The most upsetting day at work that I have had so far occurred when we went to court with Ndifuna Ukwazi. Here are some of the notes I jotted down, to give you a sense of what went on:
“City spokesman says he is “not an expert” on the issue he was subpoenaed to discuss in court…WTF”
“He just said if the gov. Can’t find space for an evicted family they will give them emergency materials and they can “build a house themselves in someone’s backyard”
“There are 300,000 families on the waiting list for housing”
“He just said that they can give the family housing “if someone drops out, which rarely happens”
We sat in court for probably 3 hours hearing multiple different cases. Parts of it were very boring and systematic, but other parts, when the Cape Town city spokesman was testifying, for instance, I found myself vigorously typing notes because I was so infuriated by his excuses. I could not believe that the government was refusing to provide housing for people so out-rightly. If they weren’t going to give evicted people other housing, I thought they would at least come up with a better excuse for not doing so.
Leaving court made me very proud to work for my NGO, because in that moment I felt like their work was the only work that mattered in the whole world. I felt like I finally understood what they had to deal with on a day to day basis, which is mostly understanding that the city housing system is broken and elected officials are not following through on promises. I had always thought that court is where the big, game-changing, life-altering decisions are made. But how can you get anything done under a law that constantly defends the city, where a city spokesman can show up and lie his way through a testimony, giving no help to the family that was just evicted?
Looking to the future, I have realized that just because work is frustrating and sometimes feels meaningless and like no change is being accomplished, that does not mean it should not be done. Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City are strategic with their campaigns and have won major cases because of that. Sometimes activism is slow…very slow…but all you can do is continue doing the work and hope that change will come. NU may lose 10 cases in a row, but what matters is that NU exists and NU is working to make change. I hope that I will never give up working on an issue I am passionate about, even though it gets tiring and hard. For the remaining month of this trip I want to persist even when work gets tough, challenge myself to sit in discomfort, and write down my feelings so I don’t forget them. Until next week!