Examiner: The poor people of South Africa rise up and resist the Amerikkkan Style Slums Act


The poor people of South Africa rise up and resist the Amerikkkan Style Slums Act

“I conclude that section 16 of the Slums Act is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.”..Statement from the Constitutional Court of South Africa

When I heard about the revolutionary resistance of our South African brothers and sisters in Abahlai base Mjondolo (The Shack Dwellers Union) in South Africa, a revolutionary group of landless folks in Capetown and Durban, South Africa who successfully overturned the deadly Amerikkkan style criminalizing legislation called “The Slums Act” which would have given South African Po’Lice the ability to legally demolish, destroy and evict poor peoples from their shacks without notice. I cried.

As a person whose life has been rife with the terror of eviction, displacement, landlessness and criminalization, I was devastated by the stories of destruction of poor peoples in South Africa and equally inspired by the resistance of the young people who organized, hit the streets, chanted, danced and sung for freedom for post-aparthied Amandla in 2009 and eventually overcome that terror and Won!

I remembered the power of the poverty scholars I had met from the Shack-Dwellers Union. Scholars who protested, organized and led resistance from the grass-roots. Scholars like Maswi, a young revolutionary care-giving brother and visionary.

In his soft voice he related the struggle of his family and community to deal with the deadly war on the poor that was raging in the post-apartheid south Africa.

The new struggle in South Africa according to Maswi and his fellow freedom fighters is over the rights of poor people to be housed, to be listened to, to not be incarcerated “its not racism anymore, its poverty,” he had told me in an interview in august of this year. From The Bayview to Bayou, poor folks of color across the globe struggle with Amerikkkan style gentrification and criminalization. For the last few years Shack-Dwellers in South Africa come home from work and school only to find their homes have been demolished and then if they fight back the government turns guns on them.

This current push of deadly destruction by the South African government has been fueled by the transnational corporate interests in South Africa trying to build the world cup stadium for the 2010 world cup.

When I spoke with Maswi he explained how the south African constitution stated that no-one can be evicted once they have lived in a place for over 24 hours without due process, but that in the push to be the new corporate Amerikkkan-style “clean” city, there is no room for poor people, for the slums and so no-one follows the constitution. The Slums Act was the going to be the final tool to push poor folks into the streets, the jails or death.

Currently if poor children are found living on the streets are put in jail for weeks at a time if tourists are expected to come to Durban. Mazwi’s stories of removal and criminalization reminded me of the ways that encampments of landless folks in the Bay Area are arrested and washed away with high pressure power washers when they are found in settlements under the freeways, under the bridges, in doorways, and other outside residences. The ways that poor folks in New Orleans face constant and ongoing gentrification and displacement, the ways that we in the Bayview, the Mission , Oakland and Richmond are constantly at risk of losing what ever little crumb we are able to attain, the hands of large corporate interests like Lennar Corporation and Chevron.

But mostly what I learned from Maswi and his fellow revolutionaries is that we, the poor, the disabled, the indigenous, the migrant, the silenced, the incarcerated, the profiled, the displaced, must Not give up! That we do have power, and that we will, if we are truly working in coalition with each other, triumph!