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Publication Details

Reference
Orange Farm Water Crisis Committee (2006) Message From Orange Farm . Centre for Civil Society : -.

Summary
They told us to wait. So we waited. We saw apartheid criminals go free and
men who called themselves leaders become rich. We saw them give up their
red t-shirts for silk suits made in Italy. We watched as their bellies
swelled and their voices thinned in their new accents of the market and the
state. Still we waited. Fifteen years now we have been waiting, here in this
place they call Orange Farm - a farm where nothing grows.

Fifteen years ago, hope brought us to this place. Some came here fleeing the violence of those who killed in the name of party and power, others came when they closed the factories where we once worked, or to escape the misery of life in the overcrowded backyard shacks in every Gauteng township. But we all came here because we hoped for more - for ourselves, and our children. Then, the world around us was changing, "Freedom is coming," they said, and all we had to do was wait. "Just wait, and don't forget to vote." So we waited, and we voted. We waited while they went fishing with Roelf Meyer, had tea with Verwoerd, and mourned Harry Oppenheimer. We waited while they cut our electricity and installed prepaid meters. We waited as HIV-AIDS killed our friends and relatives. We waited in darkness and rain…. We waited and nothing happened. No roads. No toilets, no houses and no jobs. Nothing…or what might as well have been.

So, we are not waiting anymore. None of us were born here. Still, each day,
we bury our children here. Perhaps they thought we were waiting to die or
maybe they simply forgot that we were alive. But we are not waiting, now we
are 'saying'…saying, 'give us, or we take'.

There will be no peace without development.


Background
Highways are the arteries and veins of the capitalist body. This week, we
took the Golden Highway. With our bodies and whatever else we could carry,
we blockaded this highway. For a few hours it wasn't business as usual. For
a few hours, our voices could be heard.

This was not the first blockade. On 6 September this year, we took the highway for the first time. Our slogans were 'No Freedom Without Basic Services' and 'No Peace Without Development'. We wanted the Mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo, to come to Orange Farm to address the lack of service delivery in our township. Over many months, we had been coming together in house meetings to share our problems and we had decided that it was time that our voices were heard. For too many years we have been waiting for decent houses, flush toilets, running water inside our homes, and electricity. When we have invited our local councillors to address our meetings, they have said that they have 'more urgent' tasks to attend to. So, we took their highway - peacefully. Their police responded with rubber bullets, birdshot and teargas. Many people were hurt. We refused to disperse. Others joined us as the police went into Orange Farm randomly shooting people busy with their daily chores. One of the local councillors, Meisie Msimango, was escourted to us on the highway, heavily guarded in a Casspir. We refused to speak to her. Eventually, we agreed to elect a delegation to meet with the councillors. Some of us kept the highway while the meeting proceeded. But the meeting did not achieve much. There was an agreement that a meeting would be called for the following day at which all the major service providers and the municipality would be present. While we were not happy with this outcome, we agreed to suspend our blockade to allow for a process of negotiations to unfold. In spite of this, some of us were still angry and took to the highway the next morning. Over these two days, 14 of us were arrested and charged with public violence and participation in an illegal gathering. After two court appearances, our charges have been dropped.

Since the beginning of September, we have had more fruitless meetings with the municipality. These meetings have not served to address our problems. Instead, they have been opportunities for the local councillors to refuse to take responsibility for the delivery of basic services, making the service providers account for the lack of delivery in Orange Farm. In these meetings, no one has wanted to take responsibility for the substandard quality of services that are being sold to us s 'development'. Again we
are being told to be patient and wait. On Monday, 2 October, our anger
boiled over again. In a meeting to report back on electricity provision, a
local councillor was again trying to lay the blame for lack of progress on
ESKOM. When we demanded that she request the presence of ESKOM at the meeting, she called the police in to disperse us. Angry, we returned to the Golden Highway. On Monday and Tuesday this week, we held the Golden Highway for several hours. Again, we were shot at and 8 of us were arrested. We spent one night in jail and our charges were dropped.

While we were fighting, the local councillors and representatives of the service providers were meeting with members of the local ward committees. While these ward committees claim to represent the community, they speak only for their party - the African National Congress. They do not speak for us, and they do not represent the best interests of the community. We do not recognise them. And we will continue to speak for ourselves.

This was not the last blockade. Each time we return to the highway, we are
able to hold it for longer. For as long as our voices are not heard and our
problems not addressed, we will return to say 'there will be no peace
without development'.

For further information contact: Bricks Mokolo - 0721758948
Or e-mail - ofwcrisiscommittee@gmail.com

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