If you don’t have a chimney Santa Claus can’t slip down it. If you don’t have a table you can’t lay it out with food. If you don’t have a door you cannot hang a wreath, or open it to your family. Christmas was stolen in KwaMashu Above. Weeks ago, the police came and smashed up their only houses, kicked their only doors to pieces and stole all their food. Their legacy remains as a pile of rubble on the sunny hillside where once a community was building a most meager life.
They cried to me last week: “Christmas is coming and we have no where to go.” They sleep packed together on kind neighbor’s floors.
There will be no presents opened, for there is not even a space in which to open them. No rooms for them to wrap them in, no kitchen for them to laugh in as they stir their rice. All that remains now are the shattered rooftiles that each week break into smaller pieces, the black circles where their hearths used to be, and hope.
I am no longer with the occupiers in KwaMashu Above. I will not come on a sleigh with a magic sack and pull toys for all the children who are so good they don’t cry when there is no food. I have no gift for them but hope. Two weeks ago 40 community members from KwaMashu Above joined OccupyCOP17 outside the failing UN COP17 Climate Conference that was the pretext for their evictions. They shared their story. In the yellow light of a street-lamp, the young boys acted out the sincerity of their struggle. We watched in Zulu as they were beaten, their homes destroyed, and they were forced to leave with nothing. The only words we understood were “COP17”.
We did not give them homes on that night, but they told us we gave them hope. No one, no one, had reached out to them since they lost everything. Our message was simple: you are not alone – there are occupations all over the world that stand with you. On this Christmas, that is the gift we can give to them: solidarity. That they might know they are not alone in the darkness of the shortest night of the year. That we are there with them in KwaMashu Above, edging justice towards the light – and that we will not rest until Boese has a pot to stir again, and Kia has a bed to sleep in.
When Pandora’s box was opened, and everything escaped into this wild world – the thing that remained was hope. As they sit in the rubble that once their dreams inhabited, they do not sit alone – their hopes sing with ours and strengthen both. The loss of justice is everyone’s loss, wherever it might be. No one is free until everyone is free.
Keep following OccupyCOP17 for updates on the ongoing legal process, and how you can help KwaMashu Above get their houses back.