Category Archives: Sunday Argus

Sunday Argus: ‘No land, no home, no vote’

‘No land, no home, no vote’

By Susan Comrie

The new bank-bonded houses on Symphony Way in Delft are standing empty – bright signs invite people to “come in and have a look” – but around the perimeter the razor-wire fence sends a different message.

Just metres away, the Symphony Way pavement dwellers look on angrily.

They have spent the past 14 months living in makeshift homes along this small section of road in Delft after they were evicted from houses they illegally occupied in the N2 Gateway Project in February last year.

Earlier last week veteran New Zealand anti-apartheid activist John Minto, the man who helped spearhead protests against the Springbok tour there in 1981, flew out to stand in solidarity with the remaining 127 families who, 15 years after apartheid ended, say life is no better for them.

“Symphony Way is a microcosm of the bigger problem in South Africa,” says Minto. “We didn’t expect things to change overnight – we didn’t expect miracles.

“But when we were protesting during apartheid we didn’t do it to make a few black people rich. It’s a huge disappointment.”

The New Zealand activist has been a thorn in the side of several governments, leading protests against human rights abuses by the US and Israel, and attracting international attention with the 1981 anti- Springbok protest under the banner Halt All Racist Tours.

Standing outside the Symphony Way creche, where earlier last week Minto spent the night, he explains that rugby was never the issue – instead he and others saw a chance for New Zealand to “punch well above its weight” to ensure there was nowhere safe for the apartheid government to hide.

Now in his 50s, Minto is turning his ire on South Africa’s democratically elected government, claiming the poorest citizens are still living under a form of apartheid.

“In South Africa the links between politicians and business are very strong, but the links between politicians and people are very weak.

“Fifteen years is a bloody long time to prove yourself… If the ANC couldn’t deliver 15 years ago they should have told people ‘It will take 25 years before we can give you houses’ – at least that would have been honest.”

The people of Symphony Way have long given up hope that the ANC government or the DA-led city council will change anything.

While posters for political parties line most other roads in Delft, there are no signs of election promises past the heavily barricaded entrance to the Symphony Way settlement – residents have announced that they will boycott the elections.

“We refuse to vote,” says resident Kareemah Linneveldt. “We say, ‘No land, no home, no vote’.”

Of the many families who originally set up home in Symphony Way, some have accepted the city council’s offer of shacks in Blikkiesdorp, the temporary relocation area down the road in Delft.

However, many residents say they are terrified to move – just a few weeks ago, a 16-month-old baby was raped in Blikkiesdorp.

Minto’s decision to come to South Africa now to highlight the problems of Symphony Way may look carefully calculated, but he chuckles at the suggestion that the timing of his trip was more than co-incidence.

His decision to meet Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, whose criticisms of ANC president Jacob Zuma have made him persona non grata with the ruling party, makes that harder to believe, but Minto says he has “gone past worrying about giving deliberate slights to the ANC”.

“I hope to be here as an observer, but also as someone willing to say that the emperor has got no clothes on – that the emperor is almost naked.”

For the residents of Symphony Way, that realisation came a long time ago.

* This article was originally published on page 8 of Sunday Argus on April 19, 2009

N2 Gateway and the Joe Slovo informal settlement: the new Crossroads?

Updates are being added below – scroll down to see them or click here to see the Joe Slovo solidarity digital archive.

Since the launch in 2004 of N2 Gateway, Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s pet ‘flagship’ project has run into problem after problem: delayed delivery, cost over-runs, above all lack of consultation. In their 2004-5 report the Development Action Group, an NGO, wrote “The top-down approach in the N2 project undermines its overall sustainability… The casual, continued and increasing practice of excluding people from decision-making about development processes that directly affect their lives is an obstacle that communities are unlikely to tolerate for much longer.”

Their prognosis was vindicated this week when the discontent of Joe Slovo residents boiled over and they closed down the N2 freeway at peak time on Monday morning. After the January 2005 fire, which destroyed 3000 shacks and made 12,000 people homeless, Joe Slovo residents were promised priority in the allocation of N2 Gateway housing. But they were not accommodated at all in the allocation of phase 1 flats. Now in 2007 what they face is being forcibly removed to Delft on the outskirts of the city to create space for the building of phase 2, not for them, but for those better off. They have lived in Langa for years and don’t want to be removed to the margins of the city far from job opportunities

What the Joe Slovo residents are asking for is RDP housing built in the area for them, and they have a plan as to how this can be done without any forced removal at all.

Incredibly, as a result of their occupation of the N2, they have instead been threatened by Lindiwe Sisulu with being struck off all housing waiting lists because they refuse to “cooperate with government” in their eviction. Additionally she said she had consulted with lawyers about “legal avenues to compel” their removal.

Sisulu’s first threat, of course, violates the constitutional right to housing enjoyed by every South African. “She has declared we are not South African” says Joe Slovo elected task team member Sifiso Mapasa, echoing the famous words of Sol Plaatje about the segregationist 1913 Natives Land Act, that it turned Africans into “foreigners in the land of their birth.” Moreover housing allocation is a provincial not national competence, and Sisulu’s action is therefore additionally illegal. As well, at the whim of the minister her declaration punishes each resident for refusing to cooperate with government, without even a hearing – a third constitutional violation! Sisulu is losing her senses.

The Western Cape (and City of Cape Town) waiting lists are anyway, in the words of regional COSATU general secretary Tony Ehrenreich, “a joke”. There is a backlog of some 400,000 houses in Cape Town yet Dan Plato says there are only 3060 names on the city’s waiting list! The houses being built each year in the whole Western Cape are not more than 20,000, barely enough to meet population increase, let alone the backlog. How many people have been waiting 20 years and more on the lists? The government could put the 4-8 million unemployed to work on a crash programme to build homes if it were not wedded to the capitalist profit system.

Sisulu claims that Joe Slovo residents “would have to make way for people higher up the housing waiting list.” But Phase 1 N2 Gateway housing was not allocated on the basis of waiting lists because very few people could be found who were economically eligible. Instead advertisements were placed in police stations to attract new applicants. What reason is there to expect any difference in Phase 2, which is so-called ‘gap’ housing for those earning between R3500 and R7500 a month? Rather than allocation by waiting list, she is moving out the poor to make way for the better off.

Some people ask why Joe Slovo residents are objecting, since they are only being ‘temporarily removed’ to Delft. But the national housing director-general has admitted that the plans are only to build houses for 1000 people on the Joe Slovo land, whereas there are presently 6000 residents. Thus, even if each one of those 1000 was a Joe Slovo resident, 5000 would be stranded in Delft. But, since the projected phase 2 is ‘gap’ housing, most Joe Slovo residents (and most of those on housing waiting lists) will be economically excluded anyway.

Transport MEC Marius Fransman maintained it was “unacceptable” in our democracy to blockade the N2 when “we have the opportunity to access the government.” But Joe Slovo residents have tried many times to “access the government”. On 3 August they marched to parliament to present a memorandum to Sisulu and asked to meet her. It was received by her personal assistant, who promised a reply within a week. In fact the only reply by Sisulu was a disdainful one reported in an article in the back pages of the Weekend Argus (25/8/2007). Sisulu did not even have the courtesy to deliver her reply to those concerned. Thus she undermined our democracy.

In her reply she accused Joe Slovo residents of being “unwilling to accept that communities of the future would cut across race and class.” If that is what she wants, then why does she not “cut across race and class” and (as Ehrenreich suggested) move them to Constantia? She claimed she wanted to “eradicate slums”. But what she is doing is merely moving the Joe Slovo ‘slum’ to Delft and installing better-off people in their place.

Sisulu does not like the term “forced removal.” But what substantive difference is there in her present search for means of “compulsion”, from the apartheid government of the 1970s wanting to forcibly evict Crossroads residents out of Cape Town altogether?

I was an eye-witness to the events of Monday morning from 4am, having been invited to observe by the task team. What I saw even in the dark was a peaceful protest interrupted by a police riot. Contrary to some news reports no guns were fired at the police. Nor were stones thrown, until the police had wounded some 12 people with rubber bullets. Riotous police behaviour was witnessed by reporters again later in the morning when police opened fire on a crowd including old people, children and women with a mere 20 second warning, and wounded many more. As of today the police are still occupying Joe Slovo and arresting people at will.

On Tuesday two leaders in Joe Slovo were arrested on charges of “public violence” for daring to ask the police for permission to hold a general meeting! This too was a constitutional violation. There is a police-state atmosphere of intimidation in Joe Slovo in no way compatible with the democracy talked about by MEC Fransman.

Sisulu’s refusal to meet Joe Slovo residents makes her responsible for these injuries and actions. She now has the blood of women and children on her hands.

She claims that Thubelisha, project manager of N2 Gateway, is responsible for interacting with residents and that she has “the fullest confidence” in them. Thubelisha was established to build houses, and lacks people-management skills. Residents of Joe Slovo have met with Thubelisha management several times, to no avail.

At the same time as the complaints of Joe Slovo, the N2 Gateway phase 1 residents also have their grievances. Selected as beneficiaries, at preparatory workshops they were suddenly told that rent would be increased from the R350-R600 advertised to R650-R1000. Desperate for housing, and given no time even to read the long contracts, they signed. They moved into the flats – only to find cramped accommodation, serious structural problems, cracks in the walls, hopelessly defective plumbing, and so on. Later they discovered that some people were paying the old rents (which even Thubelisha admits is an ‘anomaly’). Thubelisha has not addressed their problems to their satisfaction. They have launched a rent boycott in protest, and also marched to parliament on 17 July to present a memorandum to Sisulu – to which she again responded only in the media. They also are threatened with eviction.

The N2 Gateway ‘flagship’ project has become a fiasco.

The high-handedness of Sisulu in all this is also reminiscent of old apartheid ministers. Her behaviour is a symptom of the arrogant, aloof, and self-satisfied unwillingness to listen to ordinary people that increasingly characterises the Mbeki government. Sisulu talks of frequent “consultation” with communities over N2 Gateway. But this “consultation” has not involved listening but rather telling communities what they should do.

Minister Sisulu must come to her senses. By delegating the handling of her pet project to others, she has been acting like a coward. Instead of issuing ultimatums from afar, she needs above all to meet with and listen personally to Joe Slovo residents (as well as those of N2 Gateway phase 1). Then it will become clear to her that both communities are united in their demands, and that they can suggest answers to their problems. Both communities are insistent that any attempt to forcibly evict them will be challenged in court, and physically if necessary. But there is a way out of this conflict, if Sisulu lives up to her responsibilities.

Martin Legassick is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the Western Cape. For pictures of the blockade and the police attack, as well as a small archive of Joe Slovo task team press statements click here. Some updates have been pasted in below.


12 September 2007

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is playing with fire.

This is the warning from civic groups after Sisulu’s threat to remove protesting homeless people from the housing waiting lists.

Speaking in parliament in Cape Town yesterday, Sisulu said: “If they choose not to cooperate with government, they will be completely removed from all housing waiting lists.”

But Philani Dlamini, president of Abahlali base Mjondolo, said it was a disgrace for the minister to even contemplate such a move, “especially in the face of rampant corruption and the fact that some people have been on the waiting lists for more than 10 years”.

“People do not protest because it is fun. They are homeless and they are trying to knock some sense into politicians’ heads,” he said.

Anti-Privatisation Forum leader, Trevor Ngwane, said Sisulu’s threats were a clear indication that there were no waiting lists.

“If every community was to protest who would be on her waiting lists?” asked Ngwane.

He said more protests should be expected because the government was becoming arrogant.

“They have no plan to build houses for people, they only have a plan to build stadiums for the World Cup,” he said.

During question-and-answer time, Sisulu said that the government was developing a national database with strict criteria that would give housing first to children, the elderly, the sick and women-headed households.

Her comments came in the wake of protesters from the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Cape Town setting up burning barricades on the N2, stoning vehicles and destroying houses under construction.

Sisulu said the new database was aimed at eliminating corruption in allocating houses. She said the database would be similar to that used by Home Affairs and the Independent Electoral Commission. She said some of the criteria would include age, vulnerability such as sickness and whether children were involved. She said that women-headed households would “rank highly”.

“By the time the list is consolidated no one can move anyone, anywhere, anytime, without the permission of the minister,” said Sisulu.

The minister said that the government would only provide housing to those who could not afford to buy their own. She appealed to the “able-bodied” to approach the government for help to build their own houses.

The government’s flagship N2 Gateway housing project has been dogged by controversy since its inception as residents have complained of shoddy workmanship and high bonds and rents.


Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 00:04:08 +0200
Subject: Lindiwe Sisulu gets eviction order against Joe Slovo informal settlement

Today Lindiwe Sisulu, housing minister, Richard Dyantyi, provincial MEC for housing and Thubalisha homes got an eviction order against Joe Slovo residents. The issues and background have been already presented on this list.

This is apartheid-style forced removals, now on the basis of wanting to evict the poor to the outskirts of Cape Town to make way for the better off, rather than on the basis of race. It is no less dictatorial. The order will be resisted, in courts and through direct action in Joe Slovo.

Can comrades please send protests as follows (with copies to me at )

Lindiwe Sisulu
Minister of Housing,
Private Bag X654,
Phone: +27 12 421-1309

Lindiwe Sisulu,
Private Bag X9029
Phone: +27 21 466-7600

Richard Dyantyi
Private Bag X9076,
Phone: 27 21 483 4466

Prince Xhanthi Sigcawu,

General Manager


129 Bree Street
Cape Town
Western Cape

Phone: 27 21 487-9200

Joe Slovo residents will be at Cape High Court in large numbers tomorrow and protesting there Wednesday

Monday 24 September 2007

The 6000 residents of Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa, Cape Town will be individually handing in their legal notice of their intention to oppose the state’s application to forcibly remove them from their land.

The residents will be doing this all day tomorrow at the Cape High Court, ahead of Wednesday’s hearing. The Ministry of Housing has applied for a court order which would allow them to forcibly remove 100 families per week for the next 45 weeks, and this will be heard by the court on Wednesday. Each and every resident vowed at community meetings this week that they would oppose this application in the High Court. The law allows for each and every resident to state why they feel they should not be forcibly removed and they intend to do just that.

On Wednesday 26th September 2007, the residents will hold a mass protest outside the High Court.

For comment call the Joe Slovo Task Team directly on these numbers:

Mzwanele Zulu – 076 3852369; Mr Sepaqa – 076 9192115; Mr Mapasa – 083 7371711

The Cape Town Anti-War Coalition was disgusted to hear that the State has tried to undermine the court’s ruling by apparently already selling off the land of Joe Slovo settlement to First National Bank, allegedly for a paltry R5 million. The community has heard that FNB has now tasked Thubelisha Homes (the BEE company which builds poor quality houses across the country) with removing the current residents from the land.

The Cape Town Anti-War Coalition also calls upon the media to refrain from referring to the Joe Slovo residents as “squatters” whereas in fact they have been living on the same land for more than ten years and have established a tightly knit community and resource centre, among other amenities. CTAWC also urges the media to check back on previous articles about the area, because this community was long promised RDP houses on the land where they are living, and thus their demands for these homes are entirely legitimate.

5 000 at Court to Fight N2 Evictions

Joe Slovo residents fight eviction notices
September 25 2007 at 06:32PM
By Dianne Hawker

Thousands of Joe Slovo residents gathered on the Foreshore on Tuesday morning to oppose the department of housing’s decision to evict from the N2 Gateway housing site.

The protest comes on the eve of a planned removal of families from Joe Slovo to Delft to accommodate the N2 Gateway project.

Hundreds of residents boarded trains in Langa into Cape Town on Tuesday morning.

Shouts of “viva” could be heard outside the Spoornet building in Adderley Street as the large group of men, women and children, arrived bearing eviction notices which were served on them last week.

The group did not appear to have any legal representation but a man, using a public address system, could be seen calling groups of five people to come forward at a time to have the eviction notices stamped.

There was a strong presence of SAPS and Metro Police who kept watch over the crowd, which demonstrated peacefully.

A fortnight ago, protesting Joe Slovo residents blocked the N2 highway for several hours during violent clashes with police over a government plan to temporarily move them to Delft.

The housing department then approached the Cape High Court for an order which sought to allow the removal of 100 families per week, for the next 45 weeks, to temporary housing in Delft.


5 000 at court to fight N2 evictions

Fatima Schroeder
September 26 2007 at 07:42AM

It was a day Cape High Court officials will probably never forget.

Two tables were hauled into the foyer of the court building and officials lined up behind them to stamp about 10 000 documents – two copies of a notice from each of the 5 000 families living at the Joe Slovo informal settlement to say they intend to oppose a government application for their eviction.

The notice was a single page, comprising no more than 150 words, and had to be stamped twice: by the court and attorneys.

It took the gathering of about 5 000 people more than five hours to have each of their two copies stamped by the court and by employees of Nongogo and Nuku Attorneys – the firm representing the government and housing company Thubelisha Homes.

They came by train to the city centre shortly before 11am and moved to the Paul Sauer building to the firm of attorneys representing the government and Thubelisha Homes.

There they wanted to serve a copy of the notice on the attorneys.

But they were told to wait outside the court, where representatives of the firm would receive the notices.

The large crowd then peacefully made its way across Adderley Street, into St George’s Mall to the Cape High Court, stopping traffic and attracting the puzzled gazes of curious onlookers.

Some stopped in the middle of their shopping or lunches to ask what the march was about.

The armed police officers who had followed the march from the Foreshore to the court building blocked off roads to make way for marchers and sped off to the high court to wait for the people to arrive.

The crowd stopped in Keerom Street outside the court and sat in the road waiting for those in charge to explain the process.

Five residents at a time were allowed to get up and proceed to five women representing the attorneys.

The attorneys’ stamp was necessary proof that the residents had served the document on them.

Five women – two standing and three sitting on the steps of the court building – stamped each page before signing it and giving the date and time it was received.

After a while, employees of the nearby coffee shop, Castello’s, said the women could use their tables and chairs.

In other cases, the documents are taken to room one in the building to be stamped.

But on Monday, officials working in that office and in other parts of the building set up tables in the foyer for the stamping of the documents.

The first batch were brought into the building and court official Andrew Fraser began stamping.

Moments later the others joined him.

The legal co-ordinator of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, Ashraf Cassiem, said the residents would have liked to have obtained legal representation, but there was no time to apply for legal aid.

The residents had to represent themselves and had to file individual notices of intention to oppose the application, he said.

But he emphasised that the crowd was not there to cause chaos.

“We want to prove that we are not the hooligans they say we are,” he said.

Mzonke Poni. of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, said he was aware of the difficulties in filing and serving the documents the way the residents had done.

But he added that they were all lay people.

“We’ll do it the lay way,” he said.

Last week, Cape Judge President John Hlophe granted a temporary order for people to be moved.

The order was sought by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, housing company Thubelisha, which is overseeing the N2 Gateway project, and MEC for Local Government and Housing Richard Dyantyi.

The government wants to clear land in Joe Slovo for formal housing.

Temporary housing has been arranged in Delft for the families who are to be moved.

But the people to be moved say Delft is too far away.

A schedule has been prepared for 100 families a week to be moved to Delft, beginning on Tuesday.

This will not take place, however, if the residents succeed in persuading the court that the order should not be made final.


‘We don’t want to live in Delft’
Pearlie Joubert

When Cape Judge President John Hlophe ordered a nine-week postponement to the state’s attempt to evict about 25 000 Joe Slovo residents from their shacks in Langa, the 2 000 people outside court broke into wild celebratory song.

The 6 000 households of Joe Slovo have been opposing government’s attempts to remove them from this piece of land bordering the N2 highway for close to three years now. Every week people are allowed to stay in Joe Slovo is seen as another victory against the state’s attempt to remove them forcibly to the outskirts of Cape Town.

The housing ministry wants residents removed to make way for its controversial flagship housing project, the N2 Gateway. Phases two and three of this project have been on hold for many months because the shack dwellers of Joe Slovo refuse to be moved to Delft – an area about 20km outside the city.

Government has been moving sections of Joe Slovo residents into temporary relocation areas (TRAs) in Delft called “Tsunami” and “Thubelisha” for the past three years.

Residents in Tsunami say the place got its name because “it’s a disaster waiting to happen”.

The TRAs are made up of 24m2 houses closely packed together. A Reconstruction and Development Programme house is generally 30m2.

Communal standpipes and communal ablution blocks stand between the houses, which are prefabricated and made of corrugated fibre-reinforced cement. There are no individual plots for each box house, which has one room.

Residents are loath to move to Delft because their social and economic networks will be severely disrupted.

Many residents who have willingly moved to Delft earlier have lost their jobs because they cannot afford transport or simply cannot get transport from Delft into Cape Town. There is no railway line linking Delft to town.

The Development Action Group (DAG) has found that 63% of people who were moved from Joe Slovo to Delft were either fired or retrenched from their jobs because they were often late or simply did not arrive for work because of lack of transport. Only 40% of the people in Joe Slovo are employed, earning an average of R1 300 per month.

Delft has no electricity. Because there is no power, people spend large amounts of money on paraffin. Policemen in Delft say the lack of power here makes Delft “ungovernable” at night.

“Parts of Delft are pitch dark at night and it’s virtually impossible to do conventional and adequate policing here – the criminals use this and robberies and rape are massive problems in Delft,” a local policeman says.

This policeman, who does not want to be named, says the police are finding “women hurting their babies” in Delft.

“The experts say it’s because people are desperate and depressed. Last month a women strangled her newborn child; three months ago a women burnt her four-month-old child,” he says.

Like most people sleeping in makeshift or non-permanent houses, residents of the TRAs do not feel safe because the walls of their homes can be broken with stones.

“I don’t feel safe here because it’s so dark at night and the crime here is terrible. Thugs break your walls and come in through the door and rape the women – it has happened to women I know,” says Zoleka Mnani, who voluntarily moved to Delft but wants to return to Joe Slovo.

“We don’t want to live here – there are no schools, no electricity and the only people making a good living here are the shebeen owners because here in this dump everybody drinks,” she says.

Mnani lost her job as a contract cleaner in Langa when she moved because she could not afford the taxi fare to town.

Mbantu Mazikile came to Delft from Joe Slovo because he was promised that he would be able to return once the N2 Gateway is finished.

“The ANC councillor promised that they will build us permanent houses in Langa. My family and I left with only our clothes and bedding and with the promise that we can return to Langa once they’ve built houses,” Mazikile says.

The same councillor (ANC Langa councillor Xolile Qope) says people should not worry too much about the lack of electricity because they will only stay in Delft temporarily – it’s already been two years. “Every time a new truckload of people is dropped here, my promise loses a bit of its value. It’s very painful,” he says.

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and the project managers of the project, Thubelisha Homes, went to the Supreme Court two weeks ago seeking an eviction order to remove the remaining Joe Slovo residents.

For pictures of Delft to to: