I REFER to the forced evictions in Motherwell, reported in The Herald on March 13 ("Riot as police demolish shacks in Motherwell").
Who were they who have fallen victim to such monstrous actions? They are our brethren, fellow South Africans, men and women, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandmas and grandpas, young toddlers and school-going children.
Their collective sin was not that they occupied the land, but rather poverty.
The democratic local government must clear itself of all the old tendencies, that of forcefully evicting homeless and landless people. These are and remain barbaric and inhuman acts of violence against the powerless, as exhibited so often by the apartheid government.
When people in power haste back to the old ways of doing things, it indicates undoubtedly their lack of growth in finding progressive alternatives to engage the poor.
What alarms me is the fact that at the helm of the human settlements directorate is a senior and respected member of the SA Communist Party. In the heyday of communist action for the poor, the collective understanding was that the single most important mission of a communist was the abolition of private property.
The occupation of a piece of land by the occupants is nothing short of demonstrating the historical imbalances that still exists in our society and is perpetuated today by governance that is isolating the poor from a decent living as contained in our hard-fought constitution.
The formation of the union in 1910 and the subsequent 1913 Land Act propelled black people to action. Consequently various campaigns took off – by close examination we will find the land question at the centre of it all, then and now!
Mvuleni Mapu, as a leading communist, should have known that this is not a struggle of undermining the local state but rather a demonstration of the perpetual inequality that exists in our city. To reduce the people's struggles for land, shelter, jobs and decent living to that of a few troublemakers that must be taught a lesson, is to misread the signals that our people give us.
Today it might be an isolated case of a group of a hundred, but consider the sporadic emergence of protest action across the metro.
A few weeks ago I read in The Herald about a bed and breakfast property in Summerstrand that was ordered by the high court to be demolished. I have not seen any action being taken against such property or its owners.
In the same paper it was reported that more properties were under investigation for defaulting on the contents of their title deeds. Did the municipality take action against them?
I still want to see the day when bulldozers enter Summerstrand and start demolishing those properties. Many private property owners break the law of the land every day.
How many times have we witnessed bulldozers entering Lorraine, Sherwood, Central, Walmer, etc? In Central almost half of the building/property owners disregard municipal regulations.
These actions that the local state unleashed against its own people – whose interest do they serve?
Who benefits from such actions?
Is this really a question about the rule of law? The rule of law for whom, when the same local government violates the very same people's right to decent living every day? The right to human dignity underpins all that we stood for in our actions against apartheid.
It took the progressive forces more than a decade to negotiate with the apartheid oppressors for our freedom. How long did it take the municipal officials to negotiate with their own kind?
We show incredible restraint when we settle matters of disagreement with the rich. This however seems not the case when we engage with the poor.
The only thing that we proved in Motherwell was that the democratic state had abandoned its most basic purpose, and that is to free the most vulnerable of society. I still today believe, as I have done for the past three decades, that history is on the side of those who slept under the stars that night.
Squatter citizen, Port Elizabeth