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The World is a Ghetto: Global Slums - Out of Sight and out of Mind: Deterioration of the Human Condition.

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Decrepit And Deteriorated Human Existential Conditions

Slums In south Africa: Despite "Affirmative Action", many people still live in slums.. A concept lifted from American colloquialism..

Slums In south Africa: Despite "Affirmative Action", many people still live in slums.. A concept lifted from American colloquialism..

Nigerian Slums: Whither Nira?

Nigerian Slums: Whither Nira?

Slums In The Phillippines: Pig-Sy As Human Habitat

Slums In The Phillippines: Pig-Sy As Human Habitat

Jakarta Slums: Oppulence and Wealth Rising In The Horizons as mise-en-scene

Jakarta Slums: Oppulence and Wealth Rising In The Horizons as mise-en-scene

Haitian Slums Known As Korda : Hell On Earth Existence...

Haitian Slums Known As Korda : Hell On Earth Existence...

Abahlali fbaseMjondlolos direct message to the ANC-led government: "No Land, No House No Vote" has the African government attacking and killing some of these poor peoples... On the Picture in a euphoric and demonstrating mode

Abahlali fbaseMjondlolos direct message to the ANC-led government: "No Land, No House No Vote" has the African government attacking and killing some of these poor peoples... On the Picture in a euphoric and demonstrating mode

The Shack-Dwellers message is clear: No Land! No House! No Vote!...

The Shack-Dwellers message is clear: No Land! No House! No Vote!...

The slum dwellers holding a rally in the background of the Shacks...

The slum dwellers holding a rally in the background of the Shacks...

Camden New Jersey, USA; A serious scene of Urban Decay still going on today

Camden New Jersey, USA; A serious scene of Urban Decay still going on today

Govanhill's is a breeding ground for exploitation,crime, poor health and education and cockroaches in Scotland .

Govanhill's is a breeding ground for exploitation,crime, poor health and education and cockroaches in Scotland .

Manchester, England 1970

Manchester, England 1970

Regent Park North in Toronto, Canada. It is the first and largest public housing project. It is also one of Toronto's worst slums. It qualifies as being the worst slum in North America. It is now in the process of being redeveloped

Regent Park North in Toronto, Canada. It is the first and largest public housing project. It is also one of Toronto's worst slums. It qualifies as being the worst slum in North America. It is now in the process of being redeveloped

Homeless in Osaka, Japan. There are about 25,000 people homeless in Osaka. The entrance of the area's largest shelter, with 20-foot pale green metal walls dominating the park

Homeless in Osaka, Japan. There are about 25,000 people homeless in Osaka. The entrance of the area's largest shelter, with 20-foot pale green metal walls dominating the park

A stream of homeless men arriving at  the area's largest shelter in Airin's dirt covered park; these men with greying hair and thick coats warming themselves, around a fire as others rummaged through the piles of trash, in Japan.

A stream of homeless men arriving at the area's largest shelter in Airin's dirt covered park; these men with greying hair and thick coats warming themselves, around a fire as others rummaged through the piles of trash, in Japan.

One of Africa's biggest slum and sprawl called Kibera

One of Africa's biggest slum and sprawl called Kibera

Barrios, Caracas, Venezuela

Barrios, Caracas, Venezuela

Slums in Sao Paulo. Slums such as these one have more than 35,000 inhabitants

Slums in Sao Paulo. Slums such as these one have more than 35,000 inhabitants

Dharavi Slums near the Sewer

Dharavi Slums near the Sewer

The Dharavi slums of Mumbai, India; It is said to be the largest slum in Asia

The Dharavi slums of Mumbai, India; It is said to be the largest slum in Asia

Manila Slum in the Philippines

Manila Slum in the Philippines

Manila Slums

Manila Slums

The slums in Jakarta

The slums in Jakarta

Jakarta Slums

Jakarta Slums

A Global View of HIV Infection from 2006-2008. It is important to look at the adult prevalence color key on the bottom of the left on the Map. It is also important to note how some of the areas where slums are located are affected just as much

A Global View of HIV Infection from 2006-2008. It is important to look at the adult prevalence color key on the bottom of the left on the Map. It is also important to note how some of the areas where slums are located are affected just as much

James Sofasonke Mpanza riding on one of his "Racing Horses"-of which he had several more, and is known as  the Father Of Soweto

James Sofasonke Mpanza riding on one of his "Racing Horses"-of which he had several more, and is known as the Father Of Soweto

Shack-dwellers building their sack hovels which James Mpanza fought against and got them half-way decent housing

Shack-dwellers building their sack hovels which James Mpanza fought against and got them half-way decent housing

The Evolution Of The Post Apartheid African Community

It has been estimated that more than one to two billion human beings live in slums or shanty towns all over the world. One in every three people in the world will live in slums in the next coming twenty to thirty years, unless all the governments control unprecedented urban growth. A Report from the United dNations settlements program, UN-habitat, which is based in Nairobi, Kenya, they found that urban slums were growing faster than expected, and that the balance of global poverty was shifting rapidly from countryside to the big cities.

The problem of slums is that the problems they present cannot be solved immediately. Slums or 'squatters' are a global problem and growing because of exponential growth and population expansion which ultimately forces a disproportionate number of people into seriously untenable living conditions.

The conditions of slums and slum dwelling exist because of colonial exploitation, economic isolation, political anarchy, sectarian violence and many other different debilitating conditions that do not affect those in developing countries, or not as drastically as it affects those in developing countries. The defining characteristics of these new Megaslums is morphological. When these nation states collapse due to war or corruption, this makes land dangerous to occupy and make productive.

The Evolution Of The Post Apartheid African Community

It has been estimated that more than one to two billion human beings live in slums or shanty towns all over the world. One in every three people in the world will live in slums in the next coming twenty to thirty years, unless all the governments control unprecedented urban growth. A Report from the United dNations settlements program, UN-habitat, which is based in Nairobi, Kenya, they found that urban slums were growing faster than expected, and that the balance of global poverty was shifting rapidly from countryside to the big cities.

The problem of slums is that the problems they present cannot be solved immediately. Slums or 'squatters' are a global problem and growing because of exponential growth and population expansion which ultimately forces a disproportionate number of people into seriously untenable living conditions.

The conditions of slums and slum dwelling exist because of colonial exploitation, economic isolation, political anarchy, sectarian violence and many other different debilitating conditions that do not affect those in developing countries, or not as drastically as it affects those in developing countries. The defining characteristics of these new Megaslums is morphological. When these nation states collapse due to war or corruption, this makes land dangerous to occupy and make productive.

For Example, The war in the Congo from 1998-2003, killed approximately 4 million people, and the presence of centralized Western Aid Bureaucracies make suffering poverty and housing needs easier than help to radically change the situation.(US GAO office) Throughout the world these slums are built literally out of rubbish, discarded metal, cardboard, tarp, old and rotting wood, etc.

These houses of are made in such a way that they are to be built quickly and rebuilt rapidly. Globally slum living is very precarious because the people who live in slums are forever at war with the local governments and consistently being thrown out of their only shelters, repeatedly, and the local planning agencies might be very slow in meeting the needs of the swelling masses in tin-can houses, and are also making state land ownership and use it to provide adequate housing, impossible.

Hunger in the Slums

Hunger is an invisible killer, silently exacting its toll on humanity — particularly infants and children most of whom come from poor, homeless and displaced families. James P. Grant, executive director of UNICEF said:

"Some 15 million small children die each year.....

"They die very quietly; one hears very little about them: they come from the world's poorest familys, who themselves are the weakest and most powerless members of those powerless families. Just last month ... there was this terrible earthquake in Algeria where 12,000 people died [that] made the front page of every paper, yet some 35,000 small children died that day needlessly from the silent emergency - almost triple that, but it did not make the headlines.

"What is this "normal" hunger, not part of an outright famine, that accounts for the vast majority of the 13-18 million deaths from hunger and hunger related diseases each year?" (Shirley Foster) These are just statistics, but also they are a reality of our day-to-day lives, today.

The conditions and the infrastructure of the slums facilitates for the spread of all types of diseases, hunger and malnutrition, lack of quality health care and nutritional foods. Diseases like HIV/AIDS have become a global problem. Every country in the world people are dying from the AIDS epidemic These people with the disease are seen as having a very big problem that is too big to be successfully combated, or it is maybe someone else's problem. Here are some of the statistics of HIV and AIDS:

HIV infection rates have decreased in some countries as of November 21, 2005. However, the number of individuals worldwide who are living with AIDS continues to rise. Kenya and Zimbabwe are two African nations that have seen a decrease in HIV prevalence.

  • 40.3 Million people are living with HIV
  • Over 3 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2005
  • More than 500,000 children died in 2005 from AIDS-related illnesses

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS. Although Sub-Saharan Africa is home to just over 10% of the world's population, more than 60% of all people living with HIV call this Area home. And a higher percentage of them live in slums and underdeveloped, poverty stricken and disease-ridden enclaves.

  • 64% of new HIV infections occur in Sub-Saharan Africa (3.2 million people)
  • 25.8 million people are living with HIV is Sub-Saharan Africa
  • 2.4 million died of AIDS in 2005 in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • 7.2% of the adult population in Sub-Saharan Africa have Aids

South Africa(these statistics are as of the end of 2003)

South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the wold.

  • 5.1 million people are living with HIV in South Africa
  • 21.5% of adults in south Africa are living with HIV
  • 370,000 people died of AiDS in South Africa
  • 1.1 million Aids orphans in south Africa

Kenya(statistics as of the end of 2003)

  • 1.1 million people are living with HIV in Kenya
  • 6.7% of adults in Kenya are living with HIV
  • 150,000 people died of AIDS in Kenya
  • 650,000 AIDS orphans in Kenya

The statistics above have been provided by UNAIDS/WHO Publications in 2005. UNAIDS noted that the AIDS epidemic continues to outpace the response as the estimated number of adults and children living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region has doubled since 2001. Nearly 1.5 million people are living with HIV and the majority of them live in Russia and Ukraine. UNAIDS is very concerned that Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the only region of the world where HIV prevalence clearly remains on the rise.

The UNAIDS report of 2008 on global AIDs epidemic, about 1.5 million people were estimated to be living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2007; almost 90% of them living in either the Russian Federation or Ukraine. Although HIV epidemic in the Russian Federation is the largest in the region, there are rising numbers in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldavia, Tajikstan and Uzbekistan.Overall Regional/Global HIV/AIDS Statistics:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa- 22.0 million with AIDS; 1.9 million new Infections; 5.0% adult prevalence; 1.5 million child/adult deaths.
  • South/Southeast Asia-4.2 million with AIDs; New infections 330,000; 0.3% adult/child prevalence; 340,000 adult/child deaths.
  • Eastern Europe/Central Asia- 1.5 Million with AIDS; new infections 110,000; 0.8% adult/child prevalence; adult/child deaths 58,000.
  • Latin America- 1.7 million with AIDS; 140,000 new infections; 0.5% adult/child prevalence; 63,000 adult/child deaths.
  • North America- 1.2 million with AIDS; 54,000 new infections; 0.6% adult prevalence; 23,000 child/adult deaths.
  • East Asia- 740 with AIDS; 52,000 new infections; 0.1% adult/child prevalence; 40,000 adult/child deaths.
  • Western/Central Europe- 730,000 with AIDS; 27,000 with new infections; 0.3% adult/child prevalence; 8,000 adult/child deaths.
  • Middle East/North Africa- 380,000 with AIDS; 40,000 new infections; 0.3% adult/child prevalence; 27,000 adult/child deaths.
  • Caribbean-230,000 with AIDS; 20,000 new infections; 1.1% adult/child prevalence; 14,000 adult/child deaths.
  • These statistics were done by UNAIDS/WHO in the 2008 Report. Please see their Global map provided by WHO in 2007 in the hub's picture gallery.

If one were to pay attention to this pandemic, it will be much more clearer when we take a peek at contemporary societies and their present day problems, as these slum conditions are affected and effected by and conversely affect and effect population explosion in a global scale; populations living in decrepit conditions throughout the world are affected; governments cannot cope or moving fast enough, and the whole dialectic repeats itself over and over again, for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Meanwhile, the slums fester and grow bigger, and with the global economic meltdown, the conditions are becoming sorely desperate. It would be appropriate to casually explore and closely interrogate the existence of slums and their specific problems globally. One cannot do justice to this topic, because slums are not in one specific continent, but are global in existence, yet present similar characteristics based on their proximity to the bourgeoning cities.

Characteristics of a Slum:

As the pictures in the Hub gallery show, that a slum is a cluster of compact settlements of five or more households which generally grow very unsystematically and haphazardly in an unhealthy condition and atmosphere on government and private land. Slums also exist in the owner-based household premises. A United Nations Group has created an operational definition of a slum as an area that combines to various extents the following characteristics:

  1. inadequate access to safe water
  2. inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure
  3. poor structural quality housing
  4. overcrowding
  5. insecure residential status
  6. the low socioeconomic status of its residents

There are other common characteristics associated with slums and they vary from context to context and form country to country. Some of these are:

  • Slums are usually characterized by urban blight and by high rates of poverty and unemployment.
  • They are commonly seen as "breeding grounds" for social problems such as crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, high rates of mental illness and suicide.
  • In many poor countries they exhibit high rates of disease due to unsanitary conditions,malnutrition, and lack basic health care.
  • In many slums, especially in poor countries, many live in very narrow alleys that do not allow vehicles(like ambulances and fire trucks) to pass.
  • The lack of services such as routine garbage collection allows rubbish to accumulate in huge quantities.
  • The lack of infrastructure is caused by the informal nature of the settlements and no planning for the poor by government officials.
  • Many slum-dwellers employ themselves in the informal economy. This can include street vending, drug dealing, domestic work, etc.
  • In some slums, people even recycle trash of different kinds(from household garbage to electronics) for living — selling either the odd usable goods or stripping broken goods for parts or raw materials. This has debilitating and hazardous effects to the people employed to these tasks
  • Generally slum settlements grow on government and semi-government land or lots. Vacant land and public owned places become slums too. Including these are the abandoned buildings/places or by the side of the road.
  • Slum housing materials are very cheap and of low quality such as old gummy polythene bags, straw, corrugated zinc, card boxes, rocks and stones and so forth.
  • In the case of the US, you see abandoned flats or apartments where the poor folks make it their homes.
165th street and College Avenue, Bronx, NYC.It was the most dangerous

165th street and College Avenue, Bronx, NYC.It was the most dangerous

Camden New Jersey, USA; A serious scene of Urban Decay still going on today

Camden New Jersey, USA; A serious scene of Urban Decay still going on today

The world is Still a Ghetto and Slum today

In the United States, most of the "looking like after war" slums or ghettoes, have now mostly been razed to the ground and some have been rehabbed. The rest has been built anew especially in the Bronx and Harlem. There are still slums in America and they still follow the characteristics described by the UN above. Take Camden, New Jersey, for example, there are a lot of boarded houses and there are also signs of construction. About $175 million has been pledged for its rebuilding by the State and local government. In 2004-2005 North Camden was dubbed the most dangerous city in America. It is currently under renovation.


In the slums of Nairobi you'll find appalling slum conditions. There is a stench in the air, toilets dug or moving with any flowing water, excrement in plastic bags, garbage dangling from trees, piled-up or burning; animals foraging in the debris; aborted fuses; dead animal carcasses, and garbage composed of all sorts of rubbish garbage, dead animal bodies, excrement and the whole bit washing into a stream. This in turn is affecting the environment. It is estimated that it would take about $50 million to recycle and get rid of the rubbish and garbage.

Sao Paolo

The Shantytowns are built of cardboard and scraps of wood and there is no sanitation or running water, and the slums fit-in the spaces between smarter neighborhoods. This city was thrown together and traffic flow was ensured. Elevated freeways and overpasses are often squeezed very close to the buildings that people in cars can see the slum dwellers watching television fro their apartments or houses. Traffic jams which go on for hundreds of miles are not an uncommon occurrences.

Approximately 80,000 people live in this slum and there are gangs who are responsible for and they control the drug trades in numerous slums. The metropolitan city of Sao Paulo has 23 million inhabitants, and it is one of the richest and largest cities in Latin America. Those working in the city whether in formal or informal economies have a hard time meeting their basic needs.

Those who do not have title to their lands are at the mercy of living in tenements manipulated by unscrupulous middle men, and there are those who live in the streets because they have on other option. The city has renovated some occupied properties and renovated them for low income tenants and owners.

Govanhill Slum

Slum houses of Govanhill involves some 131 flats in the area bounded by Westmoreland Street, Dixon Avenue, Langside Road and Allison Street, and the residents call it "Ground Zero" and it needs comprehensive improvement. Govanhill is plagued by severe , and its existence creates severe dangers to public health, fire risks, anti-social behavior overcrowding, substandard dwelling which are properties of slum landlords and rogue landlords linked to landlords.

Those mainly affected are 2000 European Union migrants, mostly Roma, from Easter Europe and lack of government support for them. The HM Revenue and Customs are investigating into gang masters operating in the city. The Holyrod's Public Petitions committee in a petition warned:

"The levels of substandard housing have become a breeding ground for crime, exploitation, poor health, poor educational attainment and cockroach infestations impacting directly on most vulnerable residents in the community and in particular, the new Roma residents who have no choice but to live in these conditions. These social impacts are also beginning to threaten the sustain-ability of the improved tenement stock as private landlords begin to expand their activities by acquiring from private owners desperate to leave the area." Suggestions have been made for some improvements.

Regent Park: The Ghetto

Through the Late 40's-early 50's, Regent was implemented and expanded becoming Canada's first social engineering project. The apartments were for people who were experiencing financial difficulties. Regent Park started attracting adoptive citizens, and by the 90's 7 in 10 residents in Regent were minorities. With the passing years it depreciated in value as poverty and unemployment rates soared, then there were higher rates of social ills, crime, gang operations, violence and drug abuse were on the rise.

Canada's Regents Park Statistics:

  • 70% of Regent Park lives in poverty(below Statistic's Canada's Low-income Cut-off rate)
  • Average income for Regent's residents is approximately half that of general Torontians
  • 20% of individuals in Regent Park reported having no income at all
  • 50% of the population living in Regent Park are 18 years old or younger(the Toronto-wide average is approximately 30%)
  • Only 10% of residents in Regent have successfully completed university

Recently the population has be dwindling and people are moved out so as to demolish and revitalize the area.

Japan, Osaka and the Homeless/Slums

The history of the Osaka slums, including Airin, goes back to the 20 Century at the time when Osaka was the heartland of Japans burgeoning industry. The districts of Airin and Kamagasaki was home to a large pool of unemployed and semi employed laborers. Kamagasaki and Airin can be likened to Chicago's South Side, it's a place where the history of modern Japan saw the emergence of a radical movement and social welfare initiatives took place.

Umeda, Osaka's central business district lost about 460,000 jobs since Lehman Brothers Holdings collapsed since September 15, 2008. 2.95 million people in Japan are unemployed and this threatens propel the rise of the homeless. Prime Minister Taro promised 15.4 trillion Yen stimulus package which will include new social safety net for non-regular worker.

Japan's jobless rate will soar to a record of 5.7 by the end of March 2010, the highest since 1953 when records began. Across Japan, 77% of the unemployed people do not receive benefits, which compare with 57% in the US and 13% in Germany. Osaka is a city of 2.64 million people that is 250 miles from Tokyo. Welfare assistance has surged 30% in December and 54% in January. Officials say that the homeless numbers will easily increase, when they had decreased it to 4,024 from 7,757 in 2003.

In the early 1980s and 1990s, Airin's population has swollen to as many as 120,000 in the area the size of a 116 football fields. There were a lot of jobs and accommodation was cheap. Now there are 200 applicants for every job, up form 30 to 40 a year ago. The number of factories in Osaka declined to 16,913 in 2005 from 28,392 as manufacturers moved jobs overseas.(Biggs and Horie)

Kibera Slum

Kibera Slum in Nairobi occupies perhaps a square mile is home to 700,000 people, which is a quarter of the population of Nairobi. There are 9(nine) "villages" that make up the slum of Kibera. In the slums you can rent a 3 m square room for 300(GBP2.50) a month, and around more or less 10 people can live in it. UNICEF helped build 11 pits latrines and now they are closed because sanitation is a huge problem. This brought about "flying toilets" because people used to "go" on a piece of paper and then threw it on top of someone else's house roof.

The UN Environmental Program the Kiandi(one of the villages) Co-operative have arranged workshops to train in working of flushing toilets, and they have now built three toilet blocks with septic tanks, and every user is charged 2.5 pennies and members pay 300(GBP2.50) a month. Each block makes 25,000(GBP200) a month which is used for maintenance.

These toilets blocks were designed for 200 people each, and they are the best facilities for miles, and are now used by 1000 people everyday, and the sceptic tanks need to be emptied every week, costing 16,000s(GBP130) There is a tap outside the block toilets, and water is charged 2s((2p, GBO 0.02) per 20 liters , and there's a flat space for washing clothes and a lot of women come and the company charges more for water.

The Slums of Sao Paulo

The city of Sao Paulo has a population of more than 20 million people, and this is where pulverizing poverty is side by side with extreme wealth. There is no running water in the flats and some foul smelly water oozes from the foundation and they do not even know its source. Kidnappings are on the rise in Sao Paulo, there is violence, crime, assaults and traffic is a nightmare. It is larger in size and population than New York It is constantly plagued by smog that hovers and covers the sky.

On any given day there are 2,000 assaults and 25 murders. Some four million cars spew 7,000 tons of toxins into the city's air and 1,000 tons of raw sewage are dumped into its main river. There are only 4.6 meters of vegetation per inhabitant — three times less than that recommended by the United Nations. More than half the families in Sao Paulo live and survive on $150 per month and live in either substandard housing or outright slums like those living near Tete River.

In the 1980s drought and a declining and stagnating economy brought new immigrants from Bahia and the jobs they had hoped for vanished. Increasing overpopulation and economic hard times generated problems of crime, poverty and air pollution plague Sao Paulo today. There are some programs of cleaning the sewerage systems and one million dollars for city populations access to public service; addressing the issues of pollution, park areas; restoration of historical buildings and alternative housing for the city's poorest citizens.

Shantytowns Barrios, Caracas, Venezuela

Caracas was founded in 1567 by the conquistador Diego de Lozada and was named after Los Caracas, the ferocious Caribbean Indians who lived in that region. The city has grown in the last 40 years and attracted people from all over South America, filling-in the valley and climbing up the steep sides of the surrounding hills. These new districts, known as barrios or ranchos — slums — are home to more than 50% of Caracas's 3.8 million inhabitants. As in Sao Paulo or Bogota, whole streets are privatized and controlled by private militias.

The gap between the rich and poor is constantly widening in the cities of developing countries reminiscent of industrialized nations like the US and United Kingdom. In 1979, the income of the richest 1 per cent of US households was ten times that of average household in Caracas; by 1997, it was twenty-three times greater. It is a crowded, chaotic, often without access to water or electricity distressing living conditions. Their houses are built o unsafe hillside and many are so poorly built that they become destroyed whenever there is heavy rain.

Hugo Chavez came into power and promised better conditions, by issuing a presidential Decree 1,666 and community CTUs were born. The Presidential Order said that any family that could prove that they built their house could apply and become the legal owner. The CTU now represents close to 5.7 million people out of a total of Venezuelan population of 25 million. After the mudslides of January 5, 2006,groups of desperate homeless people took over abandoned residential buildings in the center of Caracas. The Mayor of Caracas, Juan Barreto said he was not going to tolerate this.

The opposition felt that when the government takes over farms and businesses,by the same token the state encourages illegal takeovers by the people. CTU has discussed housing, clean water and electricity. Some of Venezuela's vast oil profits were used to set-up a $142.5 million fund on October 2005. Some progress is apparent, albeit slow.

The Dharavi Slums of Mumbai

Dharavi slums are the largest in Asia and have an appalling stench, filth and dense humanity. It is a place. India contains one-sixth of the world's population and only 7-15% work in formal employment. 70% of the country is rural. At least 40 million have been displaced by big dams that generate little electricity and frequently fail to supply water to the villages that need it most. This is a place where the sale of emergency contraceptives has increases by 50% every month.

In Mumbai, 53% of the population lives in slums, but unlike Delhi, its hard to see the real faces behind these statistics. The blogs are segregated into blocks mostly in central and northern Mumbai . Rent ranges from $25 to $4 a month. At more than one million people per square mile, that add to more than overpopulated in terms of real estate. The slums began when the French began erecting walls and sewer systems around the poorest areas of their colonies to keep sickness away as germs had yet to be discovered.

Now Dharavi is a 21 century stain and slum-a heart shaped hole in the Universe where human souls have been substituted for cheap leather,clay, plastic, tin, aluminum, and other raw materials that toxic factories of Dharavi produce. The incredibly small, smokey stone-walled factories make the world of Charles dickens look like a British Tea party. The men work here for a few years, die of poisoning or lung cancer, and are replaced all too often form the convenient surplus population of 2.5 million slum-dogs.

The superfluous, supernumerary people who drop like lemmings. This is called the informal sector. The surroundings are littered with mountains of garbage, with people using that to relieve themselves. At night, these streets are a malaise of moving death as they are invaded by hordes of gigantic rats and rodents at the bottom, and at eye-level the smoke from the lit cotton of the pottery kilns blinds the residents in thick black clouds. There is some development taking place although the dwellers prefer apartments with open spaces and parks, not the development that is done within the slums themselves.

Manila Slums

People in this slum live in "squatter" shanty homes and it is home for some workers, urban poor,peasants, students, street vendors, jeepney and tricycle drivers, women and senior citizens along with children. The system has been in crisis for some time now and it is unable to deliver life's basic necessities; jobs and a living wage; affordable quality health care, education and food security. Between April 2007 and April 2008 the labor force grew by only 81,000 and the number of the unemployed rose by 249,000.

In 2008, the number of employed persons fell by 168,000 and no employment was generated by April and jobs were being lost at a time when pries and inflation were skyrocketing. The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on September 2008 that, "Up to 500,000 people are enduring poor health services, unsanitary conditions and are fleeing fighting between the government and Muslim rebels in the South. Many people have been displaced by fleeing the conflict affected areas." The slums are still there and festering with human misery and decrepitness is still as worse without much reprieve yet in sight.

Slums of Jakarta

With the recent monsoon came the storms,and with them tidal surges that ate into the coast and destroyed the library and 30 or so houses. The sums of Jakarta is a vast labyrinth of houses and narrow walkways, and has seven neighborhoods and few people know how big it is. One neighborhood has 80 houses and 175 families in an area less than 5,000 square meters. The people live so close to water that they are subjected to regular flooding,with poorly constructed drainage system and no barriers from the shoreline.

The floods bring more than just knee-deep dirty water in so much skin problems, fever and respiratory infections are common. The slum dwellers earn 12 cents for a kilogram of peeled shellfish. Most residents earn less than $3 a day in a city where clean water can cost a dollar, that sanitation is not on everyone's top list. These slum dwellers are a growing group of the urban poor who have little or no access to affordable health-care, education and economical opportunities.

They usually do informal work and as a result are vulnerable to disasters, mostly flooding or fire, which occur regularly. Over 200,000 to 300,000 people come to Jakarta every year looking for opportunities. They are unwanted residents of the city(NGO) Children play barefoot beside drains full of murky-green stagnant water, families cook evening meals on the streets and goats forage on top of massive garbage dumps.

People eat twice a day and a very high percentage of children are malnourished. According to UN Human Rights Settlements Program(UN-HABITAT) there were nearly 21 million slum residents in Indonesia in 2001-2003. Extreme weather and changing climate makes life even more precarious for the dwellers. The dwellers are still looking for alternative to bettering themselves because they have no other alternative.

Slums are found all over the world and they have become part of our perceived natural landscape. We have so gotten used to them, we are now desensitized as to their existence. It is like seeing homeless people anywhere in the big cities of the world, we jump over them, ignore them and make them invisible to our conscience and sight. This is not a new phenomena, and many people either grew up in slums or know about them.

The Whole World is a Ghetto because the problem of slums persists and it is growing. Some governments are trying to address this social malaise, others continue to steadfastly refuse to give aid and respite to the dwellers. It is important we get the whole picture in a global and holistic sense as to this pandemic. Aids is prevalent in these slums because of lack of permissible behavior, crime, alcoholism, diseases and so forth.

Our awareness should be that this is not only a particular continent, or country problem, but something that will help in giving us a teachable moment about Slums and what they are doing to our fellow human being and to us who are not living in those slums. For us, as a human race, to have a serious and well developed civilization, this will be determined by history how we treat our most poor, wretched, and down-trodden and how we are making it better and livable for them.

If we cannot do that, the fact remains that these slums are never and will not be out of sight and out of mind. They will always be a sore sight and a burden to our conscience, thus making us a race of humans living in a globe that is a mega-slum: thus, The World is a Ghetto! If we do not take heed of this human suffering and underdevelopment.

Mzantsi Slums

Corrugated Ramshackle Tin Can Abodes

Corrugated Ramshackle Tin Can Abodes

Statistics South Africa claims that nearly 16 million black people still live in poverty here.

Statistics South Africa claims that nearly 16 million black people still live in poverty here.

The Slums Of South Africa

Effects of the 1913 Land Act

The Land Act marked the end of the limited independence which African farmers had on white-owned land. In spite of it Land Act, sharecropping and labour tenancy continued. This was because of the long delay in its implementation and because white landlords who wanted to keep sharecroppers or rent tenants found ways of getting round the law. Meanwhile African farmworkers struggled to hold on to a land of their own, no matter how small the piece.

The position of African farmers was weakened further when the government began to offer low-interest loans to white farmers. These loans enabled white farmers to make improvements to their farms and buy agricultural machinery. They could now farm directly on land which had previously been allocated to sharecroppers. By 1936 nearly half of the African workers in towns had migrated from white farms.

African farmers who owned land inside and outside the reserves did not receive any aid from the government in the form of loans. They therefore found it increasingly difficult to compete with white farmers who could use improved methods and expand their farms.

In the 1920s and 1930s the government passed a string of laws to control labour both in the cities and on the farms:

1923:The Native Urban Areas Act. This law controlled how many Africans could come into the cities and restricted their rights once they were there.

1924:The Pact government came to power. This was a combination of the National Party under Hertzog and the Labour Party under Creswell. The Pact government supported the interests of white commercial farmers and local manufacturers above the interests of the mines. This is covered in more detail later in the article.

1927: The Native Administration Act. This gave the government the right to separate communities along ethnic and/or racial lines.

1932: The Native Service Contract Act. Tenants on white-owned farms now had to work between three and six months for the landowner or pay a heavy tax of five pounds. It was also illegal for tenants to leave the farms on which they worked without written permission.

1934: The United Party came to power. This time it was a combination of Hertzog's National Party and Smuts's South African Party.

1936: The Native Land and Trust Act. This Act increased the land which Africans could own from 7,5% to about 14%. But it placed more controls over tenancy on farms.

1937:The Native Laws Amendment Act. The number of Africans entering the cities was further restricted. Africans were only allowed to stay in the urban areas if they had a job.

1939-1945: World War II.

Source 2

Young men are coming of age every year but there is no land allotted to them ... These people are poverty-stricken arid destitute. What must they do? Where must they go? Naturally, to the industrial centers.


The mines continued to provide some housing in the form of compounds. But people working in factories or in other kinds of jobs had to find their own accommodation.

The Native Urban Areas Act of 1923 restricting the rights of Africans to own land in cities stated that the responsibility for housing workers lay with the municipalities. Municipalities began to build hostels for factory workers similar to compounds, cramped and exposed. Various controls were imposed on these hostel dwellers.

In 1927 the Native Administration Act was passed. One of its aims was to provide separate housing for Africans by building more houses in the "locations* that already existed. For many workers in factories and small firms, living in the locations was a better option than living in hostels.

These locations were far and many preferred to live closer to their place of employment. As a result, they chose to live in yards like those in Doornfontein in the 1920s and early 1930s. Doornfontein had once been a rich white suburb. It had large stands, which were divided up and sold. People who bought these stands wanted to make as much money as they could. So they packed the stands with cheap tin shacks and rented them to the poor.

Here is a description of one of the yards in Doornfontein:

The Molefe Yard, where Martha lived, was also a home to more than twenty other people. It served a row of five rooms, each about 14 by 12 feet in size.

When it rained, the yard was as muddy as a cattle kraal, and the smell of beer, thrown out by the police on their raids, combined with the stench of lavatories, was nauseating.

'Morena!' exclaimed Martha's father. 'If this how we live, then suffer us all to die.' - Adapted from the marabi dance by Modikwe Dikobe, 1973

Because of the shortage of accommodation, slums spread. The authorities, concerned about the spread of disease, passed the Slum Clearance Act of 1933. Trucks came to move people from places like Doornfontein, Sophiatown and Orlando East

The following two sources describe Orlando East township:

Source 13

We are building the township for the better class of Native, who has a sense of beauty and proportion. This will undoubtedly be somewhat of a paradise, which will enhance the status of the Bantu. Quoted in (Umthetheleni Wa Bantu, January 30, 1932)

Source 14

The houses were built cheaply and had neither floor nor ceiling, no water tap, no electric lights, no separate cooking facilities; there were no parks, no sports grounds, no hairdressers, no ladies' and men's outfitters, no banks, All shopping had to be done in Johannesburg, Public transport was especially inadequate and very expensive. People would now have to spend a quarter of their salary getting to work, not surprisingly, most people did not want to move from the city centre, Orlando represented loneliness and exile,-Transcribed from the video. Soweto:

African Vulture Capitalism Gone Awry


A History That still needs to be told.

During the war years (1939-1945) no new houses were built. Government money was spent on the war. However, more jobs were available in the cities because factories needed to replace the men who had gone to fight in the war.

As people flooded into the cities to take up these jobs, a housing crisis resulted. In Orlando, this led to the growth of a squatter movement. A certain James Mpanza had started the Sofasonke Party in Orlando. The Sofasonke party encouraged people to move to the open veld and build their own houses there, without the permission of the City Council.

His followers were protected when the central government ruled that Mpanza's squatters could not be removed from their shacks unless there was somewhere for them to go. James "Sofasonke" Mpanza helped to break the housing backlog by allowing squatters to build shacks. By 1946 there were 20,000 people living in the Sofasonke camp. Some have argued that Mpanza's shantytown was the first urban community in which Africans governed themselves.

But during the present rule of an African elected government by the african majority of south Africa, things have changed from the days of Mpanza and his activism and demanding decent housing and land for the Africans, got it and managed to make Poor Africans acquire houses, and for some time have self-rule, long before the coming of the ANC-led government.

This struggle has been taken up by the Abahlali baseMjondolo in their own words as to what they are fighting for and are up against in today's African ANC-led government. What follows below are actual narratives as penned or told by the shack-dwellers in the age of a supposedly Rainbow Nation in South Africa. Well, from the horses mouths, here's today's south african contemporary reality as told by the Poor people themselves...

Broken Promises

On November 9, 1993, the African National Congress (ANC) issued a press statement condemning the housing crisis in South Africa as “a matter which falls squarely at the door of the National Party regime and its surrogates.” It went on to describe conditions in the informal settlements as “indecent” and announced that

Nelson Mandela will be hosting a People’s Forum on Saturday morning in Inanda to hear the views of residents in informal settlements….The ANC calls on all people living in informal settlements to make their voices heard! “Your problems are my problems. Your solution is my solution,” says President Mandela.

One of the settlements specifically mentioned was Kennedy Road in the formerly Indian suburb of Clare Estate, Durban. Seven months later the ANC swept to power in the national parliament.

On June 4, 1999, the ANC greeted news of their first victory over the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial elections with a euphoric press statement. They promised, that, as their first priority, “The ANC will together with our people address the concerns of the poorest of the poor living in squatter camps like Kennedy Road, Lusaka and Mbambayi.” Their power, including their power to demobilize popular militancy, was justified first and foremost in the name of the poorest—people in “squatter camps” like Kennedy Road. In both elections Kennedy Road voted solidly ANC.

That was then. On the morning of Wednesday, September 14, 2005, well over 5,000 people from the Kennedy Road settlement, together with representatives from nearby settlements, marched on their local ANC councilor to demand land, housing, toilets, an end to the threat of forced removals, and the councilor’s resignation. All the various attempts by the local ANC to stop the march had come to naught. It was a massive humiliation.

This was the fourth instance of mass political insurgence into the bourgeois world to emerge from Kennedy Road this year. The first was an illegal blockade of both the in and outbound lanes of the N2 freeway running into the city from the North on Saturday, March 19, 2005. Around 750 people barricaded the road with burning tires and mattresses and held it for four hours.

There were fourteen arrests on the criminal charge of public violence. Among the arrested were two school children. Alfred Mdletshe, one of the protesters, told Fred Kockott, the first journalist on the scene, that, “We are tired of living and walking in shit. The council must allocate land for housing us. Instead they are giving it to property developers to make money.” Kockott’s article in the Sunday Tribune explained that:

[The] scene was reminiscent of apartheid-era protests—and the mood was similar, except now the target of the crowd’s anger was the ANC governors of Durban.

“People working for the government, they have nice houses, gardens, water and electricity, snazzy cars and everything, so they do not care a damn about us,” said Nhlakanipho Cele.

“We vote for a party which tells us it is fighting poverty, but look what’s happening,” added Mdletshe.

“If you are poor, it means you only get poorer,” he said.

“The rooms are hard to live in, and there are no toilets, so the bush around us is full of excrement. When it rains, there’s sewage slush all around. It really stinks,” said Mdletshe.

This was arguably the most militant protest to have shaken Durban in the post-apartheid era. But these events were not unique to Durban. More than 850 illegal protests have been logged around the country so far this year and similar revolts have occurred in cities and towns across the country in recent months, most infamously in Harrismith where seventeen-year-old Teboho Mkonza was murdered by the police. According to the City Press, a video in their possession reveals that “police opened fire without any warning. The demonstrators turned and ran for cover. Police, however, continued to fire at their backs. They also continued shooting as people fell to the ground.”

The scandal is that there is no scandal. The death of Teboho Mkhonza was treated as a trivial event in elite circles. This pattern was established in previous murders by the police, such as when Michael Makhabane was killed in Durban in 2001 in a peaceful protest against the exclusion of poor students from the university, and in early 2004 when Marcel King was killed in Phoenix by armed men disconnecting his mother’s electricity.

The day after the City Press article appeared, the Independent on Saturday reported that President Thabo Mbeki, speaking in response to the death of Teboho Mkhonza, had “sent out a clear message that the government will act decisively against communities that use violent means to protest against lack of service delivery…Mbeki said…his government would not tolerate the destruction of public property and anyone who broke the law would be arrested by the police.”

No More Illusions

Most elites argue that the new outbreaks of defiance reveal that something is wrong with the defiant. Academics generally feel entitled to speculate about the cause of the protests without bothering to speak to the people organizing and undertaking them. Thabo Mbeki’s response to the Kennedy Road blockade was to inform the nation, “We must stop this business of people going into the street to demonstrate about lack of delivery. These are the things that the youth used to do in the struggle against apartheid.”

The Kennedy Road settlement is a space of hope and suffering. The chance for very poor people to live in a wealthy suburb near the city center means access to all kinds of opportunities for livelihoods, as well as education, health care, and the sporting, cultural, and religious life of the city. And while there is a vibrant community life in the settlement with a collective cultural, religious, sporting, and political life and various forms of formal mutual support projects, material conditions are severely degraded.

The imijondolo (shacks) cling to the side of a steep hill squeezed between the city’s main dump site and the big fortified houses of suburban Clare Estate and tumble down to the ugly, big-box stores of Springfield Park. Some of the children have emaciated limbs and bloated bellies, which indicate that poverty has been written into the future of their bodies.

Everyone seems to have someone who is desperately sick, and there are a number of households headed by children. But looking over Springfield Park and through the valley cut by the Umgeni River, you can see the Indian Ocean sparkling in the sun. Hadedas (ibises) take wing at dusk, and when night has fallen, an isicathimiya group (a Zulu choral style made internationally famous by Ladysmith Black Mambazo) sings with abundantly delicate grace, from a hall with broken windows and peeling paint:

“We are going to heaven, all of us we are going to heaven.” For the always immaculately dressed and avuncular Mr. Ndlovu, “Sometimes it is just so beautiful here. They think this place is too good for us. They want it for the rich.”

On the Monday after the fourteen arrests, which happened to be Human Rights Day, 1,200 people staged an illegal (because permission had not been requested) march on the nearby and notorious Sydenham police station where the fourteen were being held. Their demand was that either the Kennedy Road Fourteen be released or else the entire community be arrested because “If they are criminal then we are all criminal.”

The march was dispersed with dogs, more police violence, and tear gas. There were no arrests this time because the police were looking for one person in particular—S’bu Zikode. He escaped dressed in women’s clothes. Afterward, back at the settlement the line of young men returning the gaze of the riot police lounging against their armored vehicles were entertained by a drunk sarcastically shouting, “Viva Mandela!”

At a meeting that afternoon there were no slogans or pompous speeches, only short and intensely debated practical suggestions. It was decided not to accept a legal aid lawyer, as they are paid by the state and therefore cannot be trusted. It was agreed that the accused should represent themselves and that everyone should contribute ten rand toward bail costs. There was, in that moment, an overwhelming sense of profound collective isolation from the structures and pieties of constituted power. An activist writer planning a story for Indymedia was thrown out and warned not to take any pictures.

The next day the Kennedy Road Fourteen were denied the opportunity to speak even one word to Magistrate Asmal and then denied bail at a court hearing that was over in less than a minute. The fourteen, including the juveniles, were moved to Westville prison to await trial.

S’bu Zikode, the elected chair of the Kennedy Road Development Committee, is a former Boy Scout. He remembers the Scout Law and the Scout Promise. He is a quiet and gentle man who got two distinctions in matriculation in 1993 but had no money for university. There was no work in Escourt and therefore no chance to make a life as an adult.

After overcoming a crushing depression, he made his way to Durban, set up home in Kennedy Road, and eventually found a job at a petrol station on the way to the giant mall and colonial-styled gated suburbs and office blocks built for the rich on the old sugar cane fields to the north. This land, which was stolen from the amaQwabe by colonial conquest and then worked by indentured labor brought in from India, is now being sold off, at huge profit, so that the rich can live and work behind high walls and in front of the sea.

Nonhlanhla Mzobe, the elected deputy chair, is a generous woman, with a spontaneous and embracing warmth. Nonhlanhla now works at the dump collecting the litter that blows around. She hopes to get a better job if a planned project to turn the methane gas in the dump into electricity comes to fruition. Like many people in Kennedy Road she is furious with the middle-class environmentalists who oppose this project because they want the dump moved out of their neighborhood.

She says that these people either speak as though the people in the shacks don’t exist or speak for them without ever actually speaking to them. The most prominent of these activists, Sajida Khan, has been uncritically celebrated and promoted to liberal Northern NGOs as “South Africa’s Erin Brockovich.” Her campaign to get the dump out of her neighborhood conveniently offers a media- and NGO-friendly Southern face to challenge the World Bank’s plans to use the proposed gas-to-electricity project in its carbon trading scheme. But Khan’s promoters don’t mention that she also wants the shack dwellers out of her neighborhood.

After returning home from the first court appearance without the people taken by the police, Zikode and Mzobe explained, in the accusing glare of the white police lights singling them out in the blue dusk, that the immediate cause of the protest was clear. People had consistently been promised over some years that a small piece of land in nearby Elf Road would be made available for the development of housing.

The promise had been repeated as recently as February 16, 2005, in a meeting with city officials and the local councilor. The Kennedy Road Development Committee had been participating in ongoing discussions about the development of this housing when, without any warning or explanation, bulldozers began excavating the land. A few people went to see what was happening and were shocked to be told that a brick factory was being built on the land by a private company believed by some to be connected to the local councilor. They explained their concerns to the people working on the site and work stopped. But the next day it continued and “the men from the brickyard came with the police, an army, to ask who had stopped the work.”

“So”, as Zikode explained,

"On Saturday morning the people wake us. They take us there to find out what is happening. When you lead people you don’t tell them what to do. You listen. The people tell you what to do. We couldn’t stop it. If we tried, the people would say, “You guys are selling us.” So we go. A meeting was set up with the owner of the factory and the local councillor, but they didn’t come. There was no brickyard, no councillor, no minister, nobody. There was no fighting but the people blocked the road."

Then the police came. Then the councillor phoned. He told the police “These people are criminals, arrest them.”

"We were bitten by the dogs, punched and beaten. The Indian police I can definitely tell you that they have this racism. They told us that our shacks all need fire. It is only Indians with power here. They are the police, the magistrate, the prosecutor, the councillor, the man building the brickyard. Everything goes to the Indians here. Some of our women are washing for them for R15. Everybody else is just rotting here.

"We have no land. Most of us have no jobs. They can call the police to bring their dogs to bite us any time. What is to become of us? When the police come they make fools of us. We can’t control the people—they get angry. They burnt tyres and mattresses in the road. They say we have committed public violence but against which public? If we are not the public then who is the public and who are we?

"[City Manager Mike] Sutcliffe talks to the Tribune about us but he doesn’t speak to us. All they do is send the police every time we ask to talk. It is a war. They are attacking us. What do you do when the man you have elected to represent you calls you criminal when you ask him to keep his promises? He has still not come here. We are not fighting. We want to be listened to. We want someone to tell us what is going on.”

Mzobe was very emotional. “My granny came here from Inanda dam [after mass evictions when the dam was built]. People were coming from all over to wash for the Indians. My mother schooled us by picking the cardboard from the dump. I was four years old when she came. Now my child is fifteen years old. All this time living in the shack and working so hard. We are fighting no one. We are just trying to live but they say we are the criminals. We haven’t got no problem if they build just some few houses that can’t fit everyone. But they must just try.”

The anger sprang from many sources. Zikode, like many others, simply felt betrayed. “The poor,” he said, “gets more poor and the rich gets richer. And this is the government that we voted for.” Zikode was right. Even the government’s own statistical agency, Statistics South Africa, agrees that the rich have got richer and the poor poorer in the last ten years.

This has not been, as often claimed by apologists for power, because a lack of skills has meant that the ANC has been inefficient since coming to power—on the contrary, public money and skills have very effectively subsidized all kinds of elite projects in Durban in the name of development: a (failed) Zulu theme park aimed at satisfying the colonial fantasies of European tourists; five-star hotels; casinos; a film studio, and so on.

All kinds of other elite projects such as new sports stadia and an airport and more are planned. Fabulous private fortunes have been and continue to be made while life gets worse in Kennedy Road. The people in whose name the power of the ANC was legitimated have been betrayed.

Many people in Kennedy Road made the point that the meager public resources there, which were built in the last years of apartheid—the community hall and so on—are in steadily worsening conditions.

Other key issues, on which endless patient attempts to seek official support to move forward had been rebuffed, were the lack of the municipal rubbish bags that would allow people to have their rubbish removed to the adjacent dump and the failure to respond to multiple requests to erect speed bumps on the road that has claimed the lives of a number of children—one just a month before the road blockade.

There was also major unhappiness about the pitiful condition of the small number of toilets. The city stopped emptying the 118 pit latrines five years ago, and Mzobe estimated that there were only five working portable toilets for six thousand families.

This was a revolt of obedient and faithful citizens. These are people who had done everything asked of them. They had participated in every available public participation process. They cared for their sick and the orphans of the dead and dutifully called what they are doing “home based care.”

Many had, as so many well-paid academic consultants recommend, given up on finding work to become “entrepreneurs” in the “informal economy.” This can mean anything from hairdressing to hawking fruit or trawling the city collecting cardboard, plastic, or metal for sale to recyclers. They had fully accepted that “delivery” will be slow and that they must take responsibility for their own welfare. They were the model poor—straight out of the World Bank text books.

They revolted not because they had believed and done everything asked of them and they were still poor. They revolted because the moment when they asked that their faith not be spurned was the moment their aspirations for dignity became criminal. On the day of the road blockade they entered the tunnel of the discovery of their betrayal. Nothing has been the same again.

A Non-Racial Rebellion Mounts

After ten days and the intervention of a good lawyer, the Kennedy Road Fourteen were released. Zikode, together with Nonhlanhla Mzobe and other community activists, organized a welcome home party for the fourteen, at which Zikode held the crowd rapt with the following affirmation of their actions: “The first Nelson Mandela,” he explained, “was Jesus Christ. The second was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The third is that Nelson Mandela are the poor people of the world.” The resonant idea of the third Nelson Mandela became, via a journalistic intervention from activist-academic Raj Patel, part of the discourse of struggle around the country.

The next day permission was sought for a legal march on the local councilor, Yacoob Baig. Two weeks later, on May 13, 2005, more than 3,000 people from Kennedy Road, with support from people in five nearby settlements, residents in the municipal flats in nearby Sydenham, as well as seasoned activists from the formerly “colored” (mixed race) township of Wentworth and the Socialist Students’ Movement, marched on Baig to demand land, housing, and Baig’s immediate resignation.

The march was pulled off in the face of all kinds of intimidation and dirty tricks, which included a misleading article in the Daily News by Farook Khan claiming that the march was not legal; the distribution of smartly printed flyers falsely claiming that this would be an IFP march; and a large armed military presence in the settlement the night before the protest. Perhaps the most telling banner on the march was the one painted last, while people were singing against the soldiers on the night before the march. It simply said, “The University of Kennedy Road.” Struggle is, indeed, a school." That afternoon the newspaper billboards shouted, “Massive Protests Rock Durban.”

Among other things, the march began the process of building an effective non-racialism. Discussing and uniting behind the collective demands for Baig’s resignation, land, and housing, entailed far more engagement between communities splintered by apartheid than any other event in the history of the ward. Zelda Norris of the Sydenham Heights Ratepayers’ Association, an association coded as “colored” under apartheid, explained why they joined the African Kennedy Road settlement on the march:

[Baig] is our councillor. We’ve all put him in that position. In the end he’s made a lot of promises which he never kept. The Kennedy Association met with us and we decided to combine with different organizations because we all felt our issues weren’t getting addressed.

After years of contemptuous neglect, the government, in various forms, suddenly became very interested in Kennedy Road. On Monday, August 29, a cavalcade of yellow cars from various departments rolled in (up to two hours late) for a meeting to discuss, in particular, the work being done by the community for people with AIDS. For some time the community has provided various forms of support to orphans (including food, clothes, liaison with schools), food for the sick, assistance with grants, linkages with hospitals, hospices, clinics, and so on. The meeting was opened by an official from the Department of Agriculture, Health and Welfare. Her opening statement was as follows:

We are very pleased to be here in the field with you. We target the same clients and have the same core business. We want to work closely with all our stakeholders so that we can improve services delivery in an integrated manner. We are committed to mainstreaming AIDS and want to help you to develop a business plan.

This is an exact quote.

The actual structure of the meeting took the form of using a “tool” prepared by a consultant. The “tool” was a very detailed twenty-one page questionnaire asking detailed (often statistical) questions about what the community organization does in the area of AIDS. Government people took turns asking the questions on the form. The community organization was not given the form in advance and so, even though they keep very detailed records in a series of carefully bound and filed notebooks, they couldn’t answer all the questions.

No organization could have answered similar questions about its own operation without preparation. The structure of the exercise meant that as it went along the tone of the government officials became somewhat inquisitorial and judgmental and the community organization people became somewhat depressed.

What else can happen when questions can’t be answered or, when they can, the consultant’s research has deemed the answers “wrong”? If research has shown that food parcels must cost 280 rand (about $40) then spending 150 rand per food parcel per family is wrong and must be explained.

Nevertheless, not every impulse toward solidarity could be crushed by the “tool.” People on both sides could find ways around the consultants’ madness. When it came to the question of “sustainability” the community organization duly produced beaded AIDS ribbons which they had made and said they would sell. The government duly said they would train them to develop a business plan.

Everyone knew this was nonsense, but once the sustainability box was ticked, it was possible to move on. And support for some of the extant initiatives was duly and sincerely pledged. In a community where children have been found eating the worms that grow in the shit in the portable toilets, every material advance is a victory. One official even proposed a new project—a social worker would arrange for eight rand (about $1.20) per old person to be paid to hold a monthly get together of the old people.

This was welcome, but it wasn’t good enough. Another legal march was planned for September 14, 2005. Then, on September 7, 2005, the big boys rolled in under the confident leadership of Deputy City Manager Derek Naidoo. The elected negotiating team began by handing Naidoo a broken child’s chair left over from the last days of apartheid when an NGO, the Urban Foundation, had offered some material support to the community-run crèche (daycare center). He sat on the chair.

Naidoo began, as these people always do (Have they read Frantz Fanon? They always act out the script with precise accuracy.), with a glowing account of his personal role in “The Struggle.” He said nothing about his more recent role in privatizing the city’s transport system. He moved on to speak at length about how progressive the Metro Council was and how it was put there by the people and by “The Struggle.”

He then (in what he clearly saw as a magnanimous gesture) spoke about how the people in Kennedy Road had suffered and how the metro felt their pain. He quoted the Durban mayor Obed Mlaba quoting the Freedom Charter (the manifesto adopted by the ANC in 1955) on housing to make his point concrete. He spoke at length about an article that would be appearing in the Mercury the following day and that it showed how well the municipality is doing.

The article duly appeared on the front page of the Mercury the next day. Titled “Feeling Good about Durban,” it begins by noting that “New Developments, like uShaka Marine World, and the Suncoast and Sibiya Casinos, have made residents more positive about the city.” It doesn’t enquire as to which residents, exactly, are so pleased that hundreds of millions of Rands of public money have been spent on casinos and a theme park while people starve.

It goes on to note that, of those working, 92 percent of whites are happy with their jobs, 80.2 percent of Asians, 50.5 percent of colored, and 41.5 percent of Africans. It concludes with Bonke Dumisa, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, saying that “poverty was a concern” but it wouldn’t affect investor confidence because “Investors accept that South Africa has two economies, a first world economy with people with a high disposable income, and a third world economy.”

Naidoo, at the Kennedy Road meeting, then moved to his key purpose. “We are here,” he announced, “to avert the march.” Then, after a long ramble about budgets and policies—punctuated by an interlude where people were berated for allowing the settlement, which he spoke of as if it were a disease, to grow from 716 shacks in 2002 to 2,666 in 2005 (“This growth is unacceptable!”)—he made his offer. Council wanted a “partnership” with the “leadership” of the community.

The council would build two toilet blocks in the settlement, and the “leadership” would run these toilet blocks by charging “10 cents and 20 cents a time” (Ten cents for a piss and twenty for a shit? No one was sure) and using this money to employ a cleaner and to cover the maintenance costs. Toilets are not a small issue in Kennedy Road. But Naidoo’s offer of two pay-per-use toilet blocks was greeted with fury.

People asked about the nearby land that had been promised to the community for years. They asked about the housing they had been consistently promised in every election campaign and in numerous meetings. Naidoo said that the land was not safe for housing—it could move—and that the air (due to the adjacent dump) was not safe to breathe. The pollution, he kept stressing, affects people of all races. People in Kennedy Road are well aware that council tells the people in the big houses across the road that the air is safe.

They asked how could this be and how could it be that the land was safe for a factory but not for housing? How could it be that the land was safe on one side of Kennedy Road (where there is a suburb) but not on the other (where there are shacks)? How could it be that the land and air were safe for a nearby school and college but not for them?

A silver medalist in the eighty-nine-kilometer Comrades Marathon on the negotiating team noted that he was perfectly healthy. Why was council so worried about the air they were breathing when they left them to wallow in shit because they had no toilets? Was the council concerned that, lacking electricity, they must breath fumes from kerosene heaters every winter night, not to mention the risk of fire?

Naidoo had no real answers. But when pressed he told the truth about the city’s plan for the poor. The squatters will, he said again and again, be moved to the rural periphery of the metro. In his exact words, “The city’s plan is to move you to the periphery.” From the last days of apartheid until this meeting people had consistently been promised housing in the area. People had also been told that some housing would be provided in the outlying ghettos of Verulum or Mount Moriah, but they had never been told that they would all be moved to the rural periphery of the metro. Naidoo’s emphatic announcement of impending mass forced removals from the city was deeply shocking.

He came under attack. Where will we work? Where will our children go to school? What clinics are there? How will we live? His answer basically came down to the claim that the city would try to enable entrepreneurship in its rural periphery. People will be dumped in the bush and given training to start businesses. He was told that there was no infrastructure in rural areas. Naidoo agreed and said that people must understand that it is too expensive to build it there and that the development focus was the twenty-mile circumference radiating out from the nodal point of the city center. No one took any comfort from that. No one was prepared to understand.

Nonhlanhla Mzobe stormed out shaking with rage. It was put to Naidoo that this was the same as apartheid—black people were being pushed out of the city. It was put to Naidoo that this sounded like a slower and more considered version of Mugabe’s attack on the poor in Harare. Naidoo said that if people didn’t like it “they should go to the constitutional court.” This is, he observed, a democracy. He was told that people would rather block the roads than go to the court. Everyone knows that the courts are for the government and the rich.

Naidoo kept saying that there was no land. Cosmos Dlamini pointed out that there was in fact plenty of land around. Examples were cited. Naidoo said that the land belongs to a private company—Moreland. This is the company currently building gated suburbs, shopping malls, and office parks on the old sugar-cane plantations.

Naidoo was told that the march would be averted if he promised 2,500 houses in the city in writing. He said, “No, this place has been identified and prioritized for relocation. It is ring-fenced for slum clearance.” He was asked if he would put his offer of a partnership around the toilets in writing. He said, “No. The city is extending their hand."

This is participatory democracy. Naidoo was told that people wouldn’t be voting in the local elections. He berated them for not respecting democracy and said they had no right to tell people not to vote. Naidoo was told that the march on the fourteenth was going ahead and that if it didn’t get results it would be the last attempt at a legal intervention. Further road blockades were promised.

S’bu Zikode declared the meeting closed. He spoke about all the people who had lied—Councilor Yacoob Baig, city official Nigel Gumede, and others. He ended his closing statement, “You have lied, you are lying and it seems you will continue to lie. We’ll put thousands on the streets.”

Naidoo and his entourage left. The intense discussions about strategy continued into the night.

South African Demonstrators For Better Housing


Preparing for the March

The political process in the two weeks leading up to the march was extraordinary. There were nightly meetings in nearby settlements as well as the Sydenham Heights municipal flats and the Jimmy Carter Housing Project in Sherwood. The meetings began with a screening of Aoibheann O’Sullivan’s film Kennedy Road and the Councillor and then moved into open discussion. O’Sullivan’s film gives a short overview of the Kennedy Road struggle from March to June of 2005.

Interviews are often in Zulu, and the film takes the lived experience and intelligence of its subjects seriously (as opposed to the more common practice of distorting the reality of struggles here to make them appear to conform to the expectations of northern NGOs, northern academic networks, or fashionable northern theories). It begins with the sanitation crisis and broken promises around toilets before moving into broken promises around land and housing in Clare Estate.

But, crucially, it includes the articulation of Abahlali Basemjondolo (shack dwellers) political identity and a direct contestation of the stereotypes that seek to objectify shack dwellers as stupid, dirty, lazy, criminal, and dangerous. As this struggle has developed, it has become clear that, as always, symbolic and material oppression have to be confronted together.

Thousands of people saw O’Sullivan’s film and were part of intense political discussions during these two weeks. Each community confronts a situation with its own singularities and so each meeting had its own character. In Sherwood there were too many people to fit into the community hall and the film was projected onto the wall of the hall.

Here people have good houses and there is a democratic organization which gives clear support for the ANC, but people enthusiastically agreed to support the struggle of the shack dwellers. In Quarry Road a generator was used to project the film on a sheet of cardboard erected on a large traffic circle. In this settlement, leadership is contested between the ANC-aligned South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) and a somewhat demagogic militancy, but everybody wanted to support the march.

It turned out that a seventeen-year-old boy from Quarry Road was still in Westville Prison after a violent clash with the police in December 2004 in a successful fight against an armed attempt at forced removal. Moreover, while people in Kennedy Road were struggling against the reduction of the number of toilets from 118 to six, people in Quarry Road had had all their toilets removed in an attempt to force them out. (Given that the settlement lies along the banks of a tributary that runs into the Umgeni river, this act could well result in a wider health crisis.) The head of SANCO in Quarry Road, Angelina Mosiea, is disabled and elderly. It is not difficult to understand why she was leading an ANC-aligned organization against the ANC.

In Foreman Road there had been heavy leafleting at the time of the previous Kennedy Road march claiming the initiative as an IFP front, and there was a clear split between a majority who wanted an open discussion and an aggressive minority who wanted to stop it. There were some tense moments as M’du Mgqulunga, a bass guitarist making a living in the city from a shack in Kennedy Road, had to hold the space while a stand off with a small group of goons dragged on for ages as people battled to get the generator working.

Suddenly it kicked into life and the images of suffering in the shacks and the language of universal dignity made any talk of a plot ludicrous. The space was won. Ashraf Cassiem, who spent some of his childhood in the area but is now a key militant in the Tafelsig Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town, gave a quietly powerful speech arguing that the colonial war unleashed on the people of this country has continued through apartheid and into the parliamentary democracy. Black collaboration, he argued, doesn’t disguise it.

On the march two days later much would be made of amaBhunu amanyama (black boers: the name boer usually refers to white Afrikaners). The discussion incited that night continues—excited and serious. The large banner-painting workshop at Kennedy Road on the Sunday before the march was held in a carnival atmosphere with music, food, and lots of discussion about the slogans.

This time the security forces exerted no collective pressure and individual harassment was low key and always away from the settlement. But, at the last minute, local ANC structures were informed that any member joining the march would be expelled from the party; the IFP front smear was resuscitated; and people were told that when delivery came communities that had supported the march would be left out. Sherwood and the Lacey Road settlement dropped out altogether and support plummeted in the Foreman and Jadhu Place settlements. But on the morning of the fourteenth well more than 5,000 people (some estimated the number to be as high at 8,000) set off up Kennedy Road to fire their councilor.

The March and its Aftermath

The shack dwellers were joined by a bus load of people from South Durban mobilized by the inimitable Des D’sa, a renowned organizer from Wentworth, and various other supporters, including a group of young white boys with signs written in bad Zulu saying something about toilets. Young white boys with shaven heads and the look of poverty have a whiff of fascism to the refined noses of the middle-class left, and “out of context” they can look like rent-a-mob. I asked them, trying to disguise my suspicion, who they were. It turned out they were from a Pretoria orphanage. They have an annual coastal camping holiday in, of all places, ugly, industrial Pinetown and over the years came to know the campsite caretaker well. He lives in Kennedy Road. They walked into town and caught a taxi to Clare Estate with him. Such is the beauty of struggle.

The councilor came to meet “his people” in an armored car from which he, at times visibly shaking with fear, watched a performance of his funeral. The somber priest (Danger Dlamini) and wailing mother (Nonhlanhla Mzobe) asked the impassive heavens who would replace the late Councilor Baig. Who would lie as he had lied? Who would show the contempt that he had shown? Who would leave them to shit in plastic bags?

Who would switch off his phone when they pleaded with him to intercede with the fire brigade when their homes were burning? When the carnival was over, Yacoob Baig was forced out of the armored car to receive a memorandum from a gentle man who works at a petrol station and lives with his family in a home made of earth and sticks. Back in Kennedy Road brandy was spilled for amadlozi (the ancestors), and the march was celebrated as a major triumph.

The next day the national tabloid, the Citizen, led with a banner headline screaming “6 Thousand People Have to Use 6 Toilets,” and the Durban morning newspaper, the Mercury, led with the march and reported that the chair of the Kennedy Road Development Committee, S’bu Zikode, had affirmed that “if there was no progress soon the protests would be intensified. He said people would begin taking services by force, beginning with operation Khanyisa, which was taking electricity by force.”

The media interest rolled on through the weekend and a scandal broke about City Manager Mike Sutcliffe, a master of self-promoting spin and media manipulation, earning more than the president while the poor suffered. Sutcliffe was panicking. He even went so far as to revive the old racist agitator thesis used so extensively under apartheid and told various audiences that the more than 5,000 marchers were all being “used” by a prominent and effective academic critic of neoliberal policies, Patrick Bond.

In a near hysterical rant, Sutcliffe told activist academic Fazel Khan that “Bond must pay for the toilets.” Bond had in fact played no role in the protests and had had no contact at all with any of the shack dwellers. There was a rip, small but clear, in the carefully and expensively manufactured consent for the city’s casino and theme park led development policy.

The first days of the next week began with meetings in the Quarry Road and Jadhu Place settlements, in which democratic consent emerged for open resistance. In Quarry Road there was support across the political divisions for a march on their councilor, Bachu. In Jadhu Place a democratic community structure has long been run by a group of Zulu Muslims well-placed to access charity from local Muslim elites —especially in times of disaster like shack fires.

But they were loyal to Baig and were voted out by a group of young people, who intend to fight against Baig and against the ANC, for land and housing in the city. In the massive and massively dense (one assumes that it has been allowed to become so huge because it is behind a hill and hidden from bourgeois eyes) Foreman Road settlement the faction, numerically large but not politically dominant, that is seeking to build a political project independent of the ANC, entrenched its tenuous right to exist as a counter project within the settlement.

Across the settlements in the north of the city, including those happy to vilify their councilors, Mayor Obed Mlaba, and City Manager Sutcliffe, but not willing to break with the ANC, the idea of “No Land, No House, No Vote” was uniting people in a new assertion of their power. On Thursday the Kennedy Road Development Committee held its annual general meeting.

The men and women who had held their nerve so firmly throughout the unfolding of this rebellion were swept, joyously, back into office. Meetings and discussions continued over the weekend in Quarry Road, Foreman Road, and Jadhu Place. At Jadhu Place there were more than five hundred people at a meeting that Sunday.

The concrete achievements of this struggle at this point included a major and life-saving concession—the pit latrines last cleaned out by the council five years ago were being cleaned and new toilet blocks had been promised. There has also been a promise to renovate the dilapidated community hall. But officials in the city and provincial administration have not budged on relocation.

Their only “concession” so far is to say that if people can identify land and check out who owns it and what it is zoned for at the deeds office, then, if the land is council owned and suitable, they will consider housing developments. Moreover, although the success of the march has meant endless offers of meetings there has been no retreat from overt contempt by officials.

Indeed, at the first meeting after the march, held at the Martin West building on September 15, top officials from the City Housing Department began by berating the elected Kennedy Road delegation (System Cele, Fazel Khan, M’du Mgqulunga, and S’thembiso Nkwanyane) for “putting lies in the newspapers” and made much show of banging a copy of the Citizen on the table.

They then entertained themselves by e-mailing photographs of conditions in the settlement to each other and loudly commenting about how dirty the people were. The pictures on which these claims where based were of a pile of rubbish. Kennedy Road, adjacent to the municipal dump, has long asked for and always been denied refuse collection. So people collect rubbish in plastic bags and burn it once a week. The pictures which the officials were using to claim that the people in Kennedy Road are dirty were of this pile of bagged rubbish.

It was decided that there will be no more meetings in government offices. As S’bu Zikode explained: “Why must we go and sit on those comfortable chairs to listen to the crooks and liars. They must come and sit with us where we live. The battle is on. We will use all tactics.”

On Monday, September 26, the negotiating team met Faizel Seedat, S’bu Gumede, and other officials from the city in the Kennedy Road hall. It had been decided that hundreds of people would stand in a circle that runs around the hall and sing in low voices as the talks went on. If necessary they would enter the hall and collectively call the officials to account. After twenty minutes, 300 people entered the hall.

The door was locked and a formal meeting held. Officials reported back and took questions via the chair. More important, concessions were made around repairing the hall, providing 300 chairs for the hall, refuse collection in the settlement, local labor for local construction and cleaning work, and more.

The Housing Department sent a low-level official who was only able to report that an engineer’s report was being completed and that the consultant would begin his (100,000 rand) report soon. An old lady, Ma Khumalo, said that she has been living there for twenty years and that in that time every demand for housing had been met with expensive research—research into the land, the air, everything.

The meeting proposed and accepted a motion that a meeting would be scheduled with the head of the Housing Department within three days or a march would be organized on the department. The doors were unlocked. The meeting was scheduled for October 10—at the Kennedy Road hall.

A Community of Struggle

But what has been won also includes all that has been created in common to be held in common: the crèche which runs every weekday; the office with the only telephone line in the settlement facilitating all kinds of things like grant applications and negotiations with schools, hospitals, and hospices; the monthly food parcels and weekly cooked meals for the destitute; regular and very well-organized care for child-headed households and people with AIDS; security and fire watch patrols at night; and so on.

Much, although not all of this, was present before the break with obedience following the road blockade, the racialized attacks from Indian police on the command of the councilor, and the arrests. But struggle changes everything. There are now vastly more people working on these projects and they are being taken forward with much more seriousness. Before the break with obedience, the crèche was run in a derelict room under the hall. That room now looks as bright and safe as any crèche in a rich suburb.

As Fanon has taught us, struggle is, among other things, a movement out of the places to which we are meant to keep. Among many other things new relationships emerge out of this movement and so there has been better access to resources. Most resources are still generated from within the community, but a man from a local ashram has provided a gas stove and a weekly food donation that makes the weekly communal meals possible. An anarchist webmaster, John Devenish, has provided two reconditioned computers for the office so that typed letters and press releases can be produced in the community.

Part of what has been created in common is a community of struggle. Since May, thirty or forty committed activists have emerged in Kennedy Road. They have gotten to know people in other settlements and formed unmediated, ongoing relationships with communities struggling elsewhere in the city from nearby Sydenham Heights and across town to Wentworth. The enthusiasm for making these connections is enormous.

Representatives are elected for meetings, money is collected to pay for transport, and in each case detailed report backs and discussions have been held. People in Kennedy Road have also formed connections with three or four middle-class activists in Durban who have been willing to put resources and skills and networks under the democratic control of the struggle, seeking at every point to share their skills and networks via workshops.

For example, instead of just producing a press release in accordance with what is decided at a meeting, a press workshop was held at which people learned the skill and discussed the politics of the skill. This can’t be achieved in every instance—access to the (hired) equipment to make and screen films is not something that can easily be put in common—but the middle-class activists have worked to put their class-based skills and networks in common wherever possible.

Four men and women from Kennedy Road have now been elected to travel to Cape Town and have spent time with the Anti-Eviction Campaign, and Max Ntanyana and Ashraf Cassiem from the campaign spent a few days in the settlement in the lead up to the big march. Although the campaign is currently not able to mobilize on the same scale as Kennedy Road, it has a far longer history of open resistance, is currently working with shack dwellers in QQ section in the township of Khayalitsha, and has taken the strategy of road blockades further than anyone else.

All of these new connections, and the experience of struggle within new alliances, have rapidly and radically developed the politics of this struggle. A struggle that started with many people seeing a local councilor in alliance with an often (although certainly not uniformly) hostile local elite as a problem within the system is now confronting the systemic nature of oppression.

Sustained collective reflection on the experience of struggle continually advances the understanding of what has to be fought and how it has to be fought. In May 2005 your experience may have led you to believe that your suffering was directly linked to Indian racism.

In September 2005 you may be paying your part of the 350 rand (about $50) to send a taxi to the predominantly Indian working-class suburb of Bayview to show solidarity with the struggle of the people there because you have come to understand their experience of suffering. And you may have elected radical (Indian) academic Fazel Khan, a man you have come to know, respect, and trust in the praxis of struggle, to be on the Kennedy Road negotiating team in a crucial face-off with the city.

In May 2005 you might have believed that the World Bank would create jobs for your community at the dump. But while building solidarity for your march, you may have discovered that the same jobs have been promised to other nearby communities that you would never have met in the course of ordinary life lived with everyone in their place.

What the newspapers are now calling “the national wave of protests” from shack settlements has generally been characterized by a sudden eruption of militancy, often characterized by road blockades, quick repression, usually including beatings and arrests (although there has, of course, also been the murder in Harrismith), and then silence. This has also been the way things have gone down in Cato Manor on the other side of Durban.

These local mutinies have to confront arrests, and people are generally charged with public violence—even if there has been no damage to person or property. None of the few legal services available to struggling communities are allowed by their donors to take on criminal cases, and so people often spend months and months in prison awaiting trial. Access to donor-independent legal support is vital if these resistances are not to be crushed. The Kennedy Road mutiny received this legal support.

They didn’t seek it—they were initially determined to represent themselves, but after the shock of Magistrate Asmal’s visceral contempt for the people in her dock, it was agreed to accept support. Of course, the various self-promoting, bureaucratized, donor-funded and globetrotting elements of the left were not interested, but a small group of local militants put up their personal resources and, when she returned to Durban, secured the enthusiastic and effective pro bono support of struggle lawyer Shanta Reddy.

But this has happened before, quite often in fact, without an initial break with obedience developing into a sustained mass struggle. If legal support is a necessary condition for the development of these struggles, it is not a sufficient condition.

The key factor is that Kennedy Road had developed a profoundly democratic political culture and organization, years before the road was blockaded. It means weekly formal meetings, detailed record keeping, and minutes and all those things. But because these things don’t occur in a separate and self-legitimating sphere, they are never pompous, boring, or self-serving.

Because there are constant report backs to mass meetings and lots of subcommittees and projects taken on in common, the “leadership” is in constant dialogue with “ordinary” people and, very often, under constant pressure from them. In the struggle that has unfolded since May this year every important decision has been made in collective decision-making forums and every individual or group to have traveled elsewhere has been elected and mandated and has taken the obligation to report back very seriously.

Opportunities for things like travel—whether across the city or the country—are scrupulously rotated. Age and gender balances are excellent in all respects. A nineteen-year-old woman, System Cele, has been elected to negotiating teams on a number of occasions. It was, I think, this highly democratic nature of the organization in Kennedy Road that produced its radicalism. For years Kennedy Road has dutifully sent representatives to meetings with government.

They did everything that was asked of them and became the perfect civil society organization in search of “partnership” with other “stakeholders.” In return they got contempt. The ongoing collective reflection on the experience of the failure of the official model produced an ongoing and collective reflection on a developing commitment to open resistance. The “leadership” has had no choice but to accept this.

There are people with extraordinary character and skill who have been elected onto the committee. There is no doubt about that. But the work of these people remains a function of the committee which remains a function of the community. Of course, this does not mean that the committee is in direct connection with the entire community of Kennedy Road—many people don’t participate in politics at all—but there is a larger community of struggle within Kennedy Road made up of around thirty to forty committed activists involved in day-to-day work, a few hundred people who come to mass meetings, and a few thousand who will be willing to come to a large event like a march.

But the threat of relocation to the “rural periphery” still looms.

When City Manager Mike Sutcliffe gave a public lecture at the now sole university in Durban last year, he showed photographs of shacks in the elite, formerly Indian, suburb of Reservoir Hills (adjacent to Clare Estate) and said that transformation had to be pushed hard because formerly Indian suburbs still had informal settlements. He didn’t mean, as you would expect from a self-described Marxist, that he would be encouraging land occupations in formerly white suburbs. On the contrary, his implication was that justice entailed extending the prerogatives of white privilege to the Indian elite.

And so the phrase “slum clearance” has returned as the currency of the policy people. We are told, as people were when Sophiatown and District Six were threatened under Apartheid, that better, more hygienic housing will be built elsewhere. What is actually being proposed is that the poor be forcibly removed from the city at gunpoint and dumped in rural ghettoes. The city is attempting to, in large part, reverse the popular challenge to the Manichean logic that underlay the material segregation of the colonial city.

A policy that aimed to integrate the city would require the appropriation of privately owned land and in particular the sugarcane fields now being developed into gated communities for the rich by Moreland. This would not only require a direct conflict with capital. It would also require a direct challenge to the anxieties and prejudices projected on to the poor by the white and black middle classes—prejudices that often repeat, precisely, the stereotypes directed at all black people by white racism under apartheid.

The struggle continues. On October 4, 2005, over a thousand people, more or less the entire population of the small Quarry Road settlement, marched on their councilor, Jayraj Bachu, demanding the return of their toilets and the provision of land and housing within the city. They also staged a mock funeral and declared they would refuse to vote in the coming election if their demands were not met.

The widely read Zulu tabloid, Isolezwe, gave them two pages of coverage, and they got the front page, the third for this movement, of the free local newspaper, the Rising Sun, as well as an hour and half on the popular community radio station Al Ansaar. The day after the Quarry Road march, young radicals in Foreman Road declared that they too will march.

James Nxumalo, the new speaker of the eThekweni Metro (the eThekweni metropolitan area extends well beyond Durban, including nearby towns, peri-urban, and rural areas), used his first speech to rail against mock funerals saying they were deeply unacceptable given that two councilors from the other side of the city had been assassinated in the last month. Local councilor Fawzia Peer spoke darkly about protests being “orchestrated,” and the city hall was awash with ominous talk of a sinister force behind the protests.

But two days after the Quarry Road march, a meeting of twelve settlements was held in Kennedy Road. There were thirty-two elected representatives there, seventeen men and fifteen women. They agreed that they will not vote and that they will stand together and fight together as Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers). A new movement has given birth to itself.

—Durban, October 10, 2005

Need For Education And Housing At The Cross Roads In South Africa, Today


Struggle Is a School: The rise of a Shack Dwellers' Movement in Durban, South Arica

'We are the Third Force' by S’bu Zikode

Submitted by Abahlali:

This journalistic intervention by S’bu Zikode, the chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo, caused a national sensation when it was first published in November 2005 and then rapidly translated into Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu and widely republished in newspapers and popular magazines. It is quite probably the most widely republished piece of journalism in post-apartheid South Africa.

The term Third Force became part of the national imagination in South Africa after it was used to describe the apartheid security agents who offered covert military support to Zulu nationalists waging a war against the ANC in last years of apartheid. It is highly pejorative, implies covert white manipulation towards evil ends and, in its contemporary avatar, assumes an absolute inability for poor black people to exercise historical agency on their own.

From the road blockade that birthed this movement until now numerous, and very often contradictory variations of the Third Force argument have been deployed by the state in an increasingly neurotic and at times outrightly hysterical mode. It is an unfortunate fact that a section of the NGO left, a section that chooses not to attend the meetings of, or to in any way engage in serious discussions with the people it assumes a natural right to lead, is increasingly also resorting to the racism of the white agitator thesis to try and explain away the fact that a large movement of the militant poor is uncompromisingly asserting the right to speak for and to represent itself.

It seems that everyone in the business of speaking for the poor, in the state or on the left, is equally disturbed by the assumption by the poor of the right to speak and act for themselves. In this article Zikode offers a startling and now classic response to claims that the Third Force is behind the mass mobilisations organised by Abahlali baseMjondolo.

You can find a recent example of a Third Force type rant from the office of the Provincial Minister of Housing here.

The Third Force

by S’bu Zikode

The shack dwellers’ movement that has given hope to thousands of people in Durban is always being accused of being part of the Third Force. In newspapers and in all kinds of meetings this is said over and over again. They even waste money investigating the Third Force. We need to address this question of the Third Force so that people don’t become confused.

I must warn those comrades, government officials, politicians and intellectuals who speak about the Third Force that they have no idea what they are talking about. They are too high to really feel what we feel. They always want to talk for us and about us but they must allow us to talk about our lives and our struggles.

We need to get things clear. There definitely is a Third Force. The question is what is it and who is part of the Third Force? Well, I am Third Force myself. The Third Force is all the pain and the suffering that the poor are subjected to every second in our lives. The shack dwellers have many things to say about the Third Force. It is time for us to speak out and to say this is who we are, this is where we are and this how we live.

The life that we are living makes our communities the Third Force. Most of us are not working and have to spend all day struggling for small money. AIDS is worse in the shack settlements than anywhere else. Without proper houses, water, electricity, refuse removal and toilets all kinds of diseases breed. The causes are clearly visible and every Dick, Tom and Harry can understand.

Our bodies itch every day because of the insects. If it is raining everything is wet – blankets and floors. If it is hot the mosquitoes and flies are always there. There is no holiday in the shacks. When the evening comes – it is always a challenge. The night is supposed to be for relaxing and getting rest. But it doesn’t happen like that in the jondolos. People stay awake worrying about their lives. You must see how big the rats are that will run across the small babies in the night. You must see how people have to sleep under the bridges when it rains because their floors are so wet. The rain comes right inside people’s houses. Some people just stand up all night.

But poverty is not just suffering. It threatens us with death every day. We have seen how dangerous being poor is. In the Kennedy Road settlement we have seen how Mhlengi Khumalo, a one year old child, died in a shack fire last month. Seven others have died in fires since the eThekwini Metro decided to stop providing electricity to informal settlements. There are many Mhlengis all over our country. Poverty even threatens people in flats. In Bayview, in Chatsworth, a woman died of hunger earlier this year – she was fearing to tell the neighbours that she had no food and she died, alone.

Those in power are blind to our suffering. This is because they have not seen what we see, they have not felt what we are feeling every second, every day. My appeal is that leaders who are concerned about peoples’ lives must come and stay at least one week in the jondolos. They must feel the mud. They must share 6 toilets with 6 000 people. They must dispose of their own refuse while living next to the dump.

They must come with us while we look for work. They must chase away the rats and keep the children from knocking the candles. They must care for the sick when there are long queues for the tap. They must have a turn to explain to the children why they can’t attend the Technical College down the hill. They must be there when we bury our children who have passed on in the fires, from diarrhoea or AIDS.

For us the most important struggle is to be recognized as human beings. During the struggle prior to 1994 there were only two levels, two classes — the rich and the poor. Now after the election there are three classes — the poor, the middle class and the rich. The poor have been isolated from the middle class. We are becoming more poor and the rest are becoming more rich. We are on our own. We are completely on our own.

Our President Mbeki speaks politics — our Premier Ndebele, and Shilowa in Gauteng and Rasool in the Western Cape, our Mayor Mlaba and mayors all over the country speak politics. But who will speak about the genuine issues that affect the people every day – water, electricity, education, land, housing? We thought local government would minimise politics and focus on what people need but it all becomes politics.

We discovered that our municipality does not listen to us when we speak to them in Zulu. We tried English. Now we realise that they won’t understood Xhosa or Sotho either. The only language that they understand is when we put thousands of people on the street. We have seen the results of this and we have been encouraged. It works very well. It is the only tool that we have to emancipate our people. Why should we stop it?

We have matured in our suffering. We had a program to find a way forward. Our program was to continue with the peaceful negotiations with the authorities that first started ten years ago. But our first plan was undermined. We were lied to. We had to come up with an alternative plan.

The 16th of February 2005 was the dawn of our struggle. On that day the Kennedy Road committee had a very successful meeting with the chair of the housing portfolio of the executive committee of the municipality, the director of housing and the ward councillor. They all promised us the vacant land on the Clare Estate for housing. The land on Elf Road was one of the identified areas.

But then we were betrayed by the most trusted people in our city. Just one month later, without any warning or explanation, bulldozers began digging the land. People were excited. They went to see what was happening and were shocked to be told that a brick factory was being built there. More people went down to see. There were so many of us that we were blocking the road.

The man building the factory called the police and our local councillor, a man put into power by our votes and holding our trust and hopes. The councillor told the police “Arrest these people they are criminals.” The police beat us, their dogs bit us and they arrested 14 of us. We asked what happened to the promised land. We were told “Who the hell are you people to demand this land?” This betrayal mobilised the people. The people who betrayed us are responsible for this movement. Those people are the second force.

Our movement started with 14 arrests – we called them the 14 heroes. Now we have 14 settlements united together as abahlali base mjondolo [shack dwellers]. Each settlement meets once a week and the leaders of all the settlements meet once a week. We are prepared to talk but if that doesn’t work we are prepared to use our strength. We will do what ever it costs us to get what we need to live safely.

We have learnt from our experience that when you want to achieve what you want, when you want to achieve what is legitimate by peaceful negotiations, by humbleness, by respecting those in authority your plea becomes criminal. You will be deceived for more than ten years, you will be fooled and undermined. This is why we have resorted to the streets. When we stand there in our thousands we are taken seriously.

The struggle that started in Kennedy Road was the beginning of a new era. We are aware of the strategies that the police are coming with to demoralise and threaten the poor. We don’t mind them building the jails for us and hiring more security if they are not prepared to listen to what we are saying. It is important for every shack dwellers to know that we are aware of what is happening in Alexander in Johannesburg, in P.E., in Cape Town.

We know that our struggle is not by itself. We have sent our solidarity. We will not rest in peace until there is justice for the poor – not only in Kennedy Road there are many Kennedy Roads, many Mhlengis, many poor voices that are not heard and not understood. But we have discovered the language that works. We will stick with it. The victims have spoken. We have said enough is enough.

It must be clear that this is not a political game. This movement is a kind of social tool by which the community hopes to get quicker results. This has nothing to do with politics or parties. Our members are part of every political organisation that you may think of. This is a non political movement. It will finish its job when land and housing, electricity and basic services have been won and poverty eliminated. It is enough for us to be united until our people have achieved what is wanted – which is basic. But until that is materialized we will never stop.

The community has realized that voting for parties has not brought any change to us – especially at the level of local government elections. We can see some important changes at national level but at local level who ever wins the elections will be challenged by us. We have been betrayed by our own elected councillor. We have decided not to vote. The campaign that has begun – ‘No Land, No House, No Vote’, is a campaign that has been agreed upon in all 14 settlements.

We are driven by the Third Force, the suffering of the poor. Our betrayers are the Second Force. The First Force was our struggle against apartheid. The Third Force will stop when the Fourth Force comes. The Fourth Force is land, housing, water, electricity, health care, education and work. We are only asking what is basic – not what is luxurious. This is the struggle of the poor. The time has come for the poor to show themselves that we can be poor in life but not in mind.

For us time has been a very good teacher. People have realised so many things. We have learnt from the past – we have suffered alone. That pain and suffering has taught us a lot. We have begun to realise that we are not supposed to be living under these conditions. There has been a dawn of democracy for the poor. No one else would have told us – neither our elected leaders nor any officials would have told us what we are entitled to.

Even the Freedom Charter is only good in theory. It has nothing to do with the ordinary lives of poor. It doesn’t help us. It is the thinking of the masses of the people that matters. We have noted that our country is rich. More airports are being built, there are more developments at the Point waterfront, more stadiums are being renovated, more money is floating around, even being lent to Mugabe.

But when you ask for what is basic you are told that there is no money. It is clear that there is no money for the poor. The money is for the rich. We have come to the decision of saying ‘enough is enough.’ We all agree that something must be done.

S’bu Zikode is the elected Chairperson of the Abahlali baseMjondolo [Shack dwellers] movement which currently includes 14 settlements in Durban and will march on Mayor Obed Mlaba on 14 November.

Life In the Slums For The Poor Africans In South Africa


Serving our Life Sentence in the Shacks

People all over South Africa have been asking the leaders of Abahlali baseMjondolo as to why the government continues to ignore the demands of the shack dwellers. They have been asking why after all the marches, statements, reports and meetings the Kennedy Road settlement continues to get burnt down through the endless shack fires. They have been referring in particular to the recent Kennedy Road shack fire on Sunday, 4 July 2010 that took four lives, leaving more than three thousand people displaced and homeless.

Without much more words to explain this continuous tragedy we have replied that in fact the shack dwellers of South Africa are serving a life sentence. Everybody knows that we are the people who do not count in this society. But the truth that must be faced up to is that we have been sentenced to permanent exclusion from this society.

Over the years it has been made clear that the cities are not for us, that the good schools are not for us and that even the most basic human needs like toilets, electricity, safety from fire and safety from crime are not to be met for us. When we ask for these things we are presented as being unreasonable, too demanding and even as a threat to society. If we were considered as people that did count, as an equal part of society, then it would be obvious that the real threat to our society is that we have to live in mud and fire without toilets, without electricity, without enough taps and without dignity.

Waiting for ‘delivery’ will not liberate us from our life sentence. Sometimes 'delivery' does not come. When ‘delivery’ does come it often makes things worse by forcing us into government shacks that are worse than the shacks that we have built ourselves and which are in human dumping grounds far outside of the cities.'Delivery’ can be a way of formalising our exclusion from society.

But we have not only been sentenced to permanent physical exclusion from society and its cities, schools, electricity, refuse removal and sewerage systems. Our life sentence has also removed us from the discussions that take place in society. Everyone knows about the repression that we have faced from the state and now, also, from the ruling party. Everyone knows about the years of arrests and beatings that we suffered at the hands of the police and then the attack on our movement in the Kennedy Road settlement.

We have always said that in the eyes of the state and the ruling party our real crime was that we organised and mobilised the poor outside of their control. We have thought for ourselves, discussed all the important issues for ourselves and taken decisions for ourselves on all the important issues that affect us. We have demanded that the state includes us in society and gives us what we need to have for a dignified and safe life.

We have also done what we can to make our communities better places for human beings. We have run crèches, organised clean up campaigns, connected people to water and to electricity, tried to make our communities safe and worked very hard to unite people across all divisions. We have faced many challenges but we have always worked to ensure that in all of this work we treat one another with respect and dignity.

The self-organisation of the poor by the poor and for the poor has meant that all of those who were meant to do the thinking, the discussing and to take decisions on our behalf - for us but without us - no longer have a job. Our decision to build our own future may therefore not be an easy one to accept for those who can no longer continue to take decisions and to speak for us but without us.

Some of the people who have refused to accept our demand that those who say that they are for the poor should struggle with and not on behalf of the poor are in the state. Some are in the party. Some are in that part of the left, often in the universities and NGOs, that sees itself as a more progressive elite than those in the party and the state and which aims to take their place in the name of our suffering and struggles.

We call this left a regressive left. For us any leftism outside of the state that, just like the ruling party, wants followers and not comrades and which is determined to ruin any politics that it cannot rule is deeply regressive. We have always and will always resist its attempts to buy our loyalty just as we have always and will always resist all attempts by the state and the ruling party to buy our loyalty. We will also resist all attempts to intimidate us into giving up our autonomy. We will always defend our comrades when they are attacked. Our movement will always be owned by its members. We negotiate on many issues. Where we have to make compromises to go forward we sometimes do so. But on this issue there will never be any negotiation.

We have done a lot for ourselves and by ourselves. But for a long time what we could not succeed in doing for ourselves was to secure good land and decent housing in our cities. We stopped the evictions and we were no longer going backwards but it was a real struggle to go forwards. But we kept pushing and made some small advances here and there. This really offended the authorities in the party.

This became very clear and evident when the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal passed the notorious Slums Act, meaning that the shack dwellers would never again have any place in our cities. Our successful challenge to the Slums Act in the Highest Court in the land was a great setback for the government’s plan to formalise our life sentence by eradicating our settlements and putting us in the human dumping grounds.

The deal that we negotiated with the eThekwini Municipality to upgrade two settlements and to provide basic services to fourteen settlements was another setback to the eradication agenda of the politicians. The recent announcement by the eThekwini Municipality that they will accede to our demand to provide services including, for the first time since 2001, electricity to settlements across the city is another victory of our struggle and another major setback to the eradication agenda. We are slowly but surely defeating the eradication agenda.

As South Africa was hosting the World Cup Abahlali warned that it will not benefit the poorest of the poor in our land. We warned that it would make the poor, poorer and more vulnerable. Leading up to the World Cup there were more evictions and pending court cases in different parts of the country. Poor street traders had their belongings confiscated as they had no permits to sell in restricted zones and the taxi industry suffered the impoundment of their taxis.

Stopping the rush to celebrate the World Cup by raising all these questions and condemning these attacks on the poor as immoral and illegitimate has been a slap on the authorities’ faces. Although the fact is that all these huge soccer stadiums, hotels and other projects were built by the poor of the poorest they remained outside their benefit.

The South African government has overspent its budget in building a ‘world class country’ and could not match and balance such expenditure with social needs such housing and the provision of the most basic services. The amount that has been spent for the World Cup could have built at least one millions homes for the poor. Although we acknowledge the efforts that have been put into this event we still feel that such effort could have been used to bring basic services and infrastructure to the poor. If that had been the case then the shack dwellers would not have been affected by these ongoing fires every time.

The truth about the attack on our movement has always been firm and not changing at any stage. We cannot make public comment on matters that are sub judice, but our demand for an independent commission of inquiry that will bring the whole story into the light remains unchanged. The Kennedy 5, part of those who are already serving their life sentence in and out of the jails, have now been released from Westville prison.

They had already been serving ten months of their punishment without any evidence of guilt being brought to the court and without the court saying anything about their illegal detention. The South African Constitution says there shall be no detention without trial and that a person cannot be detained for more than 24 hours without a proper bail hearing.

The fact that, up until the release of the Kennedy 5, this trial was being conducted as a political trial outside of the rule of law even though it was taking place in a court of law tells us something very important about the position of the poor in post apartheid South Africa. Those who have handed a life sentence down to us always want to exclude us from fair and equal access to the courts and the rule of law. When they fail to achieve this through the commodification of the legal system they are willing to actively undermine the system from above.

The movement insists that the people shall govern; this is what the famous Freedom Charter says. Abahlali holds on to that. The strength and the autonomy of the movement compels us all to strive for a just world, a world that is free, a world that is fair and a world that looks after all its creations. We remain convinced that the land and the wealth of this world must be shared fairly and equally. We remain convinced that every person in this world has the same right to contribute to all discussions and decision making about their own future. For us all to succeed we have to be humble but firm in what we believe is right. We have to resist all our jailers, be they in the state, the party or the regressive left, and to take our place as equals in all the discussions.

We also know that the South African government still wants to look good in the eyes of the international communities and that they fear disgrace and shame. They want to show the world Soccer City, but hide e-Twatwa, Blikkiesdorp, Westville Prison, the red ants and the shack fires all around the country. We wish to thank all the international activists and organizations who have raised their concern against the repression that we have faced, including those that have organized protests against the South African diplomats in their respective countries.

We hope South Africa will become one of the world’s caring countries. We hope that one day our society will be an inspiration rather than a shock to you. As Abahlali, we have committed ourselves to achieving this goal. But right now we are serving a life sentence and fighting all those who are trying to keep us imprisoned in our poverty, all those who demand that we know our place — our place in the cities and our place in the discussions. We have recognized our own humanity and the power of our struggle to force the full recognition of our humanity. Therefore we remain determined to continue to refuse to know our place.

Compiled by Zodwa Nsibande and S’bu Zikode
-Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA.

Isipingo's Morass And Cesspool: Slum Swamp


Mercury: Filthy transit camp poses health risk

Filthy transit camp poses health risk

Gugu Mbonambi

The appalling conditions under which people are living in a transit camp at Isipingo has already claimed the life of one person and more could die as a result of waterborne diseases.

This stark warning was issued by residents, who claimed that they were “duped” into moving into the R10-million transit camp by the e-Thekwini municipality, which assured them that new RDP houses would be built for them “within six months”.

But three years have passed and they are still waiting for the keys to the homes they were promised.

The stench of raw sewage and paraffin assaults your nose as you walk along the dusty road through the closely knit informal homes, cobbled out of flat asbestos sheets, a Mercury team which visited the transit camp, alongside the M35 highway, found last week.

Children play in and drink the murky sewage water running on either side of the transit camp, home to about 700 families from the Bluff, Umlazi, Bayhead and other informal settlements in the city who were “dumped” on the site by the municipality.

There is no electricity, and residents are exposed to high-voltage electric cables running across the wet ground in the camp, a clear sign of illegal electricity connections.

The deplorable and unhygienic conditions at the camp have so far claimed the life of at least one resident, Cleodene Kesram, 18, and many more people could die as a result of waterborne diseases caused by the squalid conditions they live in, residents say.

Lalitha Kesram, 36, who was moved to the camp from Malukazi, Isipingo, three years ago, was told she was being moved to an RDP house, not a one-roomed structure.

“We were duped into coming here, and I didn’t know I’d be living with my children in these conditions. Cleodene was not a sickly person, but on February 18 her entire body began to swell up. When I took her to hospital, the doctor said she had cirrhosis of the liver. The doctor said my child died because of the toxins in her body caused by the filth in this area,” she said.

Vanitha Rathilal, 42, another resident, said they shared six mobile toilets positioned at the far end of the camp, and people often relieved themselves in buckets. There were only two taps that barely worked for the entire camp.

Some residents built their own “long-drop toilets cobbled out of discarded board and other material”.

Isipingo Ratepayers’ Association chairman Darmanand Nowbuth said the association had been trying to get the municipality to move the people to a suitable place for months, but efforts had been in vain.

“The settlement is located between the Prospecton industrial area, the metro railway and the M35 roadway.

“Residents will be exposed to high levels of pollution, which the South Durban Basin is notorious for. That will impact adversely on the health of the community,” he said in a letter to the municipality."

In response to Nowbuth’s letter, the senior project manager of the housing department for the southern region, Pato, said owing to the lack of suitable land and the time required to implement formal housing, families needed to be accommodated in emergency homes on a “temporary basis”.

“Occupants of the transit facilities will be accommodated for a period of between 18 and 24 months. An amount of about R10 million was budgeted for the establishment of the facility,” the letter read.

A manager for the transit camp, Warrant Officer Annie Naidoo, of the Isipingo police station, said the camp was not a healthy living environment for any human being.

“These people need to be moved from here and be given the homes they were promised. This area is a flood plain; this is not an environment to raise a child,” she said.

In response to questions sent by The Mercury, the municipality said it would “take time to collate all the information” and it would provide responses only by May 10.

Abahlali BaseMjondolo _ Organisation Of The Landless And Homeless/Houseless African South Africans


'This Is How We Do It’
21 April 2012

Speech by Comrade Mzwakhe Mdlalose, delivered at The Foundry Theater, New York City

I wish to thank The Foundry Theatre for giving me this opportunity to share Abahlali‘s gift and contribution to our world. I also wish to take this opportunity to thank Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA, (the Shack dwellers Movement), the movement that has entrusted me with its mandate to share with you how shack dwellers in post-apartheid South Africa have struggled to survive neoliberalism which is a very modern kind of new apartheid. In this new form of apartheid we are still divided into those that count and those that do not, those who can live in the cities and those that cannot, those that are allowed to speak and those that are not, those that must burn and those that are safe.

I am honored to be among comrades from all around the world. I know that I will learn many important lessons from all the comrades here. For years NGOs and academics would represent the struggles of poor people in South Africa at international forums. It has been a long struggle for us to get to the point where we can represent ourselves in these spaces. We wish to be very clear that some of the NGOs and academics have resisted our demand that we be able to think and to speak for ourselves with as much hatred for our humanity as the state.

Some of them want to be our bosses and not our comrades. Some of them have tried to destroy what they cannot control using some of the same tactics as the state. They have presented us as criminals. As people that can't think for ourselves. As people who are being used. We draw a clear line between those who are willing to struggle with the poor, to become part of us, to think with us, and those that insist on their right to think and speak for the poor.

We are not looking for new bosses in the name of our own freedom. We draw a clear line between that part of the left that thinks that it has a right to rule the oppressed and that part of the left, that, however they were born into this world, works with the oppressed day after day, and year after year, to build the power of the oppressed.

Abahlali was formed out of anger, hunger and frustration. It developed out of a road blockade in Durban in March 2005 in which 14 comrades were arrested and charged with Public Violence. This road blockade was organized in a settlement called Kennedy Road. At this time none of us knew what the future entailed for the shack dwellers in Kennedy Road who refused to be excluded from the fruits of our new democracy and from development.

A democracy that has come to serve the interest of the few while the majority of South Africans continue to live in deep poverty. The first thing the movement did after it was formed was to define itself before someone else could define us. It was already clear that we were seen as the people who do not count in our own society. It was very clear that the state and the NGOs wanted to define us.

We realized that the shack dwellers are presented as people who are helpless and useless. As people that need an NGO intervention or an academic who will give us a good education in politics and even provide us with a political direction. We refused this. We defined ourselves by a process of discussing our situation and coming to our own conclusions about who we are, what we need and how we can struggle for it.

We mobilized shack dwellers and poor communities around a common goal and understanding. We started advocating for land and housing in our cities, pushing for the upgrading of informal settlements and against forced eviction. We are still pushing for the right to the city for the poor. We stage protest marches. We petition, we picket outside state or municipal offices and yes we hold candle light vigils , etc.

We also engage in direct action. We connect ourselves to electricity. We occupy land. The state has proven to the people of South Africa that the only language that they understand is protests. We have to force them to accept our humanity. Without organization and protest there is no progress. That is why we have adopted the ”No land, No house No vote” campaign.

This is to put pressure on the authorities to listen to our plight and take us seriously. But it is also because we don’t want to give our power away to politicians that use the people as ladders. We want to keep our power for ourselves. We want to build our own power from the ground up.

We believe that our struggle is our school. This is why we have created the University of Abahlali baseMjondolo. This is our own political school where we learn from one another. We learn from our meetings, at our all night camps that we hold on every quarter year. We learn from the streets during protests and we learn from the court rooms.

But most importantly we have learnt from the old and young women and men. Our meetings are the center of our movement. This is where we discuss and think together. We talk things through until we come to a common understanding. Comrades from America are often shocked at how long our meetings are and at how many meetings we have. But the meetings are the foundation of our strength.

We have made alliances with those few NGOs that are willing to engage us as comrades rather than children. We hold paralegal workshops in collaboration with legal NGOs such as Socio Economic Right Institute of South Africa (SERI) and other partners but we also hold political schools that help us become who we are.

Abahlali have produced a new politic that we call a Living Politic. It is a living politic because it is understood by the old and the young, the educated and the uneducated. It is the politic that speaks to the fact that we have no water or electricity in the shacks or that it has become too expensive while in fact, as Mnikelo Ndabankulu from Abahlali puts it, “Our lives need these services. Everyone can see the justice of this politics."

Everyone can own this politic together. This is the politic that drives us. This politic rejects the party political system that encourages a top down development approach that is sometimes against the will of the people. It is the politic that carried us in 2009 when the state backed gang attacked us in Kennedy Road and drove many of us, including myself, from our homes.

It is very clear that South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world and that the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. We believe that the problems that we confront are political and not technical. We believe that we should build the power of the poor from below. We also believe that freedom and equality can only be achieved when the poor themselves take charge and lead themselves in their own lives.

The movement has won many victories including the victory against the 'Slums Act' which was a piece of legislation that was aiming at bulldozing all shacks in the province without the safe guards that all the policies and national legislation provides. It was a war on the poor. The Constitutional Court found this legislation invalid and inconsistent with the constitution.

We have stopped most of the evictions that our shack communities are facing in our cities. We have won a struggle against the criminalization of activists by the state e.g. in the case of the Kennedy 12. We have successfully protected our space for our living politic and we have made our own international connections.

However Abahlali is not a perfect movement and we have many challenges as well. Some come from inside and some come from outside. Repression has damaged our movement. Some of our members who were displaced by the violent attack in Kennedy Road in 2009 remain homeless. The state still refuses to provide services needed by our communities or even to listen for that matter.

Shack fires, floods, crimes and diseases caused by neglect of the state and its agencies continue. There is still no political will from our government to oppose the corruption in governance, the politicization of service delivery or an economic system that continues to make some us poor and others rich.

We were supposed to be quiet, to be good boys and girls, while others discussed our lives for us. We have, despite serious resistance from the state and some NGOs, succeeded in taking our place in the world as people that think and have a right to participate in all discussions.

However we have a very, very long way to go before we are strong enough to stop this very modern apartheid that continues to divide us into rich and poor, people that count and people that don’t count, people that must burn and people that can be safe, people that are allowed to think and to speak and people that are supposed to be silent in the dark corners. But we know that we are not alone. People are struggling all over South Africa. People are struggling all over the world. Together we are strong.

Frormal And informal Settlemts Stas Overviewe In Brief


Knowledge Production - The Community Way

By Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat

The South African SDI alliance made up of CORC, FEDUP and ISN have embarked on a challenging program to work with government in assessing the most critical needs of residents in specific informal settlements in the City of Cape Town municipality. This assessment forms part of a larger plan to look at ways to upgrade informal settlements and provide sufficient basic services for the residents.

The City of Cape Town municipality has been involved in collecting information in informal settlements but has not been able to get a genuine depth of information. This is where the SDI ritual of community enumeration comes to the fore and demonstrates just what an advantage there is to be gained by involving as many community members as possible in the planning and development of their own settlements as well as needs identification.

As a mobilizing tool a community enumeration is unparalleled in garnering support, building enthusiasm and excitement for the residents in the settlement preparing for this process. Like wild fire the news of activity spreads as enumerators start moving door to door and word gets out that a real attempt will be made to try and improve living conditions.

What the enumeration does however for the community is bring it face to face with some of the truths that exist but are not necessarily known to the planners, officials and even NGOs who work with them. Over the course of the past 3 weeks I have been exposed to this reality in different settlements in Cape Town, South Africa all engaged in the process of enumeration and all looking to get organized in preparation for future upgrading projects. The challenges around inadequate services, housing and insecurity of tenure already provide numerous hurdles to overcome but the additional complexities in these informal settlements demand a nuanced approach to upgrading initiatives.

In each of the settlements a discussion session was held with the settlement committee concerning their expectations of the enumeration. The discussion also served as an opportunity for community members to give input into what the enumeration questionnaire needed to cover.

These discussions served as a very interesting peek into some of the dynamics at play in the community that would normally go unnoticed to outsiders looking to make interventions. In an informal settlement in Athlone, community members were most concerned about structure owner versus tenant relationships. The official policy is that shacks should not be rented out but this does not prevent this practice from occurring.

In this settlement the renting of shacks was widespread and with news that an upgrading project was in the pipeline, structure owners were returning to their shacks and effectively evicting their tenants. The community committee was most concerned about identifying who had been living in the settlement for an extended period of time as well as whether or not these residents were renting.

In another settlement located in Strand the community committee estimated that there were approximately 450 shacks. These shacks were being serviced by 5 flush toilets and 6 chemical toilets. After a more in depth discussion it became apparent that in reality only 2 of the flush toilets were working.

The chemical toilets were all full and were not being emptied thus rendering them useless. Officials in this particular ward would have us believe that the bucket system was not in operation in this settlement. In conducting further workshops with this community it became clear that often people had no choice but to resort to the bucket system.

In another informal settlement in Milnerton hundreds of shacks were being serviced by a few chemical flush toilets. In a discussion about this particular community’s needs toilets were obviously high on the agenda but as important to the residents was the problems they had with crime. For them it was just as important to get a stronger police presence in their settlement, as it was to gain access to better toilet facilities.

These were the first opportunities I had to engage communities in Cape Town around the rather technical side of enumeration. But amidst the methodological discussions on what constitutes good questions for enumeration and what could be done through settlement profiling, communities were always willing to take the discussion to a deeper level. In doing so they revealed the many layers of complexity that also need to be considered when dealing with informal settlements.

It is not always about how many toilets or taps you can throw at the problem, but also about achieving a holistic overview of the settlement through the eyes of the people who live there. In the weeks ahead I will be interacting with these communities around ever more technical topics but there will always be the space for a good long discussion about their many needs.

Often as development practitioners we enter settlements with preconceived ideas about what the focus should be but these experiences have once again reminded me that nothing teaches you more about a community and their settlement than an open discussion with its members.

Community ownership of the upgrading process does not lie only in their participation in installing the infrastructure or services but also in the knowledge production of information about their settlement. Here in lies the real power of the enumeration exercise, it opens up the space for discussion and a two-way knowledge exchange between the formal and the informal.

Most people never get a chance to read about the various slums around the world, and when most of them live and see them where they reside, they do not have an idea that this is a world wide community and social malaise that needs to be written about, discussed and known to even the very people involved with heir struggles in their slums world-wide.

It is important that information in Hubs like these circulate and be updated because these struggles are not static and stagnant, but they are constantly evolving and taking many different forms some battles are won and others lost, but does not stifle nor stymie the progress and headway the shack dwellers are making...

Living the life of the poor

White Priviledged family finding out about living in a slum

White Priviledged family finding out about living in a slum

Habving A A Choice to Choose To Be In Poverty, For A While. And Out Of It by The end Of The Month

Sometimes in a society there are people who want to experience an alternative life-style from the one they are living or are used to. I for one will say that privilege gives one a chance to experience what other people will not readily do. Just like the White person who wanted to experience who it was like to be 'Black' in "Black Like Me," could do. This is like an actor jumping in and out of character. But, at least, in the story below, one cannot find error or some bad things to say about a people willing to duke it out and find out what it is like to life an alternate lifestyle. Beth Greenfield of the Shine Staff posted this story below:

A privileged white South African family is under public scrutiny after slumming it in a poor black squatter camp for a month in an attempt to see how the other half lives, the New York Times reported Monday.

“Give a child love and attention and they will be happy anywhere,” wrote Ena Hewitt on her family's blog, Mamelodi for a month, about the social experiment that was meant to expand the family’s horizons and understand more about poverty. “There have however been some difficult moments.”

In August, Ena and her husband, Julian — with daughters Julia, 4, and Jessica, 2, in tow with no toys — put themselves on a strict budget and left their gated estate for a tin shack with no electricity or running water, next door to where their housekeeper lives. And while it seems from the family's blog that they learned many lessons on the subject of slum life — from sleeping huddled together on freezing nights to fearing local teens hooked on the potent Nyaope (a blend of heroin, marijuana, rat poison, bleach, and retroviral drugs) — The Hewitt's also got schooled by a host of critics who claim their adventure made a mockery of true poverty and the remnants of apartheid.

The family has been called “patronizing” and has been accused of being “navel-gazing" folks who can look no further than their guilt-ridden selves while partaking in “performative poverty” and “poverty pornography.”

The effect — or lack thereof — on their little girls also seems questionable.

“I can appreciate how the parents’ values drove the decision to understand how others live, but I don’t think a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old can benefit from such an experience like an adult can,”Jamie Howard, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute, tells Yahoo Shine. “They’re basically tagging along, a bit confused.” That’s because of their ages and where they are developmentally, she explains.

“I think teenagers would start to get it. But [kids this young] have only a burgeoning ability to understand the perspective of others, and their main concern is that their basic needs are being met,” Howard says, adding that the experience may not even have a lasting impact, since childhood memories only just begin to stick at around age 3.

She also notes that very young kids do best with routine and predictability, and that a disruption to a daily routine often causes feelings of disorientation and crankiness. “It’s only a month, but that’s a very long time for a 2- and 4-year-old,” she says, adding that it’s important for the Hewitt's to put the experience into context so that their daughters aren’t fearful that their living situation could change at any time without notice.

Still, plenty of observers, including their housekeeper, Leah Nkambule, and other neighbors, plus many Twitter followers, praised the family for attempting to bridge the divide.

“It is hard to criticize someone trying to bring attention to poverty,” Sendhil Mullainathan, Harvard professor of economics and co-author of the book “Scarcity: While Having Too Little Means So Much,” tells Yahoo Shine. “In a way this is reminiscent of ‘Nickel and Dimed.'” He's referring to the 2001 book that chronicled writer Barbara Ehrenreich's investigation into the lives of the working poor, written from her perspective as an undercover journalist working as a waitress, a cleaning woman and a Walmart clerk.

But while it would be wrong to be outright dismissive of the Hewitts, he adds that “it'd be very dangerous to suggest they've fully experienced poverty.” Part of that, Mullainathan explains, is because, while some effects of a poor environment (such as fear of robbery) can be experienced quickly, others take time. “How do you simulate the lack of dental care,” he posits, “which leads to a throbbing pain, the lack of health care, which leaves you sick and perhaps with memories of a child (or wife) lost at childbirth?”

Book co-author Eldar Shafir, Princeton University professor of psychology and public affairs, agrees. He tells Yahoo Shine that probably the greatest concern among the critics of such exercises is the risk of learning the wrong lessons, “or at least of not appreciating the weight of things when they're real and prolonged as opposed to brief and pretend.”

As an example of this sort of skewed takeaway, Shafir points to a family blog entry about the perks of living in the slum, such as sharing a single bed. “We all sleep in one bed here (a habit I am sure is going to be difficult to break once we are back at home) but the kids love it,” Ena wrote. “It’s warm and they feel loved and get lots of cuddles at night when it’s cold.”

As Shafir notes, “All sharing one bed seems cozy and cute when it's a month-long camping experience. It's probably a real challenge, affecting sleep, intimacy, privacy when sick ... when it's the only way, month in and month out.”

There are many pros and cons about the act of this White family, but in the annals of South Africa, few have done what they have attempted. But in reality, there are many young white whites who live and travel and hang out with the residents of Townships like Soweto, and they have been accepted as part of the mosaic of the Township. It is just that, thee White youngsters do not only life there for a month, but for years, and have blogged about it, like it, and have their impressions as to what they have experienced or are experiencing.

I have always be advocating or asking if not advising many WHite people as to why is it that they cannot go and meet, even for a day, African people in the Township, even if it's just for a few hours, without being there as tourists. Seemingly some are beginning to apply this idea that community and race relations will begin with some kind of step. Well, this privileged White family took it a month at a time. This is not a bad idea, and their experiencing will be worth more than Gold.

White Children in the Slum Mix

The Hewitt girls and their friends in Mamelodi, Pretoria(Tshwane) in South Africa

The Hewitt girls and their friends in Mamelodi, Pretoria(Tshwane) in South Africa

A Small Step, can Become One Gigantic Game Changer of the Frozen Social Relations in South Africa

For many White people who have many privileges in South Africa(except the poor Whites) it is virtually impossible for them to live in shacks, and the Hewitt's point out to that with their R3000 budget for the month. Cooking and the whole lifestyle is much of a culture shock than many Whites will ever know. But be that as it may, this is an interesting step in trying to understand what life is life for their "Maid" in these shack.

This reminds me of the time the Bulle Rugby Team came into Orland South Africa because their stadium was under renovation in preparation for the World Cup. When the got onto the Soweto Highway, because of road construction, they parked their cars on the side of the Highway and walked to the Stadium of Orlando East by Foot.

They came in droves, Fathers, mothers, children, Youngsters, grandpas and grandpas, I mean, the whole White Community who were the Fans of the two White Teams that were going to play their final in Orlando East, Soweto. They walked barefooted, donning their sandals, swearing sneakers throughout the streets of Orlando East. They were met by the African residents of Orlando East who cheered, waved, called them up and exchanged greeting and both races carried on as they passed through. After the match, the majority of these fans went into the houses and shacks in and out of Orlando East and throughout Soweto and partied the whole Weekend.

Segregation has created a large chasm between races and not many White people really know how we as Africans live. The artificial White spaces and African or Colored/Indian spaces created by Apartheid are still in effect today, and that is why many White people do not really know what their African of Colored neighbors of fellow-citizens live like. It is going to take a lot of many ways and means to ameliorate the shattered and disjointed race relations in South Africa. Well, the Hewitt's, for one, are one of the many White people who have taken that step of getting to know African people better, albeit for a month. But a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first steps, as we say here in Mzantsi.

White family moves into shack

Africa 360 | Racial integration in South Africa

Are the people really sharing in the country's wealth?

On the Question and topic above, Matuma Letsoalo wrote the following article:

"Sixty years after it was drafted, the Freedom Charter has again taken centre stage with rival political parties claiming its principles ahead of next year’s local government elections.

The ANC, which has hardly uttered a word about the Freedom Charter in recent years, used its 103rd birthday celebration in Cape Town last weekend to commemorate the document.

While the party claims it has made significant progress in implementing elements of the Freedom Charter, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) have accused the ANC of abandoning the charter."

Below are the ANC’s and Numsa’s differing views on progress made, followed by the facts of what actually happened.


  • South Africa is a much better and different place today than it was before 1994. The overwhelming majority of our people live in conditions that are vastly different from what they were, even 10 years ago.
  • More people have access to housing, better and more equal access to basic services, more households have electricity, there have been enormous advances in healthcare and education and economic opportunities have been opened to the people.
  • The ANC has been at the forefront of creating the possibilities for the much bigger middle class we have today. We will make sure that the middle class, particularly the black middle class, continues to grow.
  • The vast mineral wealth of our country, which lies beneath the soil, has been transferred to the ownership of the state on behalf of the people as per the provisions of the Freedom Charter. However, this has not yet translated to equal and full benefit of all South Africans.
  • The ANC commits itself to continue working with South Africa’s people to ensure that there is enhanced benefit from this ownership.
  • This year, the party must finalize the amendments to the applicable laws to ensure that mineworkers and mining communities share, much more equitably, in South Africa’s mineral wealth.
  • Banking has become much more accessible to the majority of South Africans, but the excessive bank charges and fees mean that many people still cannot afford bank services.
  • The ANC government is moving ahead with efforts to establish a bank directly linked to and administered by the Post Office (Post bank).
  • There is more electricity in more households, since 1994, than in all the years under the colonial and apartheid regimes. Our economy has also grown and many new businesses are operating in this country. As a consequence, this growth is placing more strain on the electricity grid than at any other time in our history.


  • In 1995, the Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, stood at 0.64 but it increased to 0.68 by 2008.
  • The share of national income was 56% in 1995 but it declined to 51% in 2009. In other words, there has been reverse redistribution from the poor to the rich.
  • About 20% of South Africans earned less than R800 a month in 2002 and the situation was worse for Africans. By 2007, about 71% of African female-headed households earned less than R800 a month.
  • In the 2010 budget speech, the minister of finance noted that in South Africa “income inequality is among the highest in the world; and half of our population survives on 8% of national income”.
  • The children of the poor remain trapped in inferior education with wholly inadequate infrastructure. Indeed, 70% of matric exam passes are accounted for by just 11% of schools — former white, colored, and Indian schools.
  • Among Africans, 55% live in dwellings with less than three rooms and 21% live in one-room homes, whereas at least 50% of white families live in houses with no less than four rooms.
  • The life expectancy of South Africans was the highest in 1992, at 62 years. Life expectancy fell to 50 years in 2006.
  • The life expectancy of a white South African now stands at 71 years and that of a black South African at 48 years. Whites therefore expect to live 23 years longer than blacks. This is due to inequality of access to quality health services.

What happened after 1995

  • The financial sector is dominated by four large privately owned banks (Absa, Nedbank, FNB and Standard Bank). Absa is 56% foreign-owned, Standard Bank is at least 40% foreign-owned. The Reserve Bank is privately owned and has foreign ownership.
  • Sasol is about 30% foreign-owned and ArcelorMittal is 65% ­foreign owned.
  • The pharmaceuticals sector is dominated by foreign-owned Aspen, Adcock Ingram, Sanofi, Pfizer, Norvatis, and others.
  • Telecommunications: The Thintana Telkom deal in 1997, which led to massive job cuts in Telkom – from 67?000 to 25?000 – has left the country poorer and in a worse socioeconomic position.
  • The construction sector is also monopolized, dominated by four players: Murray & Roberts, WBHO, Aveng and Group 5, all with foreign ownership.
  • The cement sector is dominated by four players (PPC, Alpha, Lafarge and Natal Portland).
  • The forestry sector is monopolized by two major players, Sappi and Mondi with the state, through Safcol, playing a minor role.
  • Machinery and equipment is a diverse sector. The major equipment players are Caterpillar, John Deere/Bell, Komatsu, Manitou SA and ThyssenKrupp – all foreign.
  • The wholesale and retail trade sector is a monopoly industry, dominated by two firms: Shoprite and Pick n Pay constitute 66% of the market share. Massmart was 60% foreign-owned, even before Walmart entered. Other foreign ownership in this sector is as follows: Shoprite 35%, Truworths 50%, Foschini 40% and JD Group 40%. The state does not play a role in this sector.
  • Mining is a monopolized sector too, in all its varied aspects because of the various minerals under it.
  • Iron ore, so crucial to steel production, is dominated by Kumba Iron Ore, which is majority foreign-owned.
  • Manganese production is dominated by Samancor, which is a joint venture of foreign-owned mining houses.
  • Samancor Chrome dominates chrome production and is a majority foreign-owned entity.
  • Vanadium production is controlled by Vanchem which is also foreign owned.
  • Coal production is controlled by foreign companies.
  • In short all minerals in South Africa are majority foreign-owned and controlled. All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.
  • The manufacturing sector declined from 20% of national production in 1995 to 15% to in 2010. This is evidence of deindustrialisation.
  • Between 1995 and 2008, the manufacturing sector lost 350?000 jobs and an additional 271?000 jobs were lost between 2009 and 2012. The policies of the past 19 years have thus failed to promote labour-intensive industrialization.
  • The total trade deficit was R9.5-billion in January 2013.
  • Television, radio and communication equipment showed a 431% deficit; radio, television, clocks and watches a 397% deficit; and machinery and equipment a deficit of 120%.

From Ghetto to Ghetto: Slum Tourism Around the World

The Slums Of Brazil

The Slums Of Brazil

A Shortened View Of The World's Ghettos/Slums

I thought that after starting to write about homelessness and Ghettos around the world, I should add this article about Homelessness Globally, written by Monte Leach:

A Roof Is Not Enough: A Look Homelessness Worldwide

"According to estimates, 100 million people worldwide are literally homeless. They have no shelter: they sleep on pavements, in doorways, in parks or under bridges. Or they sleep in public buildings like railway or bus stations, or in night shelters set up to provide homeless people with a bed.

"The estimated number of homeless increases to 1,000 million people if we include those in housing that is "very insecure or temporary, often of poor quality - for instance, squatters who have found accommodation by illegally occupying someone else's home or land and are under constant threat of eviction; those living in refugee camps whose home has been destroyed; and those living in temporary shelters (like the 250,000 pavement dwellers in Bombay)". This is according to a 1996 report by the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).

At the most basic economic level, homelessness is caused by poverty and unemployment. The poor simply cannot afford adequate shelter.

The numbers would surpass 1,000 million if we include "all people who lack an adequate home with secure tenure [i.e., as owner-occupiers or tenants protected from sudden or arbitrary eviction] and the most basic facilities such as water of adequate quality piped into the home, provision for sanitation and drainage".

The problem isn't limited to the developing world. In the European Union countries, an estimated 2.5 million people are homeless over the course of the year. In the US, estimates are that at least 700,000 people are homeless on any given night — living in public places or in emergency shelters. At some time during the year, some 2 million Americans are homeless.

Inadequate housing takes a variety of forms world-wide, including: cages (Hong Kong); buses and shipping containers (Israel and the occupied territories); pavements (India and Bangladesh); cellars, staircases, containers and rooftops (Europe); streets (children throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe); and cardboard boxes (United States).


The causes of inadequate housing would not seem to include lack of international agreements on the subject. In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are literally dozens of other treaties, declarations, conventions, and covenants, signed by all UN states, that proclaim housing as a fundamental human right. Over 40 national constitutions also include the right to housing.

So why is homelessness so pervasive? The causes are varied. At the most basic economic level, homelessness is caused by poverty and unemployment. The poor simply cannot afford adequate shelter. With estimates of the number of absolute poor (those who cannot meet their most basic needs) reaching 1,200 million people worldwide — which is about equal to estimates of the homeless — poverty and homelessness are linked almost by definition. Beyond basic economics, there are political causes as well. "As countries develop, land values go up, and as they do, the people that have access to money and capital buy that land, generally in the best places," according to Scott Leckie, Director of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) in Geneva, "The middle and lower income groups are forced to the periphery of the city. That's why slums pop up around every single Third World City.

"Big money and gigantic vested interests are involved, whose interests are that the value of the property or land continues to increase year after year. This is a great thing if you have property. But if you don't, it's quite difficult to access affordable housing."

Because the poor often do not carry much political weight, a government may not feel the political pressure to improve its housing and anti-poverty policies. "If the government was elected because giant landowners and big corporate bosses wanted things a certain way, obviously the government is not going to spend considerable energy in trying to eradicate poverty." And government involvement is essential to the improvement of housing conditions because a purely private-sector, market-based approach does not work, Leckie says. "The legal housing market in every country in the world, no matter how rich or poor, fails to provide the necessary housing supply for the poorest 40 per cent of the population. The market simply does not provide for the lower income groups."

Add to the mix the international pressure exerted by institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. According to Leckie: "A country may have a decent housing policy, but also a huge debt. The World Bank and IMF come in with so much money and power, and basically say: 'You can either be a part of the world's economy, and play by the rules we establish, and cut these expenditures, or you can be ostracized and isolated from the world economy.' You can imagine the pressure brought to bear even on a reasonable government."


There are viable solutions to many of these problems, and in some countries, more than others, the solutions are being implemented, at least on the local level. Daniel Biau, Executive Co-ordinator of Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya, says that to deal with the completely homeless population, governments should intervene directly: "Absolute homelessness is a bit like absolute poverty. It's a question of survival. You have to provide a safety net. These people are so poor they must be assisted directly." But for "relative homelessness, or relative poverty, you have to provide a framework, provide incentives," he says.

Many of the "relative homeless" are among the 1,000 million people who live in slums or shanty-towns. Almost all slums are technically illegal settlements, meaning that the people do not have clear title to the land, or that they have squatted on the land outright. Because there is an insufficient supply of legal housing available, people create their own housing solutions. They build slums near the city, which means near employment possibilities.

In fact, says Scott Leckie: "The overwhelming majority of new housing built in the world today is built by the people themselves, by the people who live in those houses, and by the communities in which they live." This trend should be encouraged by governments, Leckie believes. The solution to slums is not to evict people, or to eradicate the dwellings, he says, but to create conditions so that people can improve their own dwellings, with the assistance of the community. "One of the best ways to do that is by giving slum-dwellers security of tenure, so they know they are protected against arbitrary, unfair, or illegal eviction. If people know that, even if they only make a couple of hundred dollars a year, which many people do, they'll spend money improving their house that they wouldn't otherwise do if they were afraid of being evicted. If governments acted in partnership with people in this way, many good things could happen."

Biau agrees that improving slum conditions should be a key focus of governmental policy. "In developing countries, the first step for any housing policy should be to improve existing informal settlements [slums or shanty towns]," he says.

"This includes the provision of security of tenure, and the provision of basic infrastructure, including water, sanitation and electricity." Another important component of housing policy," says Biau, "should be the provision of financial incentives to small, private investors to encourage the development of cheap rental housing.

"Governments should be enablers of development rather than controllers," says Sara Wakeham, Africa specialist at Habitat. "All of this informal development is happening anyway. We want local governments to support this development, rather than restrict and control it, and so encourage more and better-quality housing."

International assistance

International development aid to developing countries is on the decrease worldwide. And even within that shrinking pie, the amount of aid directed to the housing sector is only 2 to 3 per cent of total assistance.

According to Daniel Biau:

"Housing is such an expensive item that Western countries cannot pay for housing provision as part of their aid. They can pay for technical assistance, but they are a bit reluctant to provide it. Western governments consider housing a domestic priority, not a priority for international assistance. They prefer to focus on agriculture, for instance."

"This approach is short-sighted," Biau believes. "International agencies have not yet understood that the 21 century will be the century of cities. Poverty and homelessness will more and more be concentrated there, and the international community has to do more to help developing countries."

Success stories

European Union countries are considered to have among the most socially advanced housing policies in the world. Among developing nations, countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Senegal, Singapore, and Tunisia are praised for their efforts. In Brazil, for example, cities such as Fortaleza, Recife, Porto Allegre, Santo Andre, and several others are considered to have quite effective housing programs. And in post-apartheid South Africa, much progress has been made in making housing policies more favorable to the poor.

Much of the progress comes at the local level. "The places where you see success stories are the places where there are very strong community organizations present, a very high degree of participation in the community, and where the government has acted as a facilitating rather than a repressive force," says Scott Leckie. "Most of the success stories are small-scale, community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, but they get replicated in other places once people find out about them."

Biau agrees: "The ideal situation would be to have a strong municipality defining the city-wide policies, and for each squatter settlement or slum to have a few CBOs [community-based organizations] and NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] co-ordinating the implementation of these policies. I believe that the key partnerships in the future will be between local authorities and CBOs and NGOs, at the city level."

But the political will must be present to accomplish these goals. "If there is the will in any city or country, there is a way to improve the situation," says Biau. "And the way can be easily defined." Biau says the media have an important role to play in convincing policy-makers to act more responsibly. And ultimately the people themselves have the ability to generate the needed political will. Throughout Latin America, for example, people have organized themselves, invaded land, and pressured governments to act for many years. In the Philippines, some 100,000 CBOs and NGOs are working toward the improvement of housing and living conditions in the slums.

"A popular-based approach, involving all relevant factors, most importantly the people themselves, is the basis of the solution," says Scott Leckie. "More and more people are beginning to realize that, and more and more people are becoming involved in these types of movements. In conjunction with greater recognition of housing as a human rights issue, more and more human rights and legal groups have become involved as well. Those two forces together are pushing things in a good direction."

Adequate housing for all is one of Maitreya's top priorities. On paper, it is also one of humanity's priorities. "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health & well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing & medical care, and necessary social services ..."

These words, from Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were written 50 years ago. Yet, as we approach the end of the 20 century, at least one out of five members of the human family doesn't 'have a proper home to live in.' Monte Leach analyses the situation of homelessness worldwide. In future issues of Share International, correspondents from various nations will look into the situation in their area.

One could go on the Web and read various articles about Homelessness Globally to get a sense of what I am attempting to do by composing this Hub. I thought I should just compile some of the other Global Ghetto Slums I have not included in tis Hub, below.

Slums In India

The operators of Jakarta Hidden Tours call their venture “a new idea in the world to help poor people.”

The operators of Jakarta Hidden Tours call their venture “a new idea in the world to help poor people.”

The slums In Kenya


Sudanese Slums

The United Nation's top official for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief recently toured South Sudan where she spoke about the country's deepening crisis. “People need peace, stability and security,” she said in a plea to those involved in the

The United Nation's top official for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief recently toured South Sudan where she spoke about the country's deepening crisis. “People need peace, stability and security,” she said in a plea to those involved in the

Slums Globally: A Photo Review

Jakarta Slums in the developing world are the most likely possible breeding ground for a pandemic

Jakarta Slums in the developing world are the most likely possible breeding ground for a pandemic

Coda: In Haiti - in Port-au-Prince twice in 2009…. Even then, before the earthquake, Port-au-Prince was an unbelievable mess.  Practically no infrastructure worth talking about.  In many (most?) parts of the city, there was no electricity.  So as nig

Coda: In Haiti - in Port-au-Prince twice in 2009…. Even then, before the earthquake, Port-au-Prince was an unbelievable mess. Practically no infrastructure worth talking about. In many (most?) parts of the city, there was no electricity. So as nig

Rio Slums: Picturesque landscapes and breathtaking sights hide a brutal urban battleground and one of the highest crime rates of any metropolitan area in the world. With one-fifth of its population living in slums, and most of the economic activity i

Rio Slums: Picturesque landscapes and breathtaking sights hide a brutal urban battleground and one of the highest crime rates of any metropolitan area in the world. With one-fifth of its population living in slums, and most of the economic activity i

Lagos, Nigeria's Oto-Ilogbo Extension slum. LAGOS, Nigeria -- Along the eastern outskirts of the Lagos mainland neighborhood of Ebute-Metta, an unassuming road hidden between two rows of warehouses winds past dilapidated red-and-yellow buildings dark

Lagos, Nigeria's Oto-Ilogbo Extension slum. LAGOS, Nigeria -- Along the eastern outskirts of the Lagos mainland neighborhood of Ebute-Metta, an unassuming road hidden between two rows of warehouses winds past dilapidated red-and-yellow buildings dark


ixwa (author) on September 12, 2014:

Whire: Thanks for checking out the Hub above.. All what you say its true, except that it is not a joke. Living the poor part is the hardest, and the slums here in South Africa are worse, perched next to the opulence and affluence that they(the poor) have in their head and dreamss.. True, the rich do not care, and you're spot on with the fact that money comes first. The poor cling to the hope that they too one day will cash-in on the Lotto, Tender, or some manna coming from heaven. Meanwhile, they fight less for the injustices they cope up with, and the decrepit horrid conditions that are part of their day-to-day realities... It's sad that towards the end of 2014, these conditions have marinated globally and going down for the worst... Thanks for the comment and you're welcome...

whire on September 10, 2014:

The slums can be fixed by the rich too bad they don't care. Money is more important than people. The rich need to get richer. What a joke

Marie Myers from Berwick, PA on February 01, 2013:

I did not mean any insult was just making a statement :)

ixwa (author) on January 22, 2013:

Scent: Thanks for visiting the Hub above, and thanks for your feedback. I taught many in Camden, firstly, and the Hub above is about Ghettoes around the world. As you might dispute one aspect of a larger issue, I think you omitted the broader theme of the Hub above. I am aware what is taking place in Camden and other Ghettoes around the world; also, even if you are from Philly and Camden, this does not take much away from the Hub, and It will be impossible for one to write about World Ghettoes, and focus all their discourse on "All" the Ghettoes in the American States. I think the major thrust of this Hub is clearly stated in its Topic: "The world is a Ghetto: Global Slums-Out Of sight, and Out of Mind: Deterioration of the Human Condition". So that, the Hub not only pin-points some of the Ghettoes/Slums around the world, it also goes on to discuss what I meant by the 'deterioration of the human condition'. That is the common theme that runs the gamut of all the Ghettoes around the World. I would refer you to read a book written by Jonathan Kozol: "Savage Inequalities: Children In America's Schools". Kozol devotes the whole of Chapter 4 to Camden which he called "Children Of The City Invincible: Camden, New Jersey". I think you should also check out this book and it might elucidate and educe some points some of us are not cognizant of. Your statement that states that "Not all of Camden is that photo.." well, I could have put multiple photos of various areas of Camden, if I wished to, and you confirm, precisely, what I know and have read about Camden, and the Hub is on point. This, I reiterate, is a Hub about Global Slums, and the deterioration of the Human condition within them-not only about the Ghettoes found in the States of America, "only" - I hope you read the whole thing,.. Kozol does this beautifully.. Thanks

Marie Myers from Berwick, PA on January 22, 2013:

every state has a ghetto... your photo of Camden, NJ is only of the worse area of Camden. Not all of Camden is as that photo. In fact, the most parts of Camden are in progression. I am from Philadelphia and Camden

ixwa (author) on October 28, 2012:

Mr. Farrago: Thanks for viewing the Hub above. I do not think anyone own these ghettoes in-as-much as they are the places where people live and finnish or end their lives there. These are the hovels where the poor are relegated, and in some cases they founded the ramshackle shacks themselves to be nearer the big and thriving cities. It society's castaways and they do not own these hovels of their abode, and nobody wants them in any part of the Metropoles they mushroom around, all over the world, and the articles shows and discusses that. Thanks!

Mr Farrago on October 28, 2012:

who owns these ghettos.....

ixwa (author) on July 17, 2011:

WesternHistory: Welcome to the Hub above and I would also like to welcome you to HubPages and hope you'll find your niche in it as we are all struggling to do. I am very grateful to the comments you have posted above, and it is true, many people are still not aware how widespread and worldwide; also, what the Ghettoization of the poor is like and what that really means. I am also encouraged by your observation of the information laid in within the article. Thank you for the response, and it makes it much better for me to know that there are people in the world who see some of things I see in more or less the same way. Welcome again and thank you very much for the posted and kind comments. Thanks!

WesternHistory from California on July 17, 2011:

Very interesting article with good information. People probably don't realize how widespread this problem is.

ixwa (author) on September 07, 2010:

Pamela Kinnaird W: Welcome to the article above. I am grateul for your advise on how to get pictures within the article. I will follow your tip and in most of my upcoming articles., I will attempt to utilize the technique of inserting pics within the body of my work. I am also glad that you read the article and will come back to it. I am looking forward to your feed back next time, and if you find time to read my article, please do so and will appreciate it. I have noticed I have a slow traffic, well, I only hope the relevance and longevity of the quality of the hubs will make me have them in perpetuity without them loosing their allure. I also hope the research I have done on this article attracts your attention too. Thank you very much for the read and the comment on the hub above.

Pamela Dapples from Arizona. on September 07, 2010:

This is an amazing hub that you have written. I am going to go over it again this week when not rushing out to work. I think the reason you are not getting the high numbers of readers that you really should be -- is because you need to break up the text with the photos. I just recently learned how to do that myself. If you put the question into the forum, as to how to do it, you will receive lots of help with it -- or go to the learning center below in small print and see if the instructions are there.

You have done such good research on this and it is heartbreaking information. We all need to be more aware of these facts. Thank you.

ixwa (author) on March 11, 2010:

adrienne2: Welcome to the Hub and very pleased you have read it and made some very nice and cool comments. I appreciate your observations that it is the very developed countries who have some of the most downgraded slums. I had always thought that the measure and greatness of any civilization is based on how it treats it least fortunate denizens. Nonetheless, the Hub above demonstrates that this has not yet been the case in the past four to five centuries. It is important that we become aware of the state of the earth's nations and the slums and people they have created, maybe someday there will be consensus on how to rid mankind of this types of debilitating life-styles that humans are subjected to. Thank you again.

ixwa (author) on March 11, 2010:

Dynamics: Although late in replying you, thanks nonetheless and I concur that this should be a lesson to developed countries. My, is it not sad it is the very developed countries that mostly have been talked about in the hub above? Anyway, I appreciate your comments and thanks, again.

Fierce Manson from Atlanta on March 11, 2010:

Oh my goodness is this for real?? I can't barely believe it. It is a tradegy to see people actually living that way.

I know ghettos exist, but this article certainly puts the spotlight on ghettos, so sad to see people living in slums.

Sandria Green-Stewart from Toronto, Canada on November 07, 2009:

ixwa, wow! slum is really our dirty shame. Its appalling that in the largest developed countries of the world, urban decay and slum coexist with affluence. In Toronto, Regent Park is being revalized. The community has been redeveloped to include people of different income levels. Maybe that should be a lesson to other developed countries.

Thanks for shedding some light on a part of our humanity that many would rather bury their head in the sand than acknowledge.

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