***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
8 AUGUST 2012
Residents of Marlboro sleep 40 people per tent this Women’s Day
Residents of Marlboro in Johannesburg are suffering in the record cold weather this Women’s Day. The cause is an illegal eviction by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD). A night after unprecedented snow fell upon the city, 120 mothers, fathers, and children, will huddle in three military-style tents as their only source of shelter from the life-threatening elements.
Since last Thursday, the JMPD has been evicting shack dwelling residents of the area without prior notice due to a charge of trespassing. Many residents were left absolutely homeless or to seek emergency shelter with families and friends elsewhere. The Community Upgrading Finance Facility, which is housed in the South African Alliance of organisations linked to Shack Dwellers International (SDI), has provided funds for the 3 tents, which are quite clearly the most minimal emergency recourse for evicted Marlboro residents. Assistance from the City of Johannesburg has not been forthcoming. Over the last week, these working families have seen their homes destroyed into piles of rubble, faced down rubber bullets, and confronted the most basic fear of homelessness. A legal case against the city is being handled on behalf of the community by Lawyers for Human Rights.
By working with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), a social movement of shack dwelling community leadership in Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, Ethekwini, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay metros, Marlboro residents had recently begun to negotiate with the City of Johannesburg housing department, and work with architecture students from University of Johannesburg on a development framework.
Negotiation and peaceful conflict resolution has always been the approach of communities linked to the South African SDI Alliance. Indeed, the Alliance has been in final stages of a partnership negotiation with the City of Johannesburg. In the face of the reasoned and humane route, the city has clearly decided otherwise. Rubber bullets, flattened shacks, and suffering mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons, are the city’s response. A requested meeting with the Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for housing Dan Bovu has yet to materialize.
In every city where the ISN has mobilized, pursuit of partnership with local authorities has been the primary tactic of engagement with government. The South African SDI Alliance affirms its commitment to partnership and negotiation with local authorities as the most effective way to achieve upgraded informal settlements, decent shelter, and inclusive cities for all. It is up to these self-same authorities to create the conditions whereby such a commitment can be realized. When local authorities choose the route of intimidation and violence, leaving their own citizens homeless and without even the most basic recourse, authorities should not be surprised if tactics change.
Sol Plaatje, founder of the ANC, wrote of this very contradiction, in response to the Native’s Land Act of 1913, which enabled strikingly similar scenes of eviction, dispossession, fear, and violence: “Can a law be justified which forces the people to live only by means of chicanery?”
Contacts in Marlboro community:
Tapelo – 0710355937
Charles – 0785144053
August – 083 4229858
David – 078 9044102