To round off the year, Elitsha brings you some of the stories we covered this year.
2019 has been a very challenging year for everyone, in South Africa, on the continent and around the world, for the working class and the poor especially. This is the last post for 2019. Elitsha will be back in the new year to bring you stories that focus on those who do not have power.
In 2019, we brought you local, national and international stories that we think mattered to you and your family on labour, education, health, local government and everything in between.
In January we covered stories about state brutality in Zimbabwe under the regime of Emmerson Mnangagwa.
We also covered a strike by Blue Ribbon workers in Salt River in Cape Town demanding a 9% salary increase and better working conditions. The strike lasted for over 100 days and was settled for an 8% wage increase.
In February, residents of Ilitha Park and surrounding areas in Khayelitsha protested against high water tariffs.
The South African Trade Union Federation (SAFTU) marched to Parliament demanding a pro-poor national budget.
Both SAFTU and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) marched against the proposal to unbundle Eskom, arguing that it will negatively affect workers and communities.
Bishop Lavis community in Cape Town protested for better policing in the area.
In March, workers at Khayelitsha District Hospital led by their union, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) shared how poor the working conditions are that they work under at the hospital.
We also brought you stories of the flash floods in Durban and how they affected people in informal settlements. The floods exposed the poor drainage system in the EThekwini Municipality.
In April, xenophobia in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, reared its ugly head again, in no small way fomented by the criminalisation of African traders in the Johannesburg city centre and statements made by politicians.
Farmworkers in Grabouw led by their union, the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agriculture and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), went on strike demanding better working and living conditions in the hostels at Oak Valley Estate.
South Africa went to general elections in May and Elitsha was there, speaking to first-time voters about the issues that they hoped the political parties should focus on.
As the strike by farmworkers at Oak Valley was going on, Elitsha went to check the living conditions in the informal settlement the farmworkers stay in. We found the services were temporary, inadequate and negatively impact women.
In July, we ran a story based on a report on Marikana informal settlement in Cape Town by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute that revealed that the services provided by the City of Cape Town to the residents are temporary and that they are “anonymous and dehumanising”.
The Community Safety department in the Western Cape released a report that revealed that detectives in the province are under-resourced, lack training and that their work is not guided by intelligence.
Members of the South African National Defence Force were deployed in Cape Town, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele, in response to a demand from the Mitchell’s Plain Police Forum cluster and the Philippi East Community Police Forum. However, divisions over the deployment emerged in interviews that Elitsha conducted with community police forums in areas where the army was to be deployed. The deployment ends in March 2020.
In August, we ran an investigative story that we had been tracking for a while about market stalls at the Kuyasa train station. The City of Cape Town spent R180-million on the Kuyasa Interchange in 2008 but the market stalls at the station remained unoccupied and the whole project a white elephant.
In September, the South African Police Services released annual crime statistics, revealing that murder rates are up and are concentrated in a few urban stations. The ten police precincts where the army is currently deployed again came up tops when it comes to murder and contact crimes. These are Harare, Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Philippi East, Nyanga, Manenburg, Bishop Lavis, Delft, Mfuleni and Kraaifontein. The Cape Town stations are in the top 15 of the 30 stations around the country reporting the highest murder rates.
Thousands of protestors, mainly University of Cape Town (UCT) students and high school learners, protested outside Parliament calling for an end to gender-based violence and rape. The protest was sparked by the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year UCT student, by a post office worker.
An investigation by Open Secrets on the pension fund industry revealed that there is over R42-billion owed to four million people and that industry players continue to benefit from withholding these benefits. The year-long investigation by the organisation, which exposes private sector economic crimes to make the perpetrators accountable, included interviews with “pensioners, social movements and fund administrators, digging through court records, engaging with the regulator the Financial Services Conduct Authority, and working with whistle-blowers.”
At a conference held at the University of the Western Cape in October, farmworkers around the country stated that they should be at the centre of land reform since they work the land under working and living conditions that have not changed since the Western Cape strike of 2012.
Residents from the most populous working class areas of the Western Cape continue to struggle with public transport. On the 4th of November, trains from Cape Town to Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain were suspended following cable theft near Bonteheuwel. To date, it is still not clear when train services will resume on the Central Line. The MyCiti N2 Express bus service to the two areas was also suspended in May after the parties to the agreement to provide the service could not agree on terms for its extension.
On World Toilet Day, women staying in informal settlements of Khayelitsha complained that the toilets that they use are not safe, clean or private.
A year after eight workers were killed in an explosion at Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM), the families of the workers killed demanded that the company be held accountable. A public meeting in Macassar near Somerset West called for a public hearing and an independent inquiry into what led to the blast in September 2018. Eight workers were killed after an explosion in a propellant operations building, destroying it and the surrounding blast wall. The company at the time said the cause of the explosion was an “ignition propellant” consisting of more than 95 percent nitrocellulose, commonly known as gun-cotton.