No Land! No House! No Vote! Voices from Symphony Way

Symphony Way pavement dwellers

Journal of Asian and African Studies
Oct 1, 2012
In today's world, in which markets supposedly think and reason but people are not supposed to, this book presents extraordinary and crucially important pieces of democratic writing. This is an extraordinary book because it shows how ordinary people are capable of extraordinary feats under certain conditions and how they are forced to constantly struggle in order to affirm their humanity under the rule of a state while that supposed democratic state actively denies their humanity. The books is also very important because it is not only a testimony to those feats, but because it sketches the various dimensions of the thinking involved in a process of subjectivation, whereby a collective subject of politics is produced through people’s ability to commit to principles and to discuss collectively how to overcome their difficulties in order to begin to exercise a modicum of control over the socio-political world which surrounds them. It is absolutely clear from these writings that poor people in particular are not provided with freedom by a democratic state but, on the contrary, have to constantly assert their dignity in conditions in which the state constantly undermines their freedom.

- Michael Neocosmos, University of South Africa (UNISA), South Africa, and Monash University, Australia, Journal of Asian and African Studies

Aug 12, 2011
What is as important as 'the book' and its contents is how it was put together: By the dwellers themselves, the Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers. So witness this:

No Land! No House! No Vote! is a direct challenge to the publishing industry. We cannot humanise our world through a vanguard media. The right to a voice cannot be held only be elite academics, authors, and politicians; it is a right that must be claimed by the poor as well.

All power to the Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers and their struggles – not only for a place to live but for control over their voices and their knowledges; all power to all such movements, and all strength to them in articulating what they know; and all credit to Pambazuka Press for bringing out this important book. May you, and may many more publishing houses, bring out more such books, free of control over authors!
- Jai Sen, Director, Institute for Critical Action Centre in Movement (CACIM), Institute for Critical Action Centre in Movement

Jun 1, 2011
On 19 December 2007, encouraged by their Democratic Alliance (DA) councilor, backyarders in Delft illegally occupied unfinished houses in the N2 Gateway scheme. After battling in court, they were evicted on 19 February 2008. Many of them decided to remain across the road from the N2 Gateway houses, and built shacks along the pavement of Symphony Way. After a further 20 months of contestation these people were evicted again, to the nearby Blikkiesdorp Temporary Relocation Area (TRA).

This book relates stories of their experiences on Symphony Way, told by the people themselves, in their own words. The text was also edited by them. It is a remarkable and moving volume, charged with emotion and satiated with reasonableness. There is both poetry and prose. It is written for the outside world: "Put your shoes into my shoes and wear me like a human being would wear another human being" Conway Payn starts his story. It is a book which will make you cry, and laugh, and get frustratingly angry at the crassness of government. I wish I could bury the noses of Tokyo Sexwale and Bonginkosi Madikazela in its pages. Everyone should buy this book and read it.

- Martin Legassick, Amandla Magazine

May 25, 2011
The poor are not a particularly engaging lot, any more than you and I, and poverty of education is a fact that means the poor will be with us for a very long time. Thus, the publication this year of No Land, No House, No Vote is impressive. It is not a political exercise (though, what is not politics in South Africa?) but the stories of the Symphony Way pavement dwellers told by themselves.

A number of conditions were presented by the pavement dwellers to the publisher: no one's story was to be refused, despite repetitiveness; there was to be minimal editing, despite peculiarities and, sometimes, obscurity of language; and the proceeds of the book were to go to `the community' as a whole.

- Jeanne Hromnik, Cape Argus, Cape Town

The Guardian
Apr 1, 2010

Life in 'Tin Can Town' for the South Africans evicted ahead of World Cup

Campaigners say conditions in Blikkiesdorp or 'Tin Can Town' are worse than in the townships created during apartheid
David Smith - Thursday 1 April 2010

Children squint as wind whips the grey sand into their faces. A teenager braves the flies and stench of a leaking outdoor toilet to draw water from a standpipe. He stares vacantly along regimented rows of corrugated iron shacks encircled by a tall, concrete fence. No grass or trees grow here.

- David Smith, The Guardian

"A beautiful and heart-rending book that speaks a story so often undocumented. Hopefully it will be inspiring to other such ventures as well as those from Symphony Way. The photographs are brilliant and the stories a concrete and visceral expression of solidarity and humanity."
Nigel Gibson, Emerson College, Boston; Editor, Journal of Asian and African Studies and author of Fanonian Practices: From Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo.