Taking us back to apartheid removals

HOME DESTROYED: Amputee Pumla Kilana, 53, watches her shack being demolished in Uitenhage’s Lapland/Tiryville
HOME DESTROYED: Amputee Pumla Kilana, 53, watches her shack being demolished in Uitenhage’s Lapland/Tiryville

Evictions in Lapland/Tiryville, Uitenhage

I never expected to experience forced removals again.

On Tuesday morning, I was contacted by Rev Navan Adonis as well as the leadership of the emergent United Front (UF) in the metro to come to the Lapland/Tiryville area to witness the forced removal of our citizenry from their shacks.

On arrival I saw the sheriff remonstrating with Adonis and an attorney in the community.

A good few hundred bystanders were gathered around those trying to negotiate an amicable solution to what was obviously a very emotional issue.

What really stirred the emotions was the number of children of school-going age playfully crowding the scene.

Adonis and Maggie Jacobs, one of the leaders in the community, rushed to the local offices of the metro to try to stave off the evictions. The authorities were unrelenting – the squatters had to be removed.

Sarah Sephton, of the Legal Resources Centre, had sent through an e-mail stating that the metro was unwilling to grant a stay in the execution of the eviction order.

When walking through the crowd on Tuesday morning I realised that very little had changed in South Africa. Forced removals were not a thing of the past – whether it was in the Itireleng informal settlement near Laudium in Pretoria, Lwandle in Cape Town, by Johannesburg’s “red ants”, in Mpumalanga or Uitenhage.

We still have an uncaring, callous government.

The tactics may have changed but the intent remains the same.

I can well remember when people had to be moved from (Kwa) Langa to Kwanobuhle.

Massive chains were merely put around the shacks, which in some cases still contained the owner’s furniture, and summarily levelled.

We watched in horror as the unenfranchised were forcibly removed to unknown places like Committees Drift.

The country is still littered with the victims of forced removals and then some of us still maintain: “I was not aware of what was happening.”

Who suffers the most? Only the poorest suffer.

Twenty years after “democracy” we still find people being forcibly removed from their dwellings.

The majority of these people are the downtrodden, the jobless, those suffering from all kinds of abuse.

These are the people who are victims of crime, of disease, whose dignity and self esteem have been trampled underfoot, whose children enrolled at schools will now join the more than 600 000 children in our country not attending a school.

This is not strange, though most of these things (housing, sanitation, schooling) have been promised to them, in typical well practised fashion by slick parliamentary politicians.

Why the rush? Is there an emergency? Of course not!

According to reports, the ANC councillor at first claimed that a school had to be built on this site.

Then it is claimed on SABC TV that the site had been earmarked for housing development. Which is it? Before such a site can be declared for a school or for that matter housing development many processes have to be concluded.

Has this been done? But more importantly, has the municipality found an alternate serviced site for the people it wishes to remove? What has this shown us?

  • That we have a government (which includes the DA) that does not care a fig about its citizens;
  • That the “white” oppressor has been replaced with a rapacious capitalist of whatever hue;
  • That the political “game” has changed forever and that we are now fighting a war against a subtler and a more powerful enemy. This is a war that we dare not lose, for the sake of our children and their children.

Hammy Petersen, Uitenhage 

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