by Siyabulela Hulu
(Tokologo African Anarchist Collective)
In September 2002, residents of Kwa-Masisa Hostel in Sebokeng faced evictions by the so-called new and private owners. They resisted and won. But since then, the hostel has been abandoned to its fate. Today the struggle for secure tenure, decent conditions and control continues.
The hostel was previously owned by the state steel company ISCOR: this is now known as Mittal Steel after its wholesale privatisation in the late 1980s. The hostel residents were mostly former workers; they have refused to move. Now, several years on, it still remains unclear who really owns the hostel.
In September 2002, over 6000 residents were forcibly evicted by armed police and Wozani Security (commonly known as the “Red Ants”). People’s belongings were dumped into the streets. Residents were given no alternative shelter on one of the coldest days of the year.
A private company, Vilva Investment Trading Twenty Company Pty Ltd initiated the eviction in which several residents were shot and injured. This company was, according to the residents, partially owned by the three local African National Congress (ANC) councillors.
However, the residents successfully managed to resist the eviction. They used direct action, and they won. Residents moved back in.
But since the resistance, the Kwa-Masisa hostel has effectively been left to rot. Mittal Steel, Vilva and the local ANC government all say that they are no longer responsible for the hostel.
As a result, the hostel dwellers have been living under horrendous conditions for many years now. Facilities have crumbled, pipes leak, dirt mounts up … Is the aim to force people out slowly?
A “people’s inspection” took place on 3 September 2008, and was aimed at highlighting and exposing the horrendous living conditions of the Kwa-Masisa dwellers.
Five years later, there has been no improvement.
Recently, there have been plans by the council to “renovate” the hostel. But these plans start with a round of evictions to temporary accommodation. It is feared that the hostel will be upgraded, but no one will be allowed back without paying rents. The residents cannot pay: this means more evictions will be permanent.
It is unacceptable for any human being to be living under such conditions: the ANC-run municipality promises “a better life for all,” but the residents are still waiting.
And the residents are determined to fight against any “renovations” that will harm them: it is the ordinary people who must control the situation.