Constitutional Hill

Sanity and humanity prevails – for now

When the Constitutional Court granted an order in June, allowing the government to remove the residents of Joe Slovo outside the city of Cape Town to Delft 20 km away, some of us wondered quietly whether the government had not perhaps been as untruthful to the court as it had previously been untruthful to the residents of Joe Slovo.

The government had told Joe Slovo residents that they would be moved “for their own good” so that houses could be built for them as part of the N2 Gateway Project, but after the completion of phase 1 of the Project it transpired that few of those removed from Joe Slovo would be able to afford the rent of the new units. Those residents who were gullible enough to believe the government and agreed to move to Delft during phase 1 are mostly still languishing in Delft while others (with political connections?) have moved in to “their” homes at Joe Slovo.

The court was told that the 15000 individuals who had remained in Joe Slovo after phase 1 could be moved to Delft during phase 2 of the project to allow for an “upgrade” of the rest of Joe Slovo and that 70% of the new houses to be built at the site of Joe Slovo (which would not number fewer than 1 500) would be allocated to the residents who had been removed from Joe Slovo.

The eviction order was granted on condition that temporary accommodation – meeting certain basic standards – were provided in Delft  and that 70% of the new houses were allocated to Joe Slovo residents. These conditions considerably softened the heartless order made by the Cape High Court, while still endorsing a mad, farcically bureaucratic, scheme reminiscent of the apartheid era forced removals.

As part of the Constitutional Court judgment the government was ordered to build a new temporary relocation area in Delft, where people would have access to water and electricity. The government was also instructed to set up meetings with residents, who had complained of being ignored, and report back regularly to the Constitutional Court. But as the Sowetan reported recently, on August 24 the Constitutional Court quietly issued a new order suspending the evictions “until further notice”. Maybe sanity will prevail in this matter after all.

The order was suspended after Western Cape MEC for housing Bonginkosi Madikizela – from the DA nogal -submitted a report to the court saying he had “grave concerns” that the “massive relocation” might end up costing more than it would to upgrade Joe Slovo (trust the DA to worry about money first). Madikizela also said the Constitutional Court had not made any plans for people who would be left behind in the temporary relocation area after Joe Slovo had been upgraded because under the N2 Gateway Housing Project there would not be enough new houses to accommodate all the original Joe Slovo residents.

He was also concerned that erecting a new temporary relocation area for Joe Slovo residents could be legally challenged by people who were further up on the waiting list. As The Sowetan reports, Joe Slovo task team leader Mzwanele Zulu described the court order suspending the eviction as “a blessing”. “We were not happy at all about going to Delft. We have plans for Joe Slovo and we just needed this opportunity to talk to the government about development in our community,” Zulu said.

A report commissioned by the MEC will now be delivered to the Constitutional Court by the end of this month after which the Constitutional Court will decide the way forward.

Surely the government will now rethink this mad idea to forcibly remove 15 000 people – some who have lived at Joe Slovo for 15 years – to a dump 20 km away? We all know the N2 Gateway Project was conceived in haste, part of a vanity project dreamed up by heartless officials and politicians. The Project failed to adhere to the very principles set out in the government’s Breaking New Ground policy which requires in situ upgrades of informal settlements where this is at all feasible.

Maybe FIFA officials (who already vetoed the building of the Cape Town stadium in Athlone because the TV pictures of such an opulent stadium in the midst of poverty was not acceptable to them) and the Mbeki cabinet did not like the sight of all those shacks on the road from the airport into the city of Cape Town? It can’t be good for one’s conscience (if any) to drive past such poverty in a R1.3 million car.

Surely this whole idea was madness from the start? Why can’t the people actually LIVING in Joe Slovo be asked what THEY want for their area? Why should government Ministers, rushing past Joe Slovo to the airport in R1.3 million cars, decide FOR people how they wish to deal with the problems of Joe Slovo? Why can’t the residents be asked to help work out a plan to upgrade the Joe Slovo settlement while most of them remain where they are?

Clearly conditions at Joe Slovo are not ideal. Something must be done to improve these conditions in line with section 26 of the Constitution. But moving people 20 km away to little apartheid-style houses that look like cardboard boxes, requiring them to suddenly pay far more for transport to go to or seek jobs, without even asking them what THEY might want, smacks of the kind of bureaucratic arrogance for which the apartheid government was rightly condemned.

Ironically it took a new administration under Jacob Zuma and a provincial government under the white-led DA, to ask questions about the sanity and humanity of this harebrained and heartless scheme. Let us hope they do not lose their nerve and that they will, once and for all, put a stop to the idea of forcibly moving 15 000 people – District 9-like – to far-off Delft.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    It seems that government’s conduct was decidedly dubious for a number of reasons. Three such reasons were (a) its apparent dishonesty (b), its failure to consult meaningfully with the residents and (c), its resort to pursuing its eviction suit on the basis of urgency which heavily suggests that it undertook an exercise in cold-hearted expediency.

    As to the governmental conduct in question: our government has done worse. And at least its model of dispassionate determination of the course of least resistance demonstrates loyalty to form – although regrettably, it also discloses a distressing betrayal of its Breaking New Ground Policy.

    No the real problem here is the Constitutional Court. Now I hate math. So anyone who feels the same way can expect a generous helping of sympathy from me. But for the love of God: someone may need to offer the Honourable Justices of the Court a crash course of sorts – in addition to some sort of sensitivity training given that they really should know that producing a kinder ruling than a special someone who just returned to work is not saying very much at all in the broader scheme of things. Yes providing for 70 percent of the Joe Slove residents leaves the remaining 30 holding little beyond bitterness and dejection in their hands.

    So leaving aside the order suspending the eviction for the time being, can we safely conclude that our generally noble apex court effectively condoned a fairly callous species of governmental expediency when it made its first order in respect of the Joe Slovo eviction suit? Maybe so.

  • http://www.heyns.co.za Mzo

    Leigh & Prof

    I’m always caught in the middle when it comes to the Joe Slovo issue. On the one hand I understand the reasons why people would not want to move to Delft.However, I have not really been able to hear a solution to the crippling problem of plight of the Joe Slovo settlement as it stands at the moment. Every now and then, I see the shacks being destroyed by fire and family lives being disturbed. In the rainy seasons, the situation does not get any better.

    On the other hand I also understand the governments arguments that for the area to be improved (as everyoen has to agree it should) they need to move the people somewhere else so that the development can take place. The continued emergency assistance after every fire and floods is also wasting government resources.

    There is of course the issue of how the government has gone about the whole process and how honest they’ve been with the people etc etc. I just have a few questions for you Prof (and you Leigh, if you are so inclined):

    (1) Am I capturing your views correctly, that you are IN PRINCIPLE against the Joe Slovo residents being moved to “that far away place”, Delft?

    (2) If this is not your objection, what exactly is your problem with these people being moved if doing so will ensure that, in the end, they can leave in decent housed (well, at least some or most of them);

    (3) What do you propose as the solution to the Joe Slovo issue?

  • mphahlele

    We indeed inherited a lot of problems from the previous dispensation. Lets hope the Zuma administration does resolve the housing issue with the limited budget they have.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Mzo, you seem to me to understand two perspectives here. And your explanation of those two perspectives seems to run as follows: the first is that the Joe Slove residents do not want to be reloctated and their reluctance in that regard is understandable. The second is that government wants to upgrade Joe Slovo and thus understandably wants to relocate the residents as doing so is necessary to the task.

    I completely agree with you as to the first perspective: the reluctance of the residents to relocate is plainly understandable. Disruption coupled with ill treatment and uncertainty would anger most people no doubt.

    But perhaps I could respectfully offer you my views as to the second of your two perspectives.

    The government may well have fallen foul of the Breaking New Ground policy which, according to the Professor’s very able exposition thereof, contemplates that residents of informal settlements should only be relocated if it is not feasible that they remain on site during the course of construction.

    As far as I am aware, the government placed no facts before the Constitutional Court to the effect that upgrading would not be feasible unless the residents were relocated. Thus it seems we can conclude that it may well be the case that the task could give itself to completion without the relocation of the residents. And to complete the foregoing admittedly bleak picture, it seems that the Court, given its apparent failure to press government for proof that it complied with the relevant policy, may have effectively condoned government’s departure from it.

    I turn now to the specific questions which you posed at the tail end of your post.

    As to the first of those questions: I am against the residents being relocated in the absence of proof to the effect that upgrading the site would not be feasible otherwise.

    As to the second question: my chief gripe here is that on its initial order, the Constitutional Court effectively condoned 30 percent of the residents being (a) pretty much lied to and (b), deprived of their homes to boot.

    As regards the third query: I cannot really proffer a solution – let alone the equitable solution for which I would hope – given that apparently much like their Lords and Ladyships at the Court, I do not have all of the material facts.

  • Pierre De Vos

    Mzo, thanks for posing the pertinent questions. My answers qould be:

    (1) In principle (as a matter of ethics and law) I am against the state moving large, settled communities to spots far away from work opportunities as this would destroy the social cohesion of that community and would reinforce the apartheid living patterns. During apartheid poor (black) people were often forced to live far away from city centres, thus requiring them to fork out exhorbitant amounts for transport and ensuring that they live far away from middle class (mostly white) suburbs.

    (2) I am not against the state upgrading informal settlements in consultation with the residents and as an absolute last resort to move at least some members of those communities to appropriate alternative accommodation (as close as possible to where they were living) on a temporary basis to do so on the condition that those moved would benefit in the long term. This is not what has happened in phase 1 of Joe Slovo and as a matter of simple arithmetic it is clear that if the Joe Slovo residents are moved many of them would have to stay where they were moved to while only some would benefit from the upgrade (even if one believes that in phase 2, the government will not pull the same trick as in phase 1 and impose rents far above the means of most of the original inhabitants).

    (3) The government’s OWN policy states that in situ upgrading must always be preferred, so the best solution is for the upgrading of the settlement without removal of the vast majority of the residents. This must happen in consultation with the residents who must have a say in the matter. Just because they are poor and black does not mean they do not have preferences and ideas of how this can be done without destroying the community. For Joe Slovo this would mean that some residents whose houses were built on land needed to provide roads etc, might have to be moved, but surely not to Delft but to somewhere close by. Such a plan agreed to between the government and the community may take longer to implement but it would take seriously the needs and the desires of those the government says it wishes to assist. Their human dignity would be respected – something lacking with the present plan.

  • Sne

    mphahlele says:
    September 8, 2009 at 13:16 pm
    ……………………………………………

    Indeed, but in criticising the previous government (Mbeki govt.) we should also not be unmindful of its achievements.

    Chief among Mbeki’s major flaws, in my view, is his failure to seek a credible second opinion and to regard his views as infallible. Wish Samaita could have explained to him that his views were not final because they were infallible but they were infallible because they were final!

  • http://www.heyns.co.za Mzo

    Thank you Leigh & Prof

    The biggest gripe I have is the apparent failure to consult with the members of the community – this is one thing I definitely agree on with Prof.

    Prof you say: “but surely not to Delft but to somewhere close by”. Being fairly familiar with Langa Township (those not so familiar will excuse me), I am not exactly sure if there is indeed a place “close by” where these people could have been moved to – even if it was just some of them and not all. In any case, “close by” to what/where? It may indeed be that some of these people work in areas like Bellville which would make them closer to work than Joe Slovo.

    I would have preferred a Court Order to the effect that:

    (1) The government being ordered to consult with the community over a period (say, 6 months) to establish, inter alia, (a) if the community has any solutions to the problem; (b) if the development can proceed without the need to relocate at least some of the residents; the personal circumstances of each of the people who ultimately have to be relocated (e.g. where they work etc)

    (2) The relocation to be a temporal measure for a stipulated period of time (perhaps 3 years – with Court reserving right to extend period on application);

    (3) Whilst people are in Delft, assistance be given to them in the form of transport etc at no/subsidised costs.

    I am of the view that an Order along these lines would have gone a long way in securing both sides’ interests.

  • mphahlele

    @ Sne

    I was actually reffering to the egregious apartheid regime.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Mzo, I agree with both you and the Professor inasmuch as the absence of meaningful consultation with the residents is disquieting.

    I think that one can draw two fairly reasonable inferences from government’s failure to meaningfully and earnestly consult with the residents. In the first place, I think one can deduce that goverment was unsympathetic towards the members of the community. And a few facts seem to cast that inference in a fairly convincing light. We need only look at (i) the location of the project (ii) the imminent world cup and (iii) government’s haste at the outset in launching the eviction suit to conclude that government sought the easiest means to accomplish an object and bore little in the way of concern for mitigating the disruption which the residents stood to sustain.

    The second inference is that it seems one can deduce that government adopted a rather paternalistic attitude. And in my view, it ought not to have done so. That is, I completely agree with the Professor that the views and actual wants of the residents are unquestionably relevant here.

  • Mpho

    My initial response to the actions of the Provincial MEC is that suspending the evictions creates a situation where the Provincial Housing Department are off the hook as far as proceeding with building houses for any of the Housing Waiting List in the Joe Slovo area. Zille’s municipality did not build any houses for the poor. Now, is Zille’s Province not going to buld them either?

    I am sympathetic to the Joe Slovo residents and know that in situ upgrades are being TALKED ABOUT in Cape Town. But I’ve read no reports that they are actually taking place. Can anyone provide some proof that they are?

  • Moss

    @Mpho – I think you’ll find that “Zille’s municipality” built many more houses for the poor than when the ANC was in charge, but that’s by the by. Like the Prof, you are clearly unable to state anything that may be interpreted as critical of the ANC without getting in a dig against the DA, which is a bit sad really since they were purposefully excluded from any involvement in Gateway by the national government. It says more about your own baggage than anything else, which is why I think it’s sad.

    But moving on … there is a fundamental problem with upgrading squatter camps that few are prepared to acknowledge. That is that it is seldom possible to pack as many people into formal housing as there were in the shackland it replaces, and certainly not possible without removing the people for an extended period.

    The only way it can be done is by going up several stories (six to eight), which is not appropriate in most areas. The apartheid government hit the same obstacle and ended up building those dreadful multistorey blocks that you see in parts of Mitchell’s Plain, covered in gangland graffiti and clothes lines.

    While I absolutely agree that communities must be properly consulted, the bottom line is that if they refuse to be relocated, even temporarily, they are probably condemning themselves to perpetual slum conditions, albeit “upgraded” slum conditions.

    There are no easy decisions here; all have downsides. And yes, Prof, cost is a factor that can’t be wished away.

  • The Big Slipper

    Hmmm, Moss raises another issue that is a bit of a tricky one, for me at any rate, namely, you can’t have your cake and eat it, as my mother used to scold me.

    Let us presume that in this instance an in situ scenario is not entirely possible. Where does personal responsibility come into the equation – if you’re not prepared to experience some discomfort (yes, I use the word loosely) then do your expectations not become unreasonable?

    That being said, the Gateway project was a nightmare from the start, and another lurking monster so nicely bequeathed to us by the ANC of the past. Although, if the DA-led provincial government and the ANC-led national government can find a solution to this together, in conjunction with the people who are effected, I would find that a small silver lining in this big dark cloud. Lets hope for everybody’s sake this works out somehow.

  • koos

    The Big Slipper says:
    September 8, 2009 at 18:28 pm

    “That being said, the Gateway project was a nightmare from the start, and another lurking monster so nicely bequeathed to us by the ANC of the past. Although, if the DA-led provincial government and the ANC-led national government can find a solution to this together, in conjunction with the people who are effected, I would find that a small silver lining in this big dark cloud. Lets hope for everybody’s sake this works out somehow.”
    Nou begin ons debateer op ‘n wyse waar redelikheid vooropgestel word.

  • Pingback: Sanity and humanity prevails – for now « Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    I categorically reject the racist implication that Zille’s sexist government should be given credit for anything.

    Also, why has no-one made scornful mention of the fact that Zille has used Botox?

    Hardly irrelevant, I would say.

  • Leigh

    Mikhail, Botox is really just invasive make up. Basic point: don’t be running a woman down for embracing it. Or do you have some sort of grievance with eyeliner and lipstick too?

  • Justice

    Mikhail

    2.5 questions:
    Why do you regard it as racist if Zille’s sexist government gets any credit?

    Why do you highlight Zille using Botox and not Mugabe undergoing the same procedure? And why is it relevant?

  • Michael Osborne

    Much as I decry the arbitrariness of much of housing policy, I have a certain sympathy with govt on Joe Slovo and similar issues.

    Having lived in New York City for a while, I am painfully familiar with the consequence of imposing legal requirements of rigorous consultation with all affected communities in any large capital project.

    It is this: Nothing Ever Gets Done.

    Anyone who has been to NYC will know that there are two ways of getting from JFK to midtown (a) Cab ($45) or (b); the A Train ($2 but it takes forever.)

    Why is that? Because plans to build a rapid transit system have been stymied over many years by the fact that every one of the many communities and interest groups across Queens must under law be consulted and re-consulted before any elevated tracks can be built. And of course, the endless appeals from every administrative decision.

    NYC can perhaps afford this kind of legal gridlock. I do not think South Africa can.

  • http://www.theforumsa.co.za Dave A

    Interesting problem that’s surely not confined to Joe Slovo. How do we solve the housing quality problem found in informal settlements without taking this temporary displacement step?

    I see the problem as even bigger than that. As pointed out in earlier comments, our spacial distribution of residential areas and areas of work/economic activity is ridiculous. Definitely an inherited legacy of the apartheid era, I’m afraid. But pointing fingers isn’t going to solve it.

    To my mind the issue of residential development has to become integrated with economic opportunity development. It’s why many of the informal settlements sprang up in their current locations in the first place. People moved there, and took the sacrifices that went with it, to get closer to work opportunities.

    If we’re going to move people, let’s not make it temporary (just shuffling the problem) or even “just” be moving them to better homes. Let’s move them to improved economic circumstance too.

    There was that wonderful notion that every upmarket golf estate development must have an element of low cost housing incorporated. Perhaps the answer is every housing project must have an economic opportunity/activity area incorporated. Perhaps not at an individual development level, but at least in the macro plan of town/city planning.

    As a very occasional visitor to Capetown, I’m not familiar with the areas involved. But I can’t help thinking of the area around Blouberg. The change in this area over the past twenty years or more is incredible. I recall massive expanses of open bush with a thin ribbon of development along the coast. Look at it now.

    If Delft has the space, maybe the funds earmarked for the Gateway Project needs to be shifted there, with a plan that includes economic development of the area to make relocation more attractive – perhaps even voluntary.

    Perhaps we need to come back to Joe Slovo and the Gateway project later.

  • Samantha

    @ Michael Osborne,

    Unfortunately, the government launched Batho Pele (a policy and legislative framework around service delivery) which consists of 8 principles. The first principle is CONSULTATION. Funnily enough, the eighth principle is accountability… go figure. This was their initiative and they should, therefore comply with it.

    However, being involved in politics and community work in the town in which I live, I appreciate the nightmare that consultation involves. For anything to be accomplished, it requires meetings with numerous stakeholders, many of whom do not even attend the meetings, and attempting to get buy-in from the community. Every process takes far longer than it should.

    We recently received an impact assessment document regarding a new phase of low-cost housing to be built in our town. It appears from the proposed spatial layout that very little thought was given to the people who would actually be living in the houses. Of the 500-odd sites demarcated for development, one plot was allocated as a business site. The vast majority of the people who will be living in these houses do not have transport and given how small our town is, there is no public transport. However, in the entire area, there are only 3 business sites, which means that, not only do the residents have to travel into town (about a 5km walk) to purchase groceries, electricity, clothing etc. but they are also prohibited from starting their own businesses within their community. To add insult to injury, the only recreation area demarcated is alongside the sewage works.

    The government employ consultants, at immense cost, to design and develop these housing plans. Is this the best they can do for the people?

    For the record, the DA-led coalition government for the City of Cape Town built twice as many houses in one year of office than the ANC-led government did.

  • Leigh

    I would somewhat grudgingly concede that protracted consultations due to legal requirements for consultation could effectively preclude progress. In other words, govermental endeavours can be frustrated by lengthy talks.

    But I do wonder whether the proper course for investigation after determining this problem is to consider whether any approaches allow for both (a) eliciting input from affected parties and (b) the desirability of actually making headway.

    I would tentatively suggest a line of thought that could eventually disclose a solution: one could at once (i) fix the time frame for consultation (but with the possibility of extending it on sufficient cause shown) so as to render it easier for government to make headway and (ii), still employ various measures to safeguard the interests of affected parties.

    Perhaps the solution could contemplate three features to ensure that government did not either weasel out of earnestly consulting or fail to consult at all. First, the relevant body could be obliged to maintain effective channels of communications between government and the affected parties. Secondly, government may owe some sort of duty to (a) take reasonable steps to identify interested parties and (b) initiate consultation with them. Thirdly, the pertinent body could develop a suitable definition of ‘consultation’ which could effectively rule out the possibility of token talks.

    Let me stress that I venture only suggestions here. Actually, some of the foregoing features already appear problematic. The basic point, however, is that I mean to suggest that one way forward is to try to balance competing interests. And those interests are the desirability of sincere consultation with affected parties on the one hand, and the appeal of removing certain shackles so as to enable government to realise its objects on the other.

    But the foregoing notwithstanding, I think the Joe Slovo bit is mostly a sad and disgraceful affair – and that both government and the Court stuffed up.

  • Samantha

    @ Leigh,

    Your suggestions are extremely valid, and are, in fact, all in place. Deadlines are provided, stakeholders are identified and talks are initiated.

    However, at a grass-roots level (i.e. local government level) there are two main problems, which I will identify making reference to what I experience daily in our town, as that is my frame of reference.

    From the government’s side, our town has two Councilors who represent our ward on the municipality. All communication is supposed to be directed from the municipality (and higher up the chain) via the Councilors to the ward committee or directly to the community. This seldom happens. The impact assessment to which I referred earlier was open to all stakeholders for comment with a deadline by which submissions could be made. I was provided with a copy only because I was approached by some concerned residents who requested that I make a submission on their behalf. I chair various committees in our town and am, therefore, a stakeholder in several capacities. I was never forwarded the document. Only two submissions were made on this plan. The one I drafted for the concerned residents and one I drafted on behalf of my organisation. It appears that no other stakeholders have even seen this document.

    On the flip side, I have had cause on several occasions to call all stakeholders to a meeting to form a committee around various issues in our town. We have approximately 45 stakeholders listed (of which 24 are churches). At one meeting, 2 stakeholders sent representatives and at another, we had 8 represented. There is a general apathy that exists in our community. It is easier to complain than to actually effect change.

    To add one more dimension to the problem, everything is politicised and everyone is out to score political points. This further complicates all consultation processes immensely, especially following the elections as parties are attempting to match the promises they made to their electorate in the lead-up to the elections.

    There are no easy answers to these problems, but I do feel that part of the problem with our government, at all levels, is lack of transparency and accountability. Our councilors are a prime example of this as they do not report back to council on issues in our town, do not report back to the community and when confronted about things they have not done, profess to know nothing about it.

  • Charlotte A

    I think we should be careful not to make this a simple case of The Good v The Bad. According to the CC, the Joe Slovo residents themselves were initially enthusiastic about the N2 gateway Project. It iwas only in the second half of 2006 that the tide turned because of the ‘broken promises’ re the high rentals and no guarantee on return to Joe Slovo in phases 1 and 2 of the project. To make this out as a case of a ‘bad government’ forcibly removing people is stretching it too much. In phase 1 the residents moved voluntarily. In situ upgrading was not possible – so it was argued (even the residents agreed in a later letter to the CC) and Moseneke and Sachs and others held that it was not so unreasonable as to justify the court substituting its judgement for the government’s decision.

    Indeed, the Government could have done better and should have engaged more meaningfully with the residents. However, the government has (or is supposed to) balance the public interest with the individual (or community) interests. E.g. one of the complaints of the Joe Slovo community was that 30% of the houses would be allocated to ‘backyard dwellers’ from Langa. Whatever the outcome of the case would be some injustice would be done

    Now, the latest news is not sanity – but economics prevails: the relocation and upgrading is probably too expensive. What if nothing happens further – will the present state of affairs in Joe Slovo – makeshift buildings in appaling conditions – fires etc continue?

    PS And isn’t Delft 15 km away and not a ‘far away’ 20 km?

  • Henri

    [Sorry for deviating from the topic..., but:]
    I’ve seen the most wonderful thing this morning driving to chambers past the @#$%^&*SARS offices.
    Striking SARS workers! Wuuuundeeerful.
    And.
    They were such young malemas toy-toying in red SACP T-shirts.
    Wuuunderful.
    That department must definitely get fully, thoroughly, roundly and completely transformed.
    Like Home Affairs.
    Then we members of the oppressed minority will have a better life. More spending money.

  • Samantha

    Well, it appears that everyone’s second favourite crooked legal expert has now, once again, landed with his bum in the butter. I just hope they checked his CV and references this time to avoid all those unpleasant “we didn’t know” press releases in the future…

    http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71654?oid=142623&sn=Detail

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Samantha, thank you for expressing your views here. Your experience in politics has the very desirable effect of grounding our discussions in fact as opposed to mere rumination.

    You seem to make out the followinh problems at local government level in your town: that officials are not held accountable for failure to discharge their function to serve as channels of communication between stakeholders and decision makers. Further, that the stakeholers are quite apathetic insofar as they fail to organise or support attempts to do so. And in addition, people tend to see to their own interests by scoring political points through venturing unrealistic promises upon which they predictably struggle to deliver.

    None the above problems give themselves to straightforward solutions. Actually, one of the underlying causes of the problems appears to be the human element which is notoriously difficult to resolve: people become discouraged, ambitious people over step the bounds of responsible campaigning to get what they want, people could care less about an electorate that lack the means to press for accountability.

    I think that the electorate’s tendency to apathy is rather a consequence of a lack of accountability, transparency and also the sense that the decision makers do not actually listen. So I think that a solution – the content of which I think ought to be determined by way of some or other sort of incremental process – could involve the determination of alternative but lawful means to hold officials accountable.

    Let me unpack this fairly tentative solution further with an example: it is markedly clear that at least one judge in the Holphe matter is lying. A complete win to my mind would be the impeachment of whichever judge or judges dared to lie so publically and shamelessly. But failing that, I think that exposing the scoundrel (even if impeachment does not ultimately ensue) would be preferable to the suppression of the affair which the JSC sought to engineer. Exposure in such an instance amounts to something of an impefect species of accountability.

    Perhaps stakeholders may look at lawful species of accountability which, quite regrettably, fall shy of the ideal.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Moss, you raised some unpleasant points which unfortunately appear to be unavoidable realities.

    I would just say that while relocation may be necessary on one set of facts, we surely cannot assume as much. Given the content of the Breaking New Ground policy, it seems quite clear that it will have to be established that relocation is imperative in the light of the prevailing circumstances.

    I will also thank you for one specific point which you made: formal housing cannot accomodate the numbers that squatter camps can unless one opts for building upwards. I would like to ask though: could a fairly well-conceived plan to build multistorey apartment blocks not serve as a decent enough solutions? Could one not identify the principal draw backs of multistorey blocks and try to meet them?

  • Samantha

    Leigh, you have once again managed to put my views together in a far more succinct and cohesive manner than that which I have done. Thank you.

    I agree with your solution and have just returned from a meeting with members of our community wherein we agreed that we need to take back some of our own power from our municipality and begin to manage ourselves.

    This has two very positive effects:

    In the first instance, by self-governing in certain issues, the people begin to accept some level of accountability for their lives. By controlling the outcomes of certain things such as the job allocation for the unemployed, the community ensures that fairness comes a key criteria and nepotism and cronyism is (to a degree) eliminated.

    Secondly, by reducing the absolute control of the councilors, the community can ensure that the councilors become more accountable to the people they are supposed to serve. In other words, by managing certain aspects of what happens in the town, the power to appoint key individuals to jobs, withhold information on tenders etc. is removed from the hands of only a few and given to the community as a whole. Dissemination of information becomes markedly easier and the whole community, by participating at all levels becomes better informed.

    I will let you know how things work out on this.

    As for your comments regarding the Hlophe affair, I could not agree more. It is most disconcerting to know that at least one individual in a high level of the judiciary is a liar and that we may never know who it is. That is untenable.

  • http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za Leigh

    Samantha, thank you for your response. And please do let me know how your endeavours pan out.

    I will thank you also for identifying what strikes me as being a potential strength that the electorate enjoys at local governmental level: the capacity to (a) become more initimately involved in the designs which impact upon their lives and thus (b), ensure fairer, more useful processes.

    I do have two rather unpleasant questions though. And I will completely understand if you would prefer not to answer them. The first question is: when the community takes a more active role, how high, in your experience, is the incidence of in-fighting?

    And the second questions is: if in-fighting is not infrequent, how do you typically resolve disputes?

    Thank you once again for sharing your views and experience.

  • Samantha

    Leigh, where there are groups of people, there will always be in-fighting. Apartheid left many wounds and none so great as the geographically divisive nature of our towns and cities. In our town there are 4 main sectors: the farms, the town (which is the “white” area), a black area and a coloured area. Needless to say, there has been some integration, but the areas remain predominantly inhabited by the initial groups. This in itself creates in-fighting, as our town is ANC-run, so the coloured and white people feel marginalised. This is nothing new in post-Apartheid SA.

    However, what has happened is that there are, within the various sectors, disparate groups who function autonomously but who also want a share of the whole. Each group, naturally, has its own goals and agendas.

    Furthermore, EVERYTHING in our town is political and the three main parties are all extremely active.

    Interestingly enough, our town has recently faced two major crises – one around the Secondary School and one which is currently happening around a national road project. In both instances, Cope have been the main instigators of the problem. This has meant that the ANC and the DA have had to work together in order to solve the problems, which is a first for this town.

    This then answers your first question. To answer your second question, is more complicated. What I have identified (and you must just bear with me, as I only moved to this town 9 months ago and became involved in politics and community affairs 6 months ago), is that where there is a common enemy, be it Cope, the municipality, outside contractors etc. it is very easy to get the community to work together. Adversity can be a unifying factor and to find one common purpose makes life a lot easier (and people more amenable to working together).

    I also attempt to take all politics out of meetings. Once we remove party affiliations, we begin to understand that we all want the same things for our community. I am hoping that by bringing the message that our community is one community and not a cluster of disparate groups, we can start to work for a common purpose. At every meeting I attend, I tell people that for now we are one community. In 2011 we can start our political “war” but until then we need to work together and not against each other to solve our problems.

    So far, whenever I have addressed meetings with this message, I have found that everyone is far more inclined to listen to each other and to work together.

    But, as I mentioned, I am still relatively new to all of this political stuff, so my outlook might change over time. I hope not. I truly believe that we can all work together to uplift and build our town.