March of hope

On Freedom Day I attended the march in Cape Town organised by the Social Justice Coalition, reported in the M&G (“A tale of two city struggles”, May 6). The march focused on the challenges faced by ordinary people living in Khayelitsha who don’t have access to basic sanitation.

Lack of access to clean, safe toilets is a huge problem in my area. People are robbed, raped and murdered while walking long distances to relieve themselves.
Toilets, often shared by hundreds, are not maintained by the city and are filthy. Almost every family is affected by diarrhoea and rashes.

In the past people used to burn tyres, throw rubbish and vandalise anything owned by the government to make it listen. This did not get us anywhere. Burning tyres on our streets left us with nothing but potholes.

Since the coalition started a branch in Greenpoint in Khayelitsha, the community’s approach has changed. We now organise residents to empower themselves with knowledge and use the Constitution and laws to hold leaders accountable.

On April 27, 2 500 people queued peacefully behind a toilet outside mayor Dan Plato’s office to show that many people in informal settlements continue to wait for sanitation. We worked day and night in communities for weeks, collecting 10 000 signatures for our memorandum and educating communities about sanitation.

On that day, we stood together as members of various organisations to illustrate our commitment to hold the government accountable, but also to commit to working with the city in dealing with these challenges.

The coalition’s t-shirt symbolises our everyday struggle and our commitment to have our basic rights realised. But I am not a member of the coalition because it gives me T-shirts. I am a member because it gives me hope. Two-and-a-half thousand people, including Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, marched for the same reason.

It is a pity that the article focused on apparent divisions instead of on how this event brought so many together on Freedom Day to exercise the rights we won in 1994.

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