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Mon Dec 22 20:27:03 SAST 2014

Shack dwellers 'mourn' freedom

PHILANI NOMBEMBE | 27 April, 2011 21:550 Comments

Hundreds of protesting Cape Town shack dwellers yesterday threatened to boycott next month' s local government elections.



Thandiswa Gabula, of QQ section, an informal settlement in Khayelitsha, on the Cape Flats, was one of the people protesting against lack of services, including basic sanitation, while participating in a shack-fire meeting organised by the Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers') movement.

Gabula, 45, a mother of four, said she felt excluded from South Africa and that Freedom Day meant nothing to her because her community did not have toilets, running water or electricity.

"I have been voting since 1994. My life hasn't changed. I will not vote this time around," she said.

"I know South Africans who have got the means are celebrating this day elsewhere, but this day brings me a lot of sadness."

For the 23 years that Gabula has lived in the township, she has had to ask her neighbours for permission to use their toilet.

"I think I will only vote during the national government elections," she said.

Resident Lulama Njadu, 42, echoed Gabula's sentiments.

He said his family's circumstances pained him and that he had to send his four young children to Eastern Cape to live with a relative because living conditions in his community were unhealthy.

"I don't see the reason why I should vote. Leaders have been using us as a ladder to get cushy jobs. Once elected, they take us for fools ... this day means nothing to me but suffering."

Mzonke Poni, spokesman for Abahlali baseMjondolo, said the gathering was not to celebrate Freedom Day but to "mourn it".

"We live in shacks, in other people's back yards, in rotting council homes and other urban and rural ghettos. But it's not only about where we live or what services we receive," said Poni.

"Because we are poor, the government treats us as though we are less than human. This is why we are forced to hold Unfreedom Day - to assert our right to dignity."

Earlier, the Social Justice Coalition and hundreds of Khayelitsha residents delivered a memorandum to Cape Town mayor Dan Plato to demand access to "clean and safe sanitation services".

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