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Feeling of exclusion by coloured people is evident

Opinion
The recent Eldorado protests were about housing and service delivery but were expressed and clothed in the sentiment of coloured exclusion, writes Thami ka Plaatjie.

An angry and long, meandering march to the offices of the Ekurhuleni Municipal offices by the residents of Reiger Park was booming with a resounding chant in Afrikaans that was emphatic in its expression and defiant in its expression. “Wie het jou gesê dat die kleurling nie huise will hê?” To paraphrase: “Who told you that the coloureds do not want houses as well?”

As we reached the council offices, we were met with closed doors and security.

The noise grew louder and so did the insults and derogatory remarks.

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Protest over the same issues have played out on the streets of Eldorado Park, Ennerdale, Reiger Park and Waverly. Picture: Ilanit Chernick

The coloured residents of Reiger Park had taken to the street to protest against the shortage of houses and their alleged allocation in the new housing development to African people who were not from the area.

Some of them were not even South Africans.

It was on March 9, 2017, that the march occurred and since then, protests have subsided since intervention by the local council.

What they highlighted was the rise in coloured sensibility and sensitivity.

The feeling of exclusion by the coloured people is evident and is expressed in many ways. Again, it cropped up in Eldorado, Waverly and Ennerdale.

The recent Eldorado protests were about housing and service delivery but were expressed and clothed in the sentiment of coloured exclusion.

This reporter spent a day in Ennerdale and Eldorado, to gain an understanding of the underlying factors of the strife.

Eldorado’s residents came from Nicefield, Kliptown, Noortgesig, Klipspruit, Pinville, Lawley and the new area of Majazan.

Later on, Ennerdale was established. Twenty-three years ago, the government purchased some dairy farms and the area received an overflow of people from Kliptown and Eldorado.

Ennerdale was conceived as a middle-class area to cater mainly for civil servants from Soweto, Vaal and Eldorado.

Over time, sprawling informal settlements sprang up in the area – Drieziekpark, Finetown, Orange Farms, Sweetwaters and Majazana. These developed after 1994, when the Urban Areas Act was relaxed, before its eventual scrapping.

Democracy opened the floodgates for unregulated arrivals near places of work and opportunity.

As the new areas grew, they threatened the lifestyle and standards that Ennerdale and Eldorado were accustomed to, and the first signs of discontent appeared.

A class conflict soon began to grow, as incidents of crime became pronounced and the apartheid protectionism and preferential treatment towards the coloured people dissipated.

Petty crime such as housebreaking became commonplace in the area. Of critical importance was that the area was not highly developed and living standards began to deteriorate, with the influx of more people from outside areas.

According to community leader Sally Wanna, 7 000 people were on the waiting list in 2014 for a house in Ennerdale.

A small informal settlement called Meriting had sprouted on the outskirts of Ennerdale but was tolerated as it was minuscule, but in the past few weeks, more and more people have arrived in the area and electricity was connected almost overnight, as alleged by the community of Ennerdale.

This is what sparked the ire of the community, as they felt ignored and overlooked, when they had been patiently waiting for more than 23 years, only to have an informal settlement upgraded. Their housing waiting list was also growing.

These considerations also led to a land invasion by some of the Ennerdale community and when they were evicted by the Red Ants, violence flared.

The areas of Eldorado and Ennerdale fall under Region 11 of the City of Johannesburg and can be viewed as some of the poorest of the city, with greater numbers of unemployment, complicated by an extremely poor economic base.

There are no factories in this region and no secondary industries, except for lower-end economic activities in the town of Lenasia.

Youth unemployment is high and the thorny issue of backyard dwellers is acute.

The drug problem and crime are exacerbated by such unemployment. The department of Human Settlement’s database reveals a long waiting list for houses by approved beneficiaries in both Eldorado and Ennerdale.

In Eldorado , for example, 3930 approved people are on the list. In Ennerdale, 1217 people are approved and have been on the waiting list for more than five years. Surely, the frustrations of these communities are understandable and compounded by high unemployment and crime. Their exasperation is valid and needs to be addressed urgently.

The politics of the DA and its quest to assert its authority in the area at the expense of the ANC is another factor in the mix.

The coloured question is invoked as a blanket of solidarity to canvass for popular support.

What is strange is that the area is now under DA control.

However, all political parties must find the solution to the plight of the people of Region 11 and beyond.

A meeting convened in Pretoria on Thursday by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, at which were present the Minister of Local Government Des van Rooyen, MEC Paul Mashatile, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga and City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, was a crucial game changer in respect of the fundamental need of all these spheres of government to talk with one voice and act in unison.

The meeting resolved to establish a technical team, headed by the Director General and the heads of housing in the respective regions, to address housing planning, access to resources and the monitoring of progress.

Spatial planning must truly be integrated and inclusive in every essence, it was decided.

Mayor Herman Mashaba indicated that the housing backlog in the City of Johannesburg stood at a staggering 30000 and the construction of about 3000 dwellings per annum is minuscule.

Ibo Mandaza’s seminal book, Race, Colour and Class in Southern Africa: A Study of the Coloured Question, points to shifting definitions of identities and access to land and resources.

He is of the opinion that the project of a united nation that is diverse must ensure that all races feel part of its make-up, as they are its contractors and signatories.

Further, integrated human settlement must not just be spatial integration; it must must foster social cohesion and sustained human relations.

There must be an end to what is called coloured or black areas, or white areas.

What is strange is that the suburbs are defined not in terms of race but in terms of class or geography.

* Ka Plaatjie is an adviser to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and is head of ANC research.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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