2020 review

Protester at the "Working Class Day of Action" in Johannesburg. Photo by Ramatamo Sehoai

To round off the year, here are just a few snippets of stories Elitsha overed this year.

2020 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. Covid-19 and the lockdown exposed the inequalities and poverty that exist in South Africa and other parts of the world. Elitsha will be back in the new year to bring you stories that focus on those who do not have power.

In 2020, we brought stories that we think mattered to you and your family on Covid-19 and lockdown under the themes of labour, education, health, and local government.

In the month of January we brought you the story of a school in Gugulethu that managed to improve its physical science results. The vandalisation of the Cape Metrorail’s central line that caters to Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha was the current story in the unremitting woes of Prasa. The trains have been suspended since November 2019.

Prasa says there has been further vandalism and damage to the infrastructure since the suspension of the central line. Photo by Mzi Velapi

As part of the nationwide public hearing on the National Health Insurance, Cape Town residents, civil society organisations, political parties, traditional healers and healthcare workers aired their views on the issue.

Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health during the NHI hearings in Khayelitsha. Photo by Mzi Velapi
Community healthcare workers from Elsies River at the NHI public hearings in February this year. Photo by Mzi Velapi

A group of ex-mineworkers supported by civil society organisations and community activists protested outside the annual Mining Indaba in February calling for, among others, for justice and their speedy compensation following the R5-billion silicosis class action settlement.

A group of about 50 protesters sang and shared stories about their lives as former mineworkers suffering from especially respiratory diseases they acquired from work underground. Photo by Mzi Velapi

In March, following the trends around the world in Covid-19 infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for a national lockdown. The first case was reported on March 6 but in a matter of ten days, the number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa jumped from one to 62.

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The increasing number of those who had contracted the virus had healthcare workers around the country fraught with worry about infection and exhausted. Photo by Elitsha reporter.

In Khayelitsha the queues at various government buildings were growing each day as the departments grappled with plans to continue providing services without putting staff and the community at risk.

Queues outside Sassa offices in Khayelitsha and around the country were getting longer and longer. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Because of loss of income and livelihoods due to the lockdown, many backyard dwellers in Khayelitsha and Cape Town occupied vacant pieces of land and built themselves houses as they were no longer able to pay rent. The government and the police responded brutally, punishing these victims of a situation not of their own making.

The shacks were demolished and the building material taken away, leaving the residents’ furniture standing in the open. Photo by Lilita Gcwabe

In Khayelitsha and other parts of Cape Town and elsewhere in the country, grant applicants slept outside Sassa offices hoping that they would not be turned away the next day.

Some grant beneficiaries, even though they may be trying to access a disability grant, like Faniswa Mamkeli, have slept outside Sassa offices hoping they won’t be turned away. Photo by Lilita Gcwabe

The coronavirus has exacerbated the ailing public health system and the inequalities between private and public healthcare. In the Eastern Cape it resulted in chaotic provision of services.

Health officials at Empilweni hospital in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, protesting after the facility was turned into a Covid-19 holding centre. The hospital typically treats TB patients. Photo by Joseph Chirume

Covid-19 and the lockdown affected the working class and the poor the most as they struggled to get food.

Food parcels being distributed at the Sassa offices in Khayelitsha. Photo by Lilita Gcwabe

As the lockdown continued, more and more people lost their livelihoods, could no longer pay their rent and as a result they occupied vacant land in cities around the country.

The Khayelitsha Development Forum has called for the provincial government to engage constructively with land occupiers. Photo by Vincent Lali

Civil society and community activists under the banner of the People’s Coalition held pickets and protests on the 1st of August, in what was dubbed a “Working Class Day of Action”, demanding an end to police brutality and gender-based violence and more.

Organisations of the working class and the poor mobilised in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on 1 August to raise their demands related to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Ramatamo Sehoai

Before Covid-19 and the lockdown people in the villages near Centane and Ngqushwa in the Eastern Cape did not have water. When the government was calling for people to wash their hands regularly, they could only wish to do so.

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Nita Pusakwe fetching water from the river In Centane where villagers have long struggled to access water since before Covid-19. Photo by Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik
Sipho Majiya standing next to an empty water tank in Ngqushwa where about 138 villages have no access to water. Photo by Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Racism reared its ugly head as members of the Economic Freedom Fighters were assaulted by white parents and residents of Brackenfell as they picketed outside Brackenfell High School after some learners, teachers and parents organised a “whites only” matric farewell. After the assault of its members, the second biggest opposition party organised a march but were prevented by the police from nearing the school.

Protesters taking cover after being teargassed and shot at by the police. Photo by Lilita Gcwabe

The high levels of poverty in Zimbabwe has forced many children into work, notably in reclaiming recyclables.

A boy carries empty plastic bottles for resale. Photo by Christopher Mahove

To round off the year we ran a feature story on the suspended Truda Foods workers in Komani who have accused the company of imposing bad working conditions, managerial arrogance, bullying and of undermining unions.

Some of the 80 workers who were suspended by Truda Foods convened a meeting in Ezibeleni last month. Photo by Mzi Velapi

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