The dignity of the poor is not recognized by the ANC

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Source: Abahlali baseMjondolo

The ANC led municipality in Durban continues to undermine people who live in shack settlements. In a normal society government would engage people around questions of development in their communities. Democracy should not just be about elections, it should be a living day to day practice. Development should be participatory.

This is not the case in the eThekwini Municipality where the ANC thinks and makes decisions in the name of the people without consulting the people. We as the people who live in shacks are taken as people who cannot think for ourselves. It is assumed that someone who lives in the suburbs, someone who does not know and understand the situation of the people who live in shacks, must think for us.

It is not just the government that treats us people who cannot think. Many NGOs do the same. And when the ANC comes with development projects that they say are for us, the real aim is usually to make the politicians and their families rich. The Community Liaison Officers appointed to the projects are always local ANC people. Communities are divided so that the projects can be forced through by giving some people small bits of work on the project. In a country with a crisis of mass unemployment even work for a few days is very important for people. There have been many cases where local party structures and the people that they are paying to do some work on the project violently intimidate people who are critical of the project. This is a national problem. We have recently seen it in Vuzimuzi in Tembisa, Gauteng.

The community in Briardene in Durban North is currently facing a top down development project, a project that further undermines the dignity of the residents. The city is imposing Ventilated Pit Latrine Toilets.

Toilets are an important political issue. They are a matter of dignity, health and safety. When our movement was formed in 2005 the issues of toilets was a key issue in the Kennedy Road settlement. Children were dying of diarrhoea due to unhealthy conditions. Toilets were also an urgent women’s issue because it was very dangerous for women to find a private place to relieve themselves, especially at night.

Everyone should have a right to safe, hygienic and dignified sanitation. Pit Latrines are not the answer. It is well known that children have drowned in these toilets after falling into them. They are dangerous and highly undignified. Despite promises to eradicate them they are being used more and more, including in schools.

Briardene is a settlement in the suburb of Durban North. The ANC chairperson in the ward is carrying out this project without the councillor’s approval. Although the ward councillor has rejected the project the ANC is imposing it anyway. No one is surprised that the local ANC chairperson, who has been the chairperson of the ANC in the ward since 2004, has been appointed as the Community Liaison Officer.

Of course, the residents have not been consulted and the project is being imposed on the community anyway. We continue to be undermined by those who expect us to vote for them and put them in power to continue enriching themselves and their families at our expense.

It is said that the ANC chairperson was heard saying that he will ‘deal with’ those who call a meeting that will be questioning the project. In Durban these are dangerous words. We as a movement understand that when an ANC councillor or chairperson says that they will ‘deal with’ people who are convening a meeting that means assassination. We have lost many of our leaders and members who have questioned projects that were meant to enrich people in ANC Branch Executive Committees.

Don Shange, a member of our movement in Briardene, who has been vocal against the building of these dangerous and undignified toilets has been receiving threats. It has become clear that those who are responsible for this project will do anything to deal with those who dare question the project.

Every time when the elections are coming the ANC comes up with ridiculous projects that undermine the poor. The point of these projects is not to provide development in the interests of the poor, it is to motivate the local ANC structures before the election by giving them control over projects through which they can make money. And when they divide the poor by convincing those who are temporarily employed in the project that those who question the project are taking away their jobs they are undermining the prospects for building or sustaining effective community organisations.

We want to make it very clear that those who are questioning this project are continuously under threat from the local Branch Executive Committee of the ANC led by the chairperson, who is also the Community Liaison Officers for the project.

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