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Dear Mandela

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Rating: 3/5 (1301 votes cast)

What has democracy meant for the one in four South Africans who live in slums? In the vast informal settlements across the nation, those living in desperate poverty are being evicted and forcibly relocated by the very people who once marched with them in the name of freedom. Dear Mandela is their story. Shack dwellers, in their own voice, take viewers on a journey filled with shattered dreams and broken promises, but also a courageous fight for their lives and their communities.

Today, South Africa is poised at a pivotal moment in its history. Since the historic 1994 election, extreme poverty has doubled, shack dwellers have by far the highest HIV prevalence in the country and without access to toilets in the slums, women are raped in the bushes. Xenophobic attacks on immigrants have exploded - most recently leaving 62 people dead and 100 000 displaced. The Soccer World Cup is coming in 2010 (the government has promised to clear slums to create “World Class Cities”), the president, Thabo Mbeki, has been pushed out of office to make way for the controversial leader Jacob Zuma, and the shack dwellers are fighting back – resisting the evictions, enduring police brutality, and taking their constitutional right to housing to the country’s highest courts.

  • Autor/es de la obra: Dara Kell, Christopher Nizza
  • Publicado: 18. noviembre 2008
  • Principales temáticas tratadas: Ciudadanía
  • País/es de procedencia: South Africa
  • Palabras clave, tags: evictions, shack dwellers
  • Metodología de acción social empleada por los protagonistas: The Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers) Movement began in Durban, South Africa, in early 2005. Although it is overwhelmingly located in and around the large port city of Durban it is, in terms of the numbers of people mobilised, the largest organisation of the militant poor in post-apartheid South Africa. Its originary event was a road blockade organised from the Kennedy Road settlement in protest at the sale, to a local industrialist, of a piece of nearby land long promised by the local municipal councillor to shack dwellers for housing.

    The movement that began with the road blockade grew quickly and now includes tens of thousands of people from more than 30 settlements. In the last year and a half the movement has suffered more than a hundred arrests, regular police assault and ongoing death threats and other forms of intimidation from local party goons. It has developed a sustained voice for shack dwellers in subaltern and elite publics and occupied and marched on the offices of local councillors, police stations, municipal offices, newspaper offices and the City Hall in actions that have put thousands of people on the streets. The movement also organised a highly contentious but very successful boycott of the March 2006 local government elections under the slogan ‘No Land, No House, No Vote’. Amongst other victories the Abahlali have democratised the governance of many settlements, stopped evictions in a number of settlements, won acces to schools, stopped the industrial development of the land promised to Kennedy Road, forced numerous government officials, offices and projects to ‘come down to the people’ and mounted vigorous challenges to the uncritical assumption of a right to lead the local struggles of the poor in the name of a privileged access to the 'global' (i.e Northern donors, academics and NGOs). The movement’s key demand is for ‘Land & Housing in the City’ but it has also successfully politicised and fought for an end to forced removals and for access to education and the provision of water, electricity, sanitation, health care and refuse removal as well as bottom up popular democracy. In some settlements the movement has also successfully set up projects like crèches, gardens, sewing collectives, support for people living with and orphaned by AIDS and so on. It has also organised a 16 team football league and quarterly all night multi genre music competitions.Abahlali has been an intellectually serious project from the beginning. Among the banners painted in Kennedy Road while people were singing against the army who were occupying the settlement the night before the second big march on Councillor Baig back in 2005 was a key slogan - the "University of Kennedy Road". After that a "University of Foreman Road" was declared when Foreman Road attempted to march on Mayor Obed Mlaba in defiance of an illegal march ban, and were beaten back with severe police violence, and then a "University of Abahlali baseMjondolo". Abahlali's intellectual project is founded on the decision that "when order means the silence of the poor then it is good to be out of order".