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#SouthAfrica: Shack fires are our daily lives

South Africa: Statement by Abahlali baseMjondolo from October 23, 2018.

Submitted to Enough is Enough.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only

When you live in a shack in this country you are considered to be someone who cannot think. Your dignity is not recognised. You are left to live with the rats and the floods. You are left to burn. Your life does not count as a human life.

Almost 25 years after apartheid we are still condemned to indignity. We are still forced to live like pigs in the mud. We are still sentenced to die in the fires. When we refuse indignity and stand up for our humanity we continue to face arrest, assault, torture and assassination.

We are seen as a problem to be dealt with by the police and the NGOs. The politicians only remember us during elections. They see as a vote banks, not equal participants in democratic life.

The recent fire in Cape Town which left more than a thousand people homeless, and one life lost, is more proof that our lives do not matter in the eyes of this government. The only reason political parties attended to this problem is because there is an election next year.  But making a noise after a big fire when an election is coming is not the same thing as providing people with decent housing and stopping the fires.

We have heard many people suddenly becoming experts on shack fires. Some are saying the reasons that shack fires exist is because we build too close to one another. Others blame the forms of lighting or heating that people use. In some cases alcohol is said to be the cause of the fires.

It is typical for middle class and elite people to think in this way. They want to blame the oppressed for their suffering rather than to blame the systems that cause oppression.

When you are living in shacks your life is vandalised by the state. The economy places no value on your dignity. When you are forced to live on a tiny piece of land with thousands of other people, when you are forced to build with wood, cardboard and plastic, and when you are not allowed to connect yourself to electricity disasters are inevitable.

Under these circumstances there will always be floods and fires.

The state has failed to provide land, housing and services for millions of people. When we take our own action to occupy good land, to build decent houses and to connect ourselves to water and electricity, the state criminalises our efforts.

The state always blames us. We are blamed for being homeless. We are blamed for moving to the cities to seek a better life. We are blamed for occupying land. We are blamed for trying to build homes for our families. We are blamed for making our own connections to water and electricity. Then the very people who are constantly blaming us for being oppressed while benefiting from the systems that oppress us then expect us to vote for them.

It is time that as the impoverished we open our eyes and see that we are being fooled by politicians. We are living in these undignified and dangerous conditions because of them.

We need to hit them where it hurts the most. That is in the vote. Let’s not vote for the same people who oppress us. It is clear that we can’t trust politicians. The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is repressing us. In the Western Cape the DA is discriminating black people.

Others are involved in continuing to make people in Limpopo poor via the corruption that took place in the VBS bank. Who do we trust really? All the political parties are oppressing us.

We must unite as the oppressed, as impoverished people, and refused to be used by politicians. We must build our own power and work to emancipate ourselves.

But in the urgency of the crisis in Cape Town immediate support is needed. We are able to collect donations in the form of clothing and other useful things in Durban via our office which can be contacted on 031 304 6420. We will be working with comrades from Social Justice Coalition in Cape Town to assist in this difficult time.

Shack fires are political. We refuse to be left to burn.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, October 23, 2018

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