May 20, 2009


Today we got a glimpse of what a 'war on the poor' really looks like. Our interview with S'bu Zikode, elected leader of the Shack Dwellers' Movement was interrupted by a phone call: four people had just been shot in Siyanda. We drove to Siyanda to find the still-smoking barricades, an angry crowd, and riot police ready to shoot again. We filmed the damage to skin that rubber bullets make. They should change the name: 'rubber' makes the bullets sound innocuous. The C-Section community "took the decision to halt the construction in protest against the ongoing unlawful demolition of people’s homes and rumors that people from C-Section will be forcibly removed to 'amatins', also known as government shacks or transit camps".

We were filming in the protesting crowd when the police took aim again. People ran back, terrified. One man ran right into the camera, bashing the camera into my face. The police didn't shoot, but what was most horrifying was that as the police were taking aim at us they were smiling, as if the people in front of them were targets at a firing range. The scene was hard to film because the police were waving us away, saying we weren't allowed to film, and the crowd was shouting at us, saying: 'do your job, do your job!'

Four shacks were illegally demolished in Mpola this morning. We went to Mpola to find a woman surrounded by her three children and all their worldly possessions, with the remnants of their walls shattered on the ground. At 8am, municipal workers had come without warning, wielding axes, to demolish her home. Her children had nowhere to sleep that night - we filmed as the community made her family a makeshift shack for the night.

For the rest of the day, we heard about more protests and evictions all over the country. Just a few weeks after the elections, the mood seems to be shifting - from hesitant hope to anger. Here's what the shack dwellers say, and what we hope to give expression to in the finished film:

"Now that the election is over and the politicians have finished hunting for positions they are running away from the people. It is impossible for a poor community to get a meeting with a politician. They only send in the police to break the people's homes and to beat and shoot and arrest the people. This is the reality of our so called democracy. This is what development really looks like – people’s houses broken down, people shot with rubber bullets, people in jail, people on the run."