I have written a lot about how beautiful Cape Town and South Africa are, how much I love this place and it’s people. I have written nothing on the other side of it, because it is invisible to me, because I choose not to see it. At the Anarchist Bookfair last Saturday I got a big reality check, hearing the story of grass-root social activists of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers’ movement.
Gugulethu, Philippi, Nyanga, Khayelitsha are not just places I as a white, middle class European tourist don’t go to. These are places I choose not to know exist. These are places without electricity, running water, sanitation. The people who stand up against eviction and for land, housing and dignity are attacked by the police, shot, killed.
While on the Atlantic seaboard people enjoy the good life in their villa’s, on the other side of Table Mountain, others live in the worst possible conditions. I would like to pretend I am somewhere in the middle of those two extreme’s. I’m not, I am filthy rich compared to the people living in shacks on the Cape Flats. When the police shoot them for standing up for their right to a decent life, they shoot to protect my middle class interests.
“If you want to show solidarity with us, come to our township, buy a shack, live in it.” Saying this to the white middle class anarchists at the bookfair last Saturday, the angry young black man knew nobody would come live in Khayelitsha. Nobody would choose to live in these conditions. But we will not change the shackdwellers’ living conditions just by donating some stuff or by sending an NGO to help.
I do not know myself how I can truly help, for now I can only share the stories of their struggle: