They call us comrades.
Last night, I decided to take a break from the online discussions on Facebook, to attend a strategy meeting at #KathradaHouse (Cnr of Granger Boulevard & Beach Road, Seapoint). As someone with a deep concern for the poor and the dispossessed, inspired by my faith convictions, I felt it necessary to be together with others who are in the struggle, who are fighting the good fight regardless of what books they read and what faith perspective they adhere to. At Kathrada House, I was met with warm embrace, the chants of “forward to socialism” (to which the unequivocal response is “forward!”) but beyond all else, with the opportunity to meet the humans for whom the struggle is real, the ones for whom the oppression is inscribed upon their bodies.
We greeted each other (I wish had brought bread along too), introducing ourselves and what brought us to gather where we did. Despite the fact that I had done nothing other than bring my body to be together with this group (aside from a few Facebook comments about my discontent on land issues in the city and how the poor suffer at the hands of the privatised wealth), I was welcomed as a “comrade” … For a moment this took me back into memories of how certain church gatherings in Cape Town perceive “membership” and the exclusionary basis on which such gatherings are operated…I was welcomed as a comrade simply on the basis of standing in solidarity and it felt good…I imagined this would be how Jesus welcomed others who stood on the fringe.
At Kathrada House, these comrades had been staging a symbolic occupation for a couple of days. They are committed to a high degree of discipline and high standards, with a well articulated understanding of the kind of politics they are about. They are committed to equality, even in the way different voices are made room for in meetings. Permission was asked whether the meeting could be conducted in English and whether anyone required interpretation in Xhosa or Afrikaans before proceeding (something I wish our educational institutions and religious spaces might do more of in SA).
I was taken by the fact that this is the length to which the poor must go in order to be heard, in order to be treated equally as humans. No serious response from the City has come yet and the City may well have intentions to privatise affordable housing by selling off these important tracts of land in the same way it is showing determination to proceed with the sale of the Tafelberg site. The law is being used as a tool for dispossession…
Without sounding overly spiritual for comrades who don’t get the whole spirituality thing, I felt that if God would have been anywhere in the City, he would have been at Kathrada House last night, where comrades who have not much in the way of wealth are enacting and enabling a domination-free vision for society to shine through in the work they are committed to.
Here’s a shout out to the church community in Woodstock & Cape Town…there are folk committed to a more equal and integrated City, who are at Kathrada House & Cissie Gool House who could use rechargeable lights and toiletries right now. Perhaps it is an opportunity for the church to bring the light (in the most literal and practical way possible)…and there are so many other ways to support.
If the gospel does not bring hope for the poor in this City then we should start packing up the church pews and the pulpit and start reading books that offer real, practical hope.