“This condition desensitizes the “new middle-class” to issues that once affected them”
The impacts of the forced placements of people into racially homogeneous communities with little to no resources were so devastating that the legacy thereof is still distinctly evident in the so called ‘new South Africa’. All residents of colour were moved at least 10kms outside of the city centre, to create space for incoming white residents to capitalize on the prime space. As a result, many people of colour lost their jobs, their belongings, their dignity, easy access to educational and health care facilities and family. In addition, there was a surge in unemployment; which directly affected the rise in drug and alcohol abuse, the rise in gang activity and violence as well as homelessness. However, with the end of ‘formal apartheid’ and the introduction of the new inclusive democratic South African government; they had set out to address the issue of segregated spatial planning through the constitution as well as the role out of several mixed, affordable social housing projects post 1994. Acknowledgement may be given for their attempt at redressing the spatial planning issue. However, it’s important to note that a lot more still needs to be done in this regard.
Fast-track another 23 years, to our present day South Africa and viola… not much of a difference can be seen. One witnesses repeats of unforgivable mistakes of the past. Furthermore, In a 3 part documentary series that we watched titled “Leaving Home”, we watched as the Jacobs family; racially classified as coloured were forcibly removed by the Cape Town City government from a plot of land in Woodstock, Cape Town to the infamous township of Manenberg on the Cape Flats, which is approximately 15kms away. This forced move meant travelling battles for Mother, Charol who worked in a clothing factory in close proximity to Woodstock and social battles for son, Ashley whom after a short stay in the township had found himself in Polsmoor Maximum Security Prison arrested for theft.
The Jacob Family’s story is only one of many who have been forcibly removed from the city centre and surrounding areas, to create space for “Urban Development” with devastating implications. The Urban development policy of the city that completely excludes the existing residents of colour through economic measures; who are living in city-owned social houses is evidently a benefit to some and a total tragedy to others.. There is a complete disregard from the government regarding these residents’ wishes to continue staying in these areas. Furthermore, the City of Cape Town has drafted one of the most progressive housing policies in South Africa; however the implementation of such policy is one of its major problems.
Additionally, let’s take a look at the current happenings in Cape Town regarding “Urban Development” and forced removals across the city. We’ve seen families being forcibly removed from community’s all over the city centre which were declared urban development zones; to inhumane, supposedly “temporary” housing camps on the outskirts of the city, such as; Blikkiesdorp, Wolverivier and Fisantekraal (Do yourself the favour and Google any one of these communities). The city had promised the residents that the accommodation provided would only be temporary; however these residents have been enduring these terrifying conditions for close to 10 years already. In addition, one cannot ignore the happenings at the Tafelberg site; land that has been declared prime space and location for mixed and affordable social housing, that the City has sold to private developers of a Jewish daycare centre instead. Which leaves us to question; whether the City values money more than the quality of lives of the people who live in it. Or if they support the protection of white-monopoly capital as well as the racially segregated spatial planning model of the Apartheied regime?
Many of us have come from the aforementioned underprivileged communities on the Cape Flats and have been awarded opportunities to leave the townships for various reasons, resulting in a jump to a higher income-class. This jump out of the township for many people has been just that, an escape. They escape the effects of the daily harsh realities and try everything in their power to never return. This attitude of never returning followed by the conscious decision to forget everything, is what I’d like to title the condition of Middle-Class Dementia. Furthermore, this condition desensitizes the “new middle-class” to issues that once affected them. They continue with their daily lives, invalidating the struggles of the less fortunate and by never returning “home” to try and solve any of the issues that they know first-hand to exist.
I want to us, who come from these underprivileged backgrounds who are in more privileged positions currently to support causes like Reclaim the City and Ndifunda Ikwazi which are both organisations advocating for social justice and mixed, affordable social housing in Cape Town and across South Africa. Furthermore, it’s our responsibility as active citizens, friends and family to identify the issues affecting our various communities and to not turn a blind eye on them but rather look into solutions and support causes that are aimed at fighting the ills and legacies left behind by our past.