History of the Motsoaledi community struggle, by Motsoaledi anarchists/ ZACF, September 2007

Produced by the key writer in the Black Action Group (affiliate of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation – now the Front – or ZACF) and the Phambile Motsoaledi Community Project. Unknown at this stage if this was published in Motsoaledi News or Vuka Motsoaledi or elsewhere, in this or revised form. Dated 3 September 2007.

History of the community:

Motsoaledi squatter camp started sometimes 1993.  Just like many other squatter camps. The people were under the impression that “the politicians will build houses” as soon as they get into power. Elias Motsoaledi is one of the African National Congress (ANC) popular politicians during the apartheid. It is common to find squatter camps named after a politician despite that “they never set a foot or even aware about them”.

During this time the ANC and Inkata Freedom Party (IFP) factions killed each other. The ANC faction dominated in this squatter camp on the face of South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO). They killed innocent people, expropriate their belonging, and extrude money from them and raped women. These heinous acts distanced people from participating in the struggle and many people ran away. Even after the ANC won the 1994 election this community remained the fiefdom of the ANC faction.

Until today the houses are not built. The people live in shacks with no electricity, sanitation or school. Around 2002 the ANC local structure counterattacked our attempts to organise the people. It was just after the members of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC)/ Anti Privatisation Forum (APF) publicly burned their ANC membership cards during the appearance of their comrades at the court. This made SANCO/ANC faction furious but unable to rearrange themselves in their notorious ambush and killings. However they manage to scare us away for a while.

We started to clear an open space used for dumping to hold our meetings, garden and library. People became more and more tired of the ANC’s empty promises. And already have lost confidence in its local leadership. When we launched the now only existing community structure that we called the Motsoaledi Concerned Residents (MCR). The people flocked from everywhere to sign their names. This meeting was published on the free local newspaper. The small group of the ANC local structure unsuccessfully tried to disrupt the meeting.

 There are about 1250 plots crowded with shacks filled by lots of families. A plot around 15mX15m could be accommodating 1 to 15 different families. Making the population over 20 000. Mostly families are migrant workers coming from backyard roomed-shacks around Soweto. This group was sidelined by the then Apartheid regime.  It suddenly stopped to build subsidised houses for low income earners. They gave the banks the responsibility to build houses for making profit. The banks only built bond houses that could accommodate the black upcoming middle class.

Mineworkers, building-plumbing-electrifying constructions workers, factories workers, municipal workers etcetera, have been on the waiting list since 70’s. Today in the ANC government is even worse. Most of them have been retrenched or layoff. You are very lucky to work under contract basis situation that is notoriously exploitative and insecure.

Although planned long time before she takes over, after 2004 national elections as the minister of housing Lindiwe Sisulu has made it clear that “the banks are to help with houses provision”. This meaning is not different to the then apartheid regime. The bank is a profit institution and always regards the people living in the squatter camps as risk clients. Even worse the majority of people have lost their income in the squatter camps. And they live from hand to mouth.

These vulnerabilities are causing destructions in our communities and families. The present booming building construction and security industries have gained powers to bulldoze the lives of the workers. They fill their petrol guzzlers, wallets and leave workers dry.   Thereafter they lure the daughters, sisters, sons and wives of the same workers. The more they are envied, the more evil they became. Because they want to double their income, this means “long hours, wage cut or nothing for the workers”.

These workers are no strangers they are our brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents. Illiteracy, unemployment, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and alcohol abuse dominates the lives of the people. Since there are no facilities or means at all to keep people busy with something that “interest, protect and advance their lives”. The only thing is the pain that is nailed on to our confine.

Children’s learning ability has been hampered. While their parents pay no attention. Since they are still waiting for the houses to be built and title-deeds to guarantee they own the land. It is now 14years since people started staying here. The children of this community have multiplications of difficulties. They are not waiting they are growing without anything to rely on for the future. This has led to very early adulthood amongst the children. Already families have to rely on the R280 social grant per child from the social welfare. There are lots of young boys already in the prisons. And together old and young people are dying because of poverty related illness and HIV/AIDS.

This is nothing but war by the ANC government on the poor and majority of the country. Even the most indifferent person cannot ignore this challenge. Then when the ANC government first came into power you couldn’t complain about the ANC. Those in persistence to recognise the ANC are mostly reactionaries fighting a losing battle on the grass roots level. The backup number is deteriorating in droves. They can clinch, stretch or roar “enough is enough the people have lost hope”. The ANC and the rest only call meetings during election campaign. Just to convince the grassroots communities that indeed “they have a choice to choose their government” There is nothing like that but to counter attack people’s power and try to fabricate them. In order to weaken any possible uprising!!

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About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014) and 'Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' (co-written with Michael Schmidt, AK Press 2009).