From the July-August 2018 issue of News & Letters
Tembisa, South Africa—On Feb. 13, 2018, more than 700 people had occupied a large tract of empty land in Tembisa, on the East Rand near Johannesburg. During apartheid the land had been used by the army. Since then it had remained unused. The occupiers marked out 20’ by 20’ stands and the new settlement was carefully planned.
Some of the occupiers had registered for government houses as far back as 1996. They still have their forms, but the promised houses were never delivered. On the day of the occupation the Municipality arrived and said that they planned to build 7,500 government houses in the area. Since then there has been no further discussion of the promised houses.
The occupation was first attacked on Feb. 26. The shacks that have been built on the occupation have now been destroyed 12 times. At first the metro police were coming once a month. Now they are coming almost every day. They attacked us on July 2 and 3. If no bribe is offered, the metro police will destroy the shack and burn or confiscate the building materials.
POLICE INJURE WOMEN AND CHILDREN
This week a 14-year-old boy was throttled and beaten for taking a photograph of the police. One lady was injured after her shack was destroyed while she was still inside it and a piece of zinc sheeting hit her head. A pregnant woman was assaulted by the police.
Landless people have rebuilt their shacks again and again and resisted police violence and eviction.
Currently 65 people are still sleeping on the land. After each eviction the people are rebuilding, but now with plastic and paper because their building materials have been confiscated or burnt.
The government has failed us. We have no jobs and no houses. Corruption is everywhere. We are forced to live without dignity.
This has forced us to take responsibility for our own lives, to govern ourselves and to occupy. We want houses for our children. We don’t mind building our own houses, but we need to have land first. In fact, we don’t want the government’s RDPs. We just want them to allow us to remain on the land that we have occupied and to give us services. We can build our own houses and plan our own community.
We are desperate and we will not turn back.
—Siyahlala ngenkani for Abahlali baseMjondolo