Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Living Politics: Practices and Protests of 'The Poor' in Democratic South Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Living Politics: Practices and Protests of 'The Poor' in Democratic South Africa

Article excerpt

This dissertation examines governance and political mobilization in townships and shack settlements, following the rapid reconfigurations of both state and slum after apartheid, in liberal democratic South Africa. Based in the South African city of Durban, an epicenter of recent protests and home to some of the largest slums in the world, I conducted research with the poor peoples' movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (isiZulu for "people who live in shacks"). Since the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has endeavored to demobilize the street politics that characterized the late liberation struggle by cultivating civic participation in formal democratic institutions, such as voting, applying for social grants, and joining local ward committees. Protests by poor residents, annually on the rise since the late 1990s, have been officially condemned and met with brutality by police and private security forces. Townships and shack settlements--commemorated in liberation histories as heroic battlegrounds and shameful testaments to apartheid--have been recast in public discourse as 'slums,' sites of de facto criminality earmarked for clearance or development. Residents have referred to everyday interactions with state officials, and the kinds of practices that slum dwelling engenders, as 'living politics,' or ipolitiki ephilayo. …

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