Rising up in unison

Paul Phillips, Parkwood

Over the past few days we have seen history unfold in that for the first time post 1994, the First Indigenous Nation of Southern Africa (so-called coloureds) are rising up in unison, rallying around a common goal and speaking with one voice.

We will never condone or try to justify the levels of violence and the destruction of infrastructure we have seen. Those are under investigation. Criminality and those associated with it will be brought to book.

What we can and will justify is the very reason why our people stood up and said enough is enough.

Over the past years we have fought, marched, picketed and protested against gangsterism and crime, poverty, abuse and all the very well known social ills in Parkwood.

Memorandums with demands were handed over and some demands have still not been met. Government officials came, made promises and political speeches and they left. Ward councillors came and went. All of them ignored, undermined and suppressed the concerns, frustrations and needs of the community, which are very basic, such as having a roof over their head.

They underestimated, miscalculated and fell into the “dis ma net coloured” mode. How wrong they were when they woke in fright from their slumber. They never saw the red flags. They never saw it coming. Underestimation and disregard is the spade that digs your grave.

The MEC for Human Settlements (Bonginkosi Madikizela), after a site visit to Parkwood, was horrified to see the inhumane conditions our people are living under: third generation family members still on the waiting list, some for over 35 years; four families sharing a two-room flat; bathrooms and kitchens being utilised as a bedroom; backyarders cramped up in a one-room hokkie; the current sewers of backyarders being connected to decades old systems causing a health issue with overflows…

”I’m personally traumatised at what I saw today,” the MEC said.

In the past 35 years we have seen absolutely no development in Parkwood. Plans to develop the area were not even on the table. Should the community wait another 35
years? We pro-
actively did our own survey and established our own database. More than a thousand families
living as backyarders,
are boarders and thousands more have been on the housing waiting list for more than 20 years.

Parkwood has become a slum. A waste land. A product of our past history of marginalisation and denial of human rights.

The landless and homeless citizens cannot be wished away, nor shot away with teargas and rubber bullets. The situation must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. People are fed up with ward councillors who report to their seniors the total opposite of the reality and challenges of their wards.

Government was unaware of the situation in Parkwood until the people took to the streets.

I saw a 70-year-old grandma sitting in the rain on the open land. Pegged off around her were a few metres of land which she calls home. All she wants is a roof over her head, maybe not today but for her grandchildren. I saw families huddled together at a fire on
the land, defiant in
their cause to restore back their dignity and self worth. I saw and I cried with my
people.

To the critics, I say come and see for yourself under what inhumane conditions the people in Parkwood live.

Come and walk on the decades old flooded concrete roads. Pop into a hokkie and feel the dampness and cold.

Come and sit in the two-room house among a 20-member family, wait with them in the queue at 5am in the morning to get your bathroom turn, walk with them to the spaza shop and see
the results of gangsterism and crime. Come and see and experience and you will understand.

I know God sees and He understands.