By Yerushka Chetty
On this bitter cold rainy morning of 18 June 2016 I attended the 2nd meeting called by the residents of Woodstock and Salt River in the Salt River Community Hall to “resist gentrification” which is commonly referred to as stopping evictions. A group of activists from Western Cape, concerned about the plight of the residents in these areas, joined the campaign called “We Are Not Going Anywhere” as volunteers representing the Black First Land First Movement (BLF). As BLF we are against the modern day dispossession and forceful removal of black people from their land which is politely termed gentrification.
At the first meeting that took place last week on 11 June 2016 we were told how Salt River and Woodstock were identified by big business to promote its own capitalist interests at the expense of the residents of these areas. Consequently many families have been forcibly removed from these areas and condemned to Blikkiesdorp to die. Those who remain in Salt River and Woodstock are fighting further evictions. The white owned businesses that have invaded these areas have not benefited the residents and more and more whites are taking over the houses in Salt River and Woodstock as the residents cannot afford the huge increase in property prices, rates and rentals that is supported by the Democratic Alliance (DA) led Western Cape Government. It was clear from this meeting that the residents want an end to the evictions and to be allowed to enjoy the full benefits of their rights to housing and land in Woodstock and Salt River.
Regarding the current follow-up meeting, a taxi filled with mothers and their children had traveled from Blikkiesdorp to the meeting to speak about their struggle to get their children enrolled into school after they were forcefully removed from Gympie Street, Woodstock and taken to Blikkiesdorp, Block P in 2009. Blikkiesdorp is a place which lies on the outskirts of Cape Town and which the locals refer to as Helen Zille’s concentration camp.
Lydia Duma, a mother of two, has been struggling with no success for 4 years to enroll her daughter who is now 12 years old into school. With a heavy heart she explains how her daughter cries every morning when she sees children going to school. Lydia brought her child to the meeting. She was sick but wanted to be seen and heard.
Initially I assumed it was just Lydia Duma who had this problem. It soon became apparent that over 200 children living in Blikkiesdorp as indicated by the mothers I met are not attending school. They explained that their many visits to schools and government departments so as to get their children enrolled in school were in vain. They have been waging this battle for six years now but their children are still not allowed to attend school. Their children are essentially denied even the most basic education and everyday they watch with painful hearts other children going to school while they are forced to remain at home.
Another woman, Victoria Hector, spoke about her daily challenge of looking after her 4 children and mother who has diabetes. Her mum recently had lost her leg due to her condition and requires special food. The 4th child, who is her nephew from her deceased sister and who she is raising as her own for four years now, is prevented by the state from attending school because the child is not recognized as her own. She supports her household, being her children and mother, from the meager grants she receives which is insufficient. She consequently struggles to make ends meet.
The forgotten children of Blikkiesdorp is not a new story. It has been reported on for years, and the government of Western Cape is aware of it’s human rights violations in this regard yet it continues in the same vain with reckless disregard for the wellbeing of these children and their families. The children of Blikkiesdorp are conveniently forgotten. In the eyes of white supremacy, they simply don’t exist!
The mothers in attendance struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. They had hired a taxi to get to the meeting but after having fundraised at the meeting were still short of funds to return to Blikkiesdorp . They however managed to convince the taxi driver to take them back home with the limited funds they managed to raise. The resilience of these warrior mothers is indeed inspirational and worthy of our salutations. Aluta continua.
Noeraan Dreyer, a resident of Salt River, spoke about her struggle to stop her landlord from evicting her family from their home of 11 years. Noeraan fears if they are forcefully evicted they too will end up in Blikkiesdorp but she is adamant to fight tooth and nail for the future of her children and grandchildren in Salt River.
The Anti Evictions campaign, “We Are Not Going Anywhere” will be staging protests next week outside the Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River. The needs of the residents of Salt River and Woodstock and of those banished to Blikkiesdorp are self evident:
1. The children of Blikkiesdorp be immediately enrolled in school and given free and adequate education.
2. The ANC government must immediately stop all evictions.
3. Those banished to Blikkiesdorp from Woodstock and Salt River be returned to those areas with the full benefits of decent adequate housing and sanitation.
For further information on joining the “We Are Not Going Anywhere” campaign please feel free to contact:
Email: [email protected]
Cell number: 0720532517
Email: [email protected]
Cell number: 062 945 5078