South Africa: ‘No Land! No House! No Vote!’

From the new issue of NEWS & LETTERS, May-June 2011:

South Africa: ‘No Land! No House! No Vote!’

Editor’s note: Zimasa Lerumo is coordinator of Abahlali baseMjondolo-Western Cape Youth Project and involved in the “No Land! No House! No Vote!” campaign. Their campaign for South Africa’s 2011 elections declares: “No! to Capitalist Democracy. No! to ANC, DA, ID, COPE, UDM policies that lead to water cutoffs, electricity cutoffs, and forced evictions.” They will no longer support the politicians who continue a new form of economic apartheid. Seventeen years since the fall of the old regime, the shackdwellers’ movement declares: “We are still struggling for real freedom, a freedom that will recognize the equal humanity of everyone.”

South Africa, 2011

I was born Sept. 27, 1990, in Cape Town and I grew up in Eastern Cape in a small rural area called Ediphala. Life was easy but things changed when my parents got divorced and my mother went to Johannesburg so that me and my brother could have a better life.

She left me with her younger sisters who treated me well but life was not easy. When I was in fourth grade, mother called me to Johannesburg. We lived in suburbs, in a flat, and went to a white school. When I started high school mom lost her job and life started to be difficult, but I finished eighth grade.

My aunt told my mother that I must come to Cape Town and live with her. Life in Cape Town was horribly difficult because I was not used to the situation. Five of us lived in a small shack, in a very small area called QQ Section in an environment where you can not even go to the toilet, you have to use a plastic container. We threw our dirt in a place called a dirty place (inyhunyhu) across the street and got sick because the environment isn’t clean—especially for kids, who play next to it.

I met new friends. They were quite good but weren’t going to school. We did bad things, e.g., we used to drink while we were writing our exams, go to parties and sometimes not study. Sadly, I got the drinking results: I failed my matric, but luckily got a chance to write the two subjects that I failed.

While I was waiting to rewrite my supplementary exam, I used to sit the whole day, unemployed but for the Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) organization. ABM works to make a better life for people who live in shacks. We are trying to push government to do the work that people expect them to do: building houses with electricity, clean water and toilets, in a safe environment. That’s a good thing for me because I’m also trying to make a change in people’s lives and my own life, too.

The only thing the government tells us to do is vote. I told myself that I’m not gonna ’cause I don’t see the reason of voting because it doesn’t make a difference in my life. It’s making it worse. The only thing they do is lie, and at the end of the day nothing is happening. They give us hopes that will never be true.

I will never vote while I still live in such a state, while the people of South Africa are still living in hell. It’s not like the government doesn’t have money. They’re wasting money on unnecessary things like building new stadiums or Gautrain [the high speed train that serves the wealthy].

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