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2005 – A Year of Protest

January 11, 2006

According to this article in The Star, 2005 was a year of protest in South Africa. 881 protests – an average of two per day – rocked the country, and two councillors were killed. Protestors were shot, killed, wounded and arrested.
This is really significant, considering we are supposed to be a popular democracy, and that the Left in Europe and the US still tends to see the ANC as a people’s government.

If it’s a people’s government, then why are conditions worse now than they were in 1994?

According to the department of housing’s own figures, there are more people living in shacks now – 2 million – than in 1994. Does anyone remember the ANC’s 1994 election promise to build a million houses in 5 years? I think they ended up building less than 100 000 in 10 years, many of which are already in advanced states of disrepair due to shoddy workmanship, and dodgy tenders going to the friends and family of politicians.

The other houses have been sold to banks, and the proud new owners chucked onto the streets when they could no longer pay their mortgage (high risk client, high rates) because they lost their jobs – after the government slashed import duties and decimated our textile industry, or allowed semi-privatised behemoths like Telkom to shed thousands of jobs will pushing up prices and making record profits.

Is it any wonder the townships are in flames? But you don’t see all that much about it in the media, do you, compared to apartheid-era coverage. You should keep an eye on Indymedia, or read some of the excellent research done by the Centre for Civil Society at UKZN to get a picture of what’s really happening on the fringes and margins of our brave new country.

Of course, with local government elections coming up, the ANC will put on its usual show of unity and send the trade unionists and everyone else out there to bang the drums and warn everyone of the impending Wit Gevaar posed by the DA,

The ANC’s drearily predictable response to the crisis it has created is to promise massive public spending and transformation which will be conveniently forgotten the day after the election.

Here’s a depressing guide to (not) voting in Cape Town, written by Ian Gilfillan, whose blog is worth bookmarking.

Anyone interested in my view can read something I wrote for ThisDay before last year’s general election – mostly it’s still relevant.

A pox on all their houses, and when the poor rise this time, let’s make it once and for all, and do away with corrupt fat cats – regardless of race.

UPDATE: Here is an excellent Monthly Review article by Richard Pithouse of the Centre for Civil Society that charts the rise of the shackdwellers’ movement.

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