Shack dwellers threaten to go on strike for a week

15 Sep 2010

The strike will begin in two weeks’ time if Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale and Western Cape housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela do not respond to a list of grievances by housing lobby group Abahlali BaseMjondolo (ABM).

The shack dwellers told Sowetan they would hand the memorandum to Sexwale and Madikizela today.

“If they fail to respond, people will take to the streets nationwide and create chaos to expose the failures of the Ministry of Human Settlements to provide decent housing,” ABM Western Cape chairperson Mzonke Poni said.

Poni said all informal settlements across the country would take part in the protest action, which would also involve the Landless People’s Movement, Eastern Cape-based Unemployed People’s Movement and students from various universities.

Part of the week-long strike will culminate in a march on Parliament.

“In our view there is no other way to expose the failures of the government except by taking to the streets,” Poni said.

“They really need to be pushed. If public workers have done it because they are underpaid, surely we also can do it.

“We want to create chaos.

“Our living conditions are appalling. We are affected by floods in winter and fires in summers.

“I thought after the 1994 elections things would change but nothing has changed,” he said.

The housing backlog in the Western Cape is about 500,000 yet the government only builds about 18,000 houses a year, Poni said.

Madikizela’s spokesperson, Zalisile Mbali, warned that the protest must not turn violent.

He denied that the Western Cape government would never manage to build houses for everyone.

“We can only assist about 16,000 households a year with a house on a serviced site,” Mbali said.

“We must increase the families we assist to enhance their living conditions every year by increasing the provision of serviced sites.

“This we can do by upgrading informal settlements and developing serviced sites on green fields projects.”

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