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South Africa: Ten Years of Democracy

Housing Battles in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Martin LEGASSICK, 20 January 2004

Mandela Park is situated in Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s largest township, some 26 kms from the city center. It was established by the Botha government from 1983 with the initial intention of housing all Africans in the area. This of course proved impossible: Crossroads, KTC etc as well as the established townships of Gugulethu, Nyanga, Langa remained. Instead the repeal of the pass laws in 1986 resulted in the mushrooming of Khayelitsha, partly from other parts of Cape Town, but mainly from new immigrants from the Eastern Cape. The township grew to perhaps 300,000 by 1990 and to 500,000 and more during the 1990s - and is possibly the second (after Soweto) or third (after Mdantsane) largest in the country. Mandela Park was established within Khayelitsha in the late 1980s, by the banks, who bought the land and started building housing on it in 1986 - one of the few areas in the country where Africans bought housing through bank bonds.

Not only is Mandela Park named after our former President. Every street in the community is named after a struggler for liberation in the ANC tradition - James Calata, Albertina Sisulu, Wilton Mkwayi, Robert McBride, Jenny Schreiner, Peter Mokaba, Bram Fisher, Winnie Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Thandi Modise, etc. etc. This reflects the fact that those who moved into the new houses in Mandela Park were overwhelmingly ANC supporters and activists. An ANC branch and Youth League, as well as SANCO, flourished at the start of the 1990s.

A recent survey by PLAAS at the University of the Western Cape found that half of all households in Khayelitsha had an income of less than R167 a household member and the bottom third had a monthly income of R39 a person.1 Mandela Park residents, living in houses and not in shacks, are not "the poorest of the poor" in Khayelitsha. But they have suffered seriously from the consequences of GEAR. Many of the production line workers who could at the start of the 1990s hope to afford to buy a house have since been retrenched. There is substantial unemployment in the area as well as in the whole of Khayelitsha.

Today most residents of Mandela Park are deeply disillusioned with the ANC and SANCO. They feel they have been deserted by those in whom they put their trust. The underlying reason for this is that government has been unable to resolve their housing problem with the banks, and when they have taken action about this, they have not been listened to or discussed with, but arrested and charged. Hundreds have thus been criminalized by ’their’ government. It is indeed sad and ironic to witness, outside the court in Khayelitsha, more than a hundred women singing the old anti-apartheid song "Senzeni na - what have we done?"- and asking that of their ANC government. In addition, several members of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, a community-based social movement that speaks for the residents of the area, are presently under apartheid-style bail conditions - having to be in their homes from 6pm to 6am, and forbidden from attending political meetings.

The banks own the land on which housing is built in Mandela Park - as well as the vacant land in the area. This has meant that there has been no absolutely no development - no new schools or clinics built for example.

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