Statement on the slums clearance act

Palestine Support Committee dbn

Statement on the slums clearance act

It is with trepidation and growing concern that we hear of reenactment of the odious slums clearance act or even the creation of special police-like bodies to destroy shack settlements. Any approach that uses the "full might of the law" to address a social problem calls into question the ability and capacity of those who promote the approach to adequately deal with, and address, the root causes of the problem. Urban migration is a natural phenomenon that has, from time immemorial been, and will always be, a part and parcel of human existence. For as long as there are people they will congregated and built cities as long as they build cities newer challenges will be faced by those tasked with planning or for that matter creating newer legislation that meet the challenges. The basis of newer legislation or planning must be premised on the wellbeing of the collective and the protection of the weak and vulnerable.

The creation or maintenance of cities requires people with the heart and minds to face and address the challenges that city dynamics bring to the fore. The fact that people, elected by and representing us, are reaching for means, legal and otherwise, that would punish us for their failings is truly a cause for concern. The real cause for concern should not be that people build shacks but that people tasked to find solutions are not willing to honestly engage in evaluating their own lack of creativity and originality in seeking and designing solutions. Instead of finding solutions, as time and evolving needs demand, would rather, so easily reach for and create destructive "big stick" legislation that adds to and compounds the problem.True leaders seek solutions and that is what we as the electorate hope for when we elect them.

As an organisation our position has always been that poverty is a violence. Poverty is, and breeds, violence. It breeds violence within, and on, whom it is visited and it also breeds violence from, and within, those who impose it. The MEC for Housing Mike Mabuyakhulu, by calling for the act, speaks in the language of violence: a violence against those who have no respite from the elements but to build a shelter, no recourse to accessing land but to use what is available from the state or lies vacant, no recourse to sheltering their children but within structures that shouldn't be but for a failure on the part of the state. Government or elected members or representatives, should think hard and deep before enacting or reenacting legislation as violent and destructive as the slums clearance act. Creating the act would be an indictment on us, both as society and government. Moreover is tantamount to us, both as civilised society and as the electorate of a government representing the will and well being of the people, punishing them for our collective failure to adequately address their needs. The act is violent and will, at some point, beget violence. We should, with compassion, listen to the voice of reason and learn the bitter lessons of history lest we repeat them

As society we should recognise and understand the terminology of callousness so that, when it is spoken, we will identify, and eradicate, it. Society, if it becomes deaf to the pleas and needs of the poor loses a part of itself and begins a process of decline and self mutilation. We should also understand that terms like "shack demolitions" are terms that, more often than not, are used against the most vulnerable members of society; members who are more in need of protection rather than more inhumane legislation that adds to their woes. Shack demolition, in a broader sense, also means that certain fundamental rights, not only the structure, are in the process of demolition, demolished . A demolished shack, in very human terms, may well translate into a homeless child or a homeless pensioner or a homeless HIV infected person being denied their right to constitutional protection or being beneficiaries of the very noble, but purely ceremonial and empty, freedom charter. Where then are the rights of the child, the aged or the poor within the term, or act, of "shack demolition" or slums clearance?

As a citizen of the republic, and a member of society, i urge that we, as a people of conscience and compassion, reject the call by the Housing MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu for the re-enactment or return of the the blood drenched, oppressive piece of legislation called the slums clearance act. Rather as a civilised nation and people, we explore more humane options that ensure we do not trample on the rights of the poor, the child or the aged and in the process lose our own souls. Society and all legislation related to it is, and should be, about people and not solely about pristine landscapes, architectural wonders, aesthetically pleasing skylines within sterile and mercenary structures. Let us reject the call and return to the human centeredness on which our renaissance could, and should, be built.

Rassool Snyman
Palestine Support Committee Dbn
524 Ridge Road