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Urban housing and land up for discussion

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The pertinent topic of housing and land will come to the fore this week, with the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) set to co-host a series of dialogues in partnership with the Africa Centre for Cities. This forms part of the 7th annual Irene Grootboom Memorial Dialogues, with activists, community leaders, and academics from across the country expected to gather in the city for four days of intense discussion. The programme will run from the 17th-20th November.

The event is named after the late Irene Grootboom, a famous housing activist who rose to prominence after a constitutional court case victory against the South African government. The case highlighted the fact that government had failed to provide appropriate housing to residents of the Wallacedene informal settlement. Her victory set a major precedent for housing in the country, establishing many of the responsibilities that government now have to adhere to, in providing shelter for the destitute.

SJC senior researcher, Joel Bregman, said the dialogue would not only serve as a tribute to Grootboom and her successes, but also as a means of highlighting the point that many housing and land dispossession issues were still unresolved to this day.

Much of this year’s discussions will focus on the issue of rural lands, especially those close to the countries major cities. Despite the constitutional right to housing and a better quality of life, he noted that many working class citizens were still being forced to live in undeveloped rural areas on the outskirts of the cities, far away from any real work opportunities. Apart from that, they were also being subjected to forced evictions, and a lack of proper service delivery.

“There are going to be four dialogues, with the first addressing the urban land question, past and present. This is looking at the history of dispossession, and essentially how we got to the current state of land ownerships,” he said.

The following day, discussions will centre on the access to urban land within Cape Town, with the theme being “Does the right to life depend on where you live?”. On the third day, dialogue will look at various strategies towards urban land justice, with the final event addressing international stories and experiences around the land and housing issue.

“There are going to be people from Brazil, India, the DRC, and Indonesia discussing struggles for land in their countries,” he explained.

The event will be open to media and all members of the community, with the SJC urging people to attend the programme in their numbers. Proceedings will start promptly at 6pm each day, with between 3 to 4 speakers set to address the crowd. A question and answer session will then be opened.

The programme schedule is as follows:

17th November- Andile Msizi Centre, Khayelitsha. Topic: The Urban Land Question.

18th November- City Hall, Cape Town. Topic: Access to urban land in Cape Town.

19th November- Andile Msizi Centre, Khayelitsha. Topic: Strategies towards urban land justice.

20th November- City Hall, Cape Town. Topic: International experiences.
For more information as well as a comprehensive list of all the speakers, visit the following link: VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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