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Johannesburg: Memorandum to President Thabo Mbeki. Landless People´s Movement





We, the Landless People’s Movement, a national movement of poor and landless people struggling for land and agrarian reform, hereby wish to express our anger and outrage at being insulted by our government. We represent and speak for the five million “squatters” who live in big cities and small towns across South Africa. We must everyday face off a government that wants to remove us from our land and homes! We must everyday endure the hardships of living without adequate housing and basic services that every human being must have to survive! And this from a government that has promised “a better life for all.”

We struggled against apartheid in the hope and belief that life would be better for us! We had hoped that in the new South Africa we would have land and houses! We believed that the apartheid-created hardships and indignity would end with a new government! And after all of our struggles we are told that the communities we have built over many decades must make way for government priorities of shopping malls, cemeteries and sports fields.

Is this what we struggled for? We say: NO! We struggled so we could get the land that was stolen for us! We struggled for housing, water, electricity and education! And now… it is the government that we struggled for that is forcibly removing us from the land that we fought for and won! It is our government that is forcibly taking us away from our jobs, our schools, our clinics and our crèches! It is the government that has promised the masses a better life that is uprooting and destroying our communities. We say: NO! Enough is enough!

We are here today to tell you that instead of building a better life for all, you are undertaking apartheid-like forced removals. These removals you say are happening in the name of ‘development’. We ask why is development brought to us through guns and the terror of the Red Ants (Wozani Security)?

We are surprised and very hurt that the government we have struggled for is taking away even the little we managed to force the apartheid regime to give us. We are being move from one shack to another shack! Does this make sense to you, Mr. President? What is this rush? Why can’t we be consulted about what we want? Why can you not build houses and infrastructure where we are? Why can you not give us ownership of the land we have occupied for years and sometimes even decades? Is this too much to ask for?

The LPM Gauteng has been struggling, for the past two years, against the illegal efforts of the government to forcibly remove almost a million people from their homes in informal settlements around Joburg. The Joburg Metro Council has targeted 100 informal settlements for removal. The government says that these are “voluntary relocations”, but we say this is a lie! The poor and the landless are being forced off the land and out of their houses at gunpoint.

We did not embark on this call for ‘No land! No vote!’ lightly. We have been forced to this position by government’s lack of response to our problems. We have marched many times to the Joburg Mayor, to the Premier of Gauteng and to various MECs in the Province. We have handed over many memorandums, we have written many letters, we have had many meetings, but to no avail! In all our actions we have called on the government to end these brutal forced removals. We have not been listened to. We have spent monies we do not have fighting these evictions in the courts.

We wonder why public funds are being used to abuse us? Are we not citizens of this country?

We are aware that poor, landless people throughout South Africa have the same problems as us. We stand together with the 7-million farm dwellers that remain slaves on their own land ten years into our new democracy. We find it difficult to join in the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of “democracy” when we are still treated like animals.

We must also tell you that we, the poor and the landless, are being harassed and mistreated by the police and the NIA. Members of the LPM are treated like common criminals, subject to constant harassment by the police and the NIA. Our leaders are arrested on false charges and our marches are banned despite our efforts to notify the police in time and to respect the law. It is clear to us that we have been declared criminals who must hunted down! Is this because we are poor?

Government officials manufacture lies to discredit the LPM, like the lie that our notification for the march was done late. We submitted our notification seven days before the march as the law requires. But the law also makes provision for 24-hour notifications to accommodate “spontaneous” actions. Even though we gave the police enough notification, they proceeded to ban the march a day before it was due to take place.

Our march today has been banned, with the direct involvement of your office! We know this because we overheard the police talking to personnel in your office. Your staff told the police that the march could not proceed because they had not given the LPM a written confirmation that someone would be available to accept our memorandum. One of the reasons the police used to ban the march was that “the LPM did not receive written confirmation from the President.”

Today we are here to tell you that we will not vote until we have our land! We will not vote until we, the poor and the landless, are treated with the dignity we deserve! We say ‘enough is enough!’ Ten years is too long to wait! We also want you to know that we shall not take insults from your government any more!

We demand:

The immediate reversal of the decision of the Joburg Metro to forcefully remove about 1-million people from informal settlements.
A moratorium on all farm evictions.
That land must be redistributed to the landless for settlement and production.
Houses for the homeless!
Jobs for the jobless!
A meeting between the LPM and government to discuss our problems!

No Land! No Vote!