By: Sintu KaZazi Weyi
I used to listen to my Old Man in awe at how they (were) moved to shanty township that was later known as Gugulethu (Our Pride). He, having grown up in the now “coloured”neighbourhood, Elsies Rivier. “We were one of the first families to be moved from “Nyanga East” to live in the brick houses of Gugulethu”, he’d say, with a tone I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He and I had many similar conversations. The psychological implications of being forcibly removed from a place you’ve known as home your whole life, politics and most importantly, apartheid. I was fortunate enough to have these and more conversations from someone who had experienced all of these first hand. May his soul rest in peace.
In the last few days, we have been recurrently woken up by sounds of chanting of struggle songs, dark clouds of air from burning tyres at most entry and exit points of Gugulethu and helicopters flying low. No! We are not in 1991. We are, in fact, at the centre of one of the most disruptive protests the millennials have even encountered in our township.
The people who call themselves “Backyard Dwellers” are up in arms saying that the government only ever listens when the people in squatter camps protest. You see, poverty has levels. Within the townships structures there are divides; brick houses and squatter camps. Since the original dwellers of this township of ours are mostly pensioners now, their children (mostly unemployed and often labelled as entitled) feel that since they haven’t complained for being put on RDP housing lists back in the 80s, they have been treated as the middle child and side-lined from any developments that occur in Gugulethu.
In the last few days, said protesters have been seen occupying all vacant land around the hood. Is this the big toe test to check the temperature of the expropriation of land without compensation?
All this is well, however, how is the burning and looting of businesses (such as the famous Mzoli’s) send a message to the government? Does it not matter that businesses and livelihoods are affected by blocking access into Gugulethu? Is that the point?
It’s also been very interesting how loud the silence has been from the City even though all these events have been running parallel to the State of The Province Address. In fact, the very first violent burning of tyres happened on the same day our brand new president came to visit. Where is his PR now to capture the trail? They sold the idea of being on the pulse.
Having lived in the 80s and 90s in Gugulethu, I wish to unsee this. Heavily armed police, low flying helicopters, teargas? This has been the part of history I would’ve loved for my children to only have read about in the history books I keep collecting for them.
Photo Credit: eNCA