Jul 16, 2001
On July 12, government bulldozers and riot police with rifles tore down over 1,000 shacks of squatters illegally occupying land in South Africa. Dozens of angry squatters sang "The ANC is killing us," saying the government failed to deliver on their promises of land and housing.
Two weeks before, the squatters had occupied the vacant land near the Johannesburg Airport, which is owned by the government and a private farmer.
The government's land minister, Thoko Didiza, attacked the land occupation, "It is bound to have investors hesitating to move in." The government's actions were praised by businessmen and white farmers for upholding the law and reassuring foreign investors. In other words, the ANC government has fully accepted the logic of the market, which means pleasing foreign investors and the rich white capitalists and landlords in South Africa – to the detriment of the poor black population which propelled the ANC into office.
The old apartheid government repeatedly evicted poor black people from land they squatted on and demolished their shacks. Now, the ANC, which came to power opposing apartheid, carries out many of apartheid’s same policies toward these same people.
Today, many of South Africa’s government officials may be black, and there are increasing numbers of black managers and rich people. Ten or twenty thousand black middle class people have been able to move into the formerly all-white suburbs, solving their own housing problem. But there are three million poor black people in South Africa still in need of housing. The thousand families evicted by the government are now added to the homeless.
The traditions of struggle of the South African workers and poor people have not died out, as this land occupation and recent strikes have shown. It will be actions like these and the reliance of the poor and the workers on their own power, and not on the government, that will offer the only possibility of solving the basic needs of the mass of the population.