12 July 2016
Wits and University of Michigan Workshop on the Politics of Municipal Infrastructure held at the Durban University of Technology
The Political and Economic Challenges Facing the Provision of Municipal Infrastructure in Durban
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the organisers of this workshop for recognising the struggle of Abahlali baseMjondolo. Today I wish to extend my gratitude to Wits and to Michigan for inviting me to share Abahlali‘s experience in our dignified struggle which includes struggle for land, housing, water, sewerage, electricity and transport. Continue reading →
Shack fires are a constant danger. But that danger becomes more serious in winter. This is because during winter people who are living in shacks are trying to keep warm. As a result people resort to making fires which increases the risk of their homes being burnt. There was a serious fire in the Foreman Road settlement in Durban in the past month leaving hundreds of people destitute. On Sunday five people lost their lives in the fire that burnt down the Plastic View settlement in Pretoria. On the same day another fire broke out in the Kenville settlement in Durban which left 76 families without homes and their documents, work clothes and school uniforms burnt. Continue reading →
The Struggle for Human Dignity Continues in the Shadow of Death
Life is always difficult in the shacks. If you are poor and black you can be killed with impunity. But it is not only the politicians and their izinkabi, or the police or private security companies that take our lives. We live in life threatening conditions every day. We die in the fires, from disease, drugs and crime. Our children die from diarrhoea. Our neighbours die because the roads next to the settlements are not made safe for pedestrians. The economy excludes us. The development of the cities excludes us. We are denied access to land, electricity, water, housing, education and work. We are also denied the right to participate in the discussions about the future of our society and in decision making about our lives and communities. Continue reading →
This article combines theories of liberal governance, material life, and popular politics to examine the unruly force of fire in state-citizen struggles. Tracking interactions between state agents and activist networks during South Africa’s celebrated democratic transition, I analyze how the urban poor leverage the material properties of fire to secure techno-institutional claims to energy infrastructure, and more broadly to political inclusion and economic redistribution. I highlight how fire, as a social and historical as well as a chemical process, becomes a staging ground for the promise and endangerment of infrastructure. Approaching fire as intertwined with power, I argue, illuminates how those living on the margins of the city come to inhabit political roles that transform economic relationships in the context of liberalism.