South Africa: New Land Occupation in Germiston

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement May 12 (with update May 13 below)

Last night more than two hundred people occupied unused land in Germiston,
on the East Rand in Gauteng. We laid out our design for the occupation in
the afternoon, built throughout the night and slept on the occupied land.
Around 350 stands have been marked out via a democratic and carefully
planned process. The new occupation has been named the Zikode Extension in
honour of S’bu Zikode.

On the 8th of November last year residents of the Good Hope Settlement in
Germiston attended the Land Summit called by Gauteng MEC of Human
Settlements Paul Mashatile. He told us that we must identity available land
and that his Department would then sit and talk with us with a view to
acquiring that land.

We had already identified the available land that will be good for us as
part of our programme of grassroots urban planning. After the Land Summit
the MEC’s office mandated a delegation to work with us. On 22 November we
met with people from the Provincial Department of Human Settlements.
Officials visited the land that we have identified. The geo-tech has been
done and it has been confirmed that the land is good for housing.

But then the officials all went silent. We contacted Paul Mashatile
directly but he did not respond to us. In February Abahlali baseGood Hope
in Germiston issued a statement making it clear that we would occupy unused
land if we continued to be ignored.

Despite numerous attempts to engage the politicians they have continued to
ignore us. This is why we have now occupied.

The police arrived this morning with big guns and destroyed all the
structures that had been erected during the night. They stole our zincs and
burnt our poles. They also threw some children’s school bags into the
fires. Some of the police officers were very rude to us, swearing at us and
insulting us. One white police office called one of our comrades a
‘baboon’. A journalist was pushed around and threatened. We marched behind
the police truck until they left.

After the police left a few young men in EFF regalia arrived. They told us
that we must go because they want this land. We are not going anywhere.

We occupied because we are sick and tired. We are sick and tired of being
ignored. We are sick and tired of living in dirty, overcrowded conditions,
with rats and in shacks that flood every summer. Some of us have lived in
these terrible conditions in the Good Hope settlement for more than twenty
years. We cannot rent our whole lives. We cannot live in such unhealthy and
dangerous conditions, and without electricity and toilets, for our whole
lives. We want our children to be healthy and safe. We want to live with
dignity. We want land and housing. Some of us have lived in the city our
whole lives, and are no longer young, and yet we have never owned a piece
of land. We don’t want to die without leaving something for our children.

We are sick and tired of getting food parcels and lies from the politicians
at election time. We want land and dignity.

After our shacks were destroyed by the police we decided to continue to
resist by rebuilding. All the occupiers have given R10 each so that that we
can buy more materials and build one structure that we will all sleep in
tonight. If the police continue to demolish we will continue to rebuild.

The politicians and the police take us as a joke. We take our lives

Some people are afraid of the Councillor and the ANC. But we have decided
to use people power now. This is our long journey.

Siyawuthatha umhlaba!
Siyahlala kumhlaba!

Update May 13
*Abahlali continue to resist on the Zikode Extension Land Occupation on the
East Rand in Gauteng*

Abahlali baseMjondolo in Gauteng who are currently in occupation of
formerly unused land in the East Rand continue to resist in the midst of
the continuous demolishing of their structures by the metro police. Today
the metro police arrived at the occupation and demolished and burnt again.

We continue to resist. We will not move. We are demanding to be addressed
by the premier David Makhura. We have been promised this land by the then
MEC of Human Settlements in the province, Paul Mashatile. We are sick and
tired of empty promises. We want to hold the Gauteng government accountable
for the land that they have promised to us.

We know that our struggle for land has been reduced to criminality. We are
not invaders, land grabbers or anarchists. We occupy land for our survival.
We occupy land for living. For too long we have been living in shacks of
indignity. For too long we have been living like pigs in the mud. For too
long black people have been denied access to land by the colonial system.
We were further deprived of the right to the cities by the apartheid system.

We have been patient enough. We have waited for the ANC led government to
give us access to land and to democratise the cities since 1994. Now it is
the time for us to occupy this land and to take our place in this city,
because nothing will not be given to us. The ANC has clearly failed to
distribute land to us.

When we occupy land we are encouraging a democratic urban planning process
from below. We will continue to occupy vacant land for the benefit of the
impoverished people of this country. Those who are in need of land must
organise in democratic structures, build their power and occupy. We
continue to believe in the principle that the social value of land must
come before its commercial value. Those who are occupying land so that they
can sell it or rent it out do not represent us. We believe that land must
be occupied for survival, for living and thriving.

Instead of addressing the issue of the land, and democratising the cities,
the ANC led government sends police to attack those who are occupying land.
If the ANC was serious about the land question, and the urban question,
they would support this occupation, and other democratically organised

We would like to thank all the comrades who are supporting the land
occupation in Germiston. We are not deterred. Our spirits are high as we
enter the third night on the occupation. We are unshaken by the metro
police. We will hold this land.