Apartheid to blame for short­age of hous­ing

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT - Carol Smith Plum­stead

THE LET­TER from Mike Thur­good (Week­end Ar­gus, Novem­ber 7) refers.

Al­though I agree that not ev­ery­thing can be blamed on the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, it is not en­tirely blame­less for the hous­ing mess in the West­ern Cape.

The Cape was de­clared a “coloured labour pref­er­ence area” and no pro­vi­sion was made for mi­grant labour­ers, ex­cept at the men’s hos­tels. Pos­si­bly the gov­ern­ment thought this sys­tem would work sim­i­larly to the mines; how­ever, soon mi­grant work­ers’ fam­i­lies wanted to join them but there was nowhere to stay, so Cross­roads and KTC sprang up.

More peo­ple mi­grated here to find jobs, but the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to this prob­lem was to bull­doze the shacks (usu­ally in the worst Cape win­ters). This did not drive peo­ple away, the shacks sprang up again and the bull­doz­ers re­turned, and so it went on.

Even in those days of press cen­sor­ship, pic­tures of a per­son’s only shel­ter be­ing de­stroyed by bull­doz­ers were pub­lished, in­cens­ing the pub­lic – mem­bers of the Black Sash lay down in front of the bull­doz­ers to stop them; some peo­ple (even some gov­ern­ment sup­port­ers) gave th­ese women and chil­dren shel­ter un­til vic­timised by their neigh­bours.

Even­tu­ally, the gov­ern­ment re­lented and Khayelit­sha was born, but that was too lit­tle too late, so the shacks re­mained. Some peo­ple also didn’t want to move so far away from their work places, so they re­fused to move (in fact there was a move­ment dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to move at the time). It would seem those who chose to move were lucky in the end be­cause those houses were bet­ter built than some of the ones built to­day.

Pos­si­bly if the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment hadn’t adopted its “head in the sand” pol­icy and re­alised some sort of ac­com­mo­da­tion was needed for th­ese peo­ple, maybe the sit­u­a­tion here in the West­ern Cape would not be so bad to­day.

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