and there are many who are ready to support and contribute once they see visible change, professionally done with no corruption or nepotism.

We have started with 80 first signatories representing recognized and community-involved citizens and organizations in the far south Peninsula – we do encourage others to join and sign as well to make our voices heard. We need to work together with all directly concerned to change the frightening and dangerous cycle of poverty in our area.

Proposed first three steps

One Ensure access for emergency vehicles and basic services

Proactive planning to “re-block” shacks so as to create access roads for emergency vehicles and basic services is essential. Access to basic services will reduce the risk of disease from waste and polluted water. Access for emergency vehicles will reduce the devastating impact of fires. A planned process involving elected leaders of the different settlement sections must start immediately. This should include incentives for those who cooperate in making space. We can learn from other poor communities in the Western Cape where - with the assistance of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) - this process of “re-blocking” the shacks has effectively created space for access roads and basic services. We offer to assist with fundraising to rebuild shacks with fire resisting material. We believe this can be achieved before the next winter in 2014.

Two – Provide a second access road

For years a second access road for the overcrowded community of Masiphumelele has been promised. Extending Houmoed Road between Fish Eagle Park and Myeza Road was a condition prior to building government housing (phase 4). It is unacceptable that a community of more than 40 000 residents are locked in by walls on two sides (towards Lekkerwater Road and Fish Eagle Park) and the wetlands on the third side, with just one access road (Pokela Road). The chaos when emergency vehicles attempt to access Kommetjie Road means risking lives. We request that the second access road be built in 2014.

Three – Conduct a land and infrastructure audit to identify space and facilities that will be required for the creation of new, diverse villages

There has been not enough political will to identify land in our area suitable for housing for lower income groups. There has also been not enough political will to invest in infrastructure. We suspect that (as happened during the past years) any land audit will continue to tell us that land is either privately owned or that city land is not feasible for housing. We agree that the plan should not be to extend Masiphumelele. Rather we need to create villages for diverse income groups, villages which offer excellent social and cultural services at the same time as protecting our natural environment. These villages will be economically attractive human settlements with small businesses contributing to job creation. Land that is currently not feasible for development should be considered for upgrading for human habitation. We expect to see serious efforts in this direction. Madiba’s (Nelson Mandela's) legacy is to learn to live together despite differences, on the basis of true sharing and mutual respect for decent and peaceful living without the scourges of crime and violence. We are convinced it is possible.

Appeal written by Prof. Andy Dawes (UCT, Faculty of Humanities) and Dr Lutz van Dijk (Co-Founder of the HOKISA Children’s Home and voluntary fundraiser for the Amakhaya ngoku Housing Project in Masiphumelele). Both are residents in Clovelly, South Africa.