Restricted and bound to poverty, community activists from across Johannesburg gathered at the Un-Freedom Day rally yesterday, to reflect on their daily struggle to gain access to land.
Despite 24 years of freedom, residents of Freedom Park, Lehae, and Soweto, said they gathered in the hope of expediting the process of allocating more than 48 000 stands promised to them.
Led by the Gauteng Civics Association (GCA) and the Black Consciousness Movement, they chanted struggle songs and reflected on the apartheid era as they felt “un-free” due to the ongoing fight to attain land.
GCA spokesperson Lehlohonolo Makhelo said the rally was aimed at bringing awareness to the disappointing reality of living in poverty-stricken conditions, despite the promise of change, freedom, and emancipation by the ruling elite.
“After 1994, black people were promised that life would be better, but this is not the case,” said Makhelo. “We still continue to exist as we were under apartheid.
“We are here today because we are not free. We will never be free until we gain access to land.”
The residents were enraged and disappointed after they had been told they could not build shacks at a veld in Kibler Park, despite being promised that the land would be accessible to them.
Moradi Dhlamini, 33, said she was tired of living in poverty and wanted to be able to build a home for her child.
“I am here today to fight for my freedom,” Dhlamini said. “I am unemployed and I have been struggling for my own place to stay. I cannot continue to depend on a man that abuses me simply because I am unemployed.”
She said she was struggling to find a job and had lost all hope. “People will never understand my pain because they don’t know my situation. I just need a job so I can have a better life.
“My 14-year-old daughter needs her privacy and living in one room is uncomfortable when there are four of us living together.”
Dhlamini said her shack was taken from her last week because she was told that she wasn’t allowed to occupy the space.
“I borrowed money to build that shack and now I don’t know what to do. I have three children and I cannot continue paying rent that I cannot afford. Even if I sweep the streets, I don’t care. I just need money to feed my children.”
Funeka Kala shared similar sentiments. She said she was desperate for a place to live so she could improve her living conditions.
The 34-year-old said: “I still depend on my mother and that hurts me. I have two children and I feel useless. All I care about is having access to land. I do not care about living in property that I cannot afford. All I want is land so I can build a shack for my children.”
Kala said she would continue to fight for her right to gain access to land because it would benefit her children.
“We were never given a valid reason why the shacks were taken away from us. We were just told that we were not allowed to build shacks there. I feel bad because nothing is working out for me.”
Alice Khoarai said she was also tired of the ongoing fight to get a piece of land of her own.
“We don’t have freedom because we don’t have land. We cannot pay rent if we cannot afford it. There is no money for food because it all goes to rent,” she said.
The 37-year-old said accessing land would be “much better than getting RDPs because she could not afford to sustain an RDP house”.
“I have four children and we are living in poverty. An RDP house is too small for my family. I would rather build a shack for my children so they can each have their own rooms. I am sick and tired of waiting for change that never comes.”
Angry and worn out from their ongoing struggle, these residents of Freedom Park, Lehae, and Soweto said they would remain resilient and continue to fight.