2019 in pictures

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.

Zimbabwean nationals and activists picketed outside the embassy in Cape Town against police brutality and political violence in Zimbabwe. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

Blue Ribbon workers at the Salt River plant who went on strike from 28 November 2018 until 19 March 2019. Photo by Mzi Velapi

In February, residents of Ilitha Park and surrounding areas in Khayelitsha protested against high water tariffs.

Residents say that high water bills are a result of faulty water meters. Photo by Jonga Gaqa

The South African Trade Union Federation (SAFTU) marched to Parliament demanding a pro-poor national budget.

SAFTU and working class formations argued that the budget by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni could not deliver a solution to the crises facing the poor. Photo by Dominique Swartz

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.

Workers making their way to Parliament. Photo by Sharon McKinnon

Bishop Lavis community in Cape Town protested for better policing in the area.

More than 100 community members participated in a protest against gang violence. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

The union and witnesses say that staff shortages at the hospital affect services provided to patients. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

Torrential rain on 22 April left a swathe of destruction in informal settlements in and around Durban. Photo supplied.

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.

Alexandra residents, after vainly waiting for the Johannesburg mayor, Herman Mashaba, to address them, decided to take to the street to protest. Photo by Ramatamo wa Matamong

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.

Farmworkers at Oak Valley Estate demanded a R250 daily wage, an end to labour brokering and the conversion of men’s hostels into family units. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

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First-time voters in Khayelitsha said they voted for free education and job creation. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

Nonkululeko Thandanto has to walk for close to a kilometre to fetch water from a tap. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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”.

Thousands of people live in Marikana informal settlement, which is on private land. Archive photo: GroundUp/Ashraf Hendricks

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.

The Social justice Coalition has been calling for equitable allocation of police resources. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

The police made a great number of arrests after the deployment of the army but how many of these resulted in court appearances and convictions was not clear. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

The City of Cape Town says that there are individual leaders in Kuyasa who continue to prevent the City from not letting the stalls to traders and small businesses. Photo by Sinethemba Mbewana

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.

From left, SAPS Statistics Chief, Major General Norman Sekhukhune, Deputy Police Minister, Cassel Mathale, and Police Minister, Bheki Cele. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

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UCT students, high school learners and Cape Town residents protested outside Parliament and the CTICC for three consecutive days. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.”

Ex-mineworkers marched to Parliament in August pleading with MPs to address the issue of unpaid benefits. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

Farmworkers say that their working and living conditions have not changed since the 2012 strike. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

Archive Photo: Metrorail said commuters with monthly tickets to Chris Hani/Kapteinsklip were due for refunds. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama

On World Toilet Day, women staying in informal settlements of Khayelitsha complained that the toilets that they use are not safe, clean or private.

Noluthando Sithole empties a slop bucket into the communal toilets. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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.

Dr Allan Boesak encouraged Macassar community members to organise more people to support the call for a public inquiry into the causes of the explosion at RDM. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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