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South Africa: Compromise At Crossroads

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The riot last month at Crossroads, a wretched black squatters’ camp on the sand dunes outside Cape Town, resulted in the deaths of 18 blacks and injuries to 250 others. It also brought calls from many in South Africa’s shocked tricameral Parliament for a plan to allow the shantytown’s 60,000 inhabitants to stay on permanently. Last week Gerrit Viljoen, South Africa’s Minister of Cooperation and Development, conceded. He was prepared, he said, to allow “upgrading and development” of the area to provide adequate housing for those qualifying, based on the length of their residence and permanent employment. Speaking during a parliamentary debate on Crossroads’ future, Viljoen said he was willing to negotiate with the residents “to find a way to improve their quality of life.”

But the people who live in the slum’s 10,000 squalid shanties have not emerged entirely victorious. According to Viljoen, only 3,000 dwellings in Crossroads can be approved. Most of the squatters will still have to move, presumably to Khayelitsha, a new township eight miles away that many blacks reject as being too costly and too remote. Admitted Viljoen: “I can give no assurance that people will not be resettled under compulsion.”

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