On Thursday, October 29, dozens of demonstrators, wearing masks and carrying signs with slogans like “corrupt officials out!” and “Cancel evictions now!” gathered together and embarked on a peaceful march. Tracey Lee Williams of Wentworth Angels, on short notice, provided bottled water to sustain them during the demonstration.
South Africa’s Constitution protects everyone’s right to access adequate housing. This principle was spelled out in law when the Court issued a ruling in 2000 that stipulated the most vulnerable people – “those living in extreme conditions of poverty, homelessness or intolerable housing” – should be given priority access to housing. This has yet to be fulfilled in Austerville’s ‘Woodstock’ zone. They have endured the inimically, crowded living conditions for five decades.
Lenny Joseph from the Keith Joseph Foundation cautioned community members about fighting against each other
“The last thing I want to see is a government that puts a community against each other, that creates a divide-and-conquer kind of scenario. That’s the last thing we need.”
“We’re trying to build strong, resilient people and a community that has hope for the future”
Celeste King, a disgruntled resident said; “When our own government no longer sees us as human beings with dignity and worth but as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, manhandled by police, conned into believing it has our best interests at heart, mistreated, and then jails us if we dare step out of line, punishes us unjustly without remorse, and refuses to own up to its failings, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic. Instead, what we are experiencing is tyranny at the hands of a government, which operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.
So where does that leave us?
The government has knocked us off our rightful throne. It has usurped our rightful authority. Its agents no longer even pretend that the answer to the people. Worst of all the people have become desensitized to this constant undermining of our freedom.
We have been stereotyped as sassy, obscene, anarchist hooligans, so we have taken the high road and adopted a strategy of passive resistance. In February this year, the MEC made gallant promises with regard to adequate housing for the people. We realize that because of the outbreak of covid-19, this may have been stalled, but we’re waiting patiently for that promise to be delivered “
In the years following apartheid, the dwellings were left to become urban slums.
The social and economic conditions have made it easy for gang lords and drug cartels to prey on the fractured communities and youth. In the post-apartheid era, the poor conditions have worsened. Despite this persistence of systemic and structural inequality, most people who reside in Woodstock continue to strive to live purposeful lives against all odds.
By: Lorraine Richards