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By Andile Mngxitama
Seven years ago I was called by the community of Lenasia to intervene when their houses where being demolished by the then African National Congress (ANC) ran City of Johannesburg. When we arrived, the TLB tractors were pulling fully built and often really beautiful homes down. We stood with the community with shared tears. We asked, why would a government that claims to care for the people do this?
Little did I know that seven years later, and exactly a day after the new set of Members of Parliament (MPs) were sworn, the now Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) run City of Johannesburg would repeat the cruelty of the ANC on the people of Lenasia South.
I arrived in Lenasia yesterday late afternoon after a call for help. Yet again we were met with piles of rubble were houses stood that very morning. Over 30 houses down! The TLB arrived with red ants and a sheriff of the court armed with a court order sought by Mayor Herman Mashaba – the trusted man of the EFF. Mashaba, and by extension the EFF which put him in power, waited for the people to vote for them, then they moved on them under the insulting claim that the people built houses on land obtained illegally.
I had an opportunity to address the community and didn’t mince my words. I explained that they didn’t vote for Black First Land First (BLF). They voted for parties which are evicting them and demolishing their homes. I reminded them that in 2012 the ANC, under the councillor Dan Bovu, did exactly what the DA and EFF are doing to them right now. I asked, where are the people who they voted for? We are no longer going to mollycoddle the poor and the oppressed. Let them take responsibility for their political choices.
I explained that BLF will stand with them just like some of us did back in 2012. I saw regret written on their faces. I explained that the only way we can save the rest of the houses is if we mobilise resistance. That’s how we saved some houses in 2012. Mashaba and EFF must be exposed and put under pressure. No more evictions. No more demolitions. The people want houses!
I furthermore explained that I have no more tears to cry. I did that already in 2012. Now we must fight. The community will be in court this morning trying to get an urgent application to stop Mashaba’s demolitions, powered by Juju. My advice is to go straight to Mashaba the demolition man.
Please see below a column I wrote for the Sowetan in 2012.
YESTERDAY, I was at Lenasia, Gauteng, as part of the September National Imbizo delegation which visited the community whose homes are being demolished.
Sipho Ngobeni, whose house was destroyed, told us: “I used to have a house, now I’m a hobo”.
Last Thursday, he was given five minutes to take everything out of his house by rude and violent government officials accompanied by the police.
The people and residents’ association, who have been talking to government, are bewildered by this irrational violence and arrogance of the democratic government.
They ask the question: why does the government destroy houses of people who have taken so much effort to put a roof over their heads without asking for government support?
Some people sold their cars, others took out loans from banks and others are working double shifts to pay for the houses they have built – which are a thousand times better than what the government gives as RDP houses.
A government that respects the people and is committed to serving citizens would not have reacted with administrative and judicial violence and arrogance.
A government of the people would have appreciated the initiative of citizens and then regulated their efforts and encouraged others to do the same.
Our government hates people’s self-organisation and efforts. It is clear that instead of responding with understanding and empathy, the first thing the ANC does is to flex its power as a state and punish the people.
A government that relates to its citizens with violence is no longer fit to govern.
We are still in the midst of the Marikana massacre and haven’t forgotten the public murder of Andries Tatane. Now we see the ANC demolishing houses instead of building more houses to end homelessness.
It doesn’t look like things are going to get better, instead we must prepare for the reality of things getting worse!
A strange aspect of these irrationalities of power is how the ANC alliance acts as a hegemonic power.
It’s marvellous to watch the now well-synchronised ritual of violence against the people.
The ANC government will attack the people and then the South African National Civics Organisation, Cosatu and the SACP will come to the scene, register shock and declare that they are with the people and are going to take the matter up.
It’s like one hand assaults you and the other offers you comfort. It’s an evil, cynical abuse of power of people’s trust and vulnerability. I can imagine the alliance partners laughing about it at Luthuli House.
The ANC must stop the demolitions forthwith and as a gesture of remorse must publicly apologise to the nation and rebuild the houses they have destroyed and pay for all related losses.
Destitute people who took the initiative and then found that they have been duped by government officials or people who used fraudulent papers that look like official papers do not deserve to be punished. They deserve to be assisted. Can the ANC listen?
Last week I promised readers that I would write this week about Zimbabwe’s amazing indigenisation process. But it will have to be the next column. I apologise.