August 10, 2008: S. African Housing Activist Grootboom Eulogized - Western Cape Anti-Eviction Press Statement
Bearing Grootboom's Coffin
Kraaifontein - On Saturday, August 9, a holiday marking the contribution of women to South Africa's liberation struggle, three members of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign joined close to 500 mourners at the funeral of Irene Grootboom held at the Wallacedene informal settlement.
Eight years ago, Irene Grootboom brought her communities case before the SA Constitutional Court, calling attention to the apalling conditions faced by the adults and children living in her community.
Her case resulted in a landmark judgment calling upon the state to design and implement "a comprehensive and co-ordinated programme to realise the right of access to adequate housing." On 30 July, 2008 she died in a shack, still waiting for the SA government to meet her constitutional right to a home.
At the funeral, AEC members listened to several friends, relatives, and pastors eulogize Grootboom as a powerful fighter who put the needs of others before her own. Several people even spoke passionately about the fact that they would not have been able to get access to a house if it had not been for her tireless efforts. And as a testament to her contribution to the community, the street on which she lived bears her name.
However, the AEC members found it sad that members of the ANC were asked to speak at her funeral, with no acknowledgement that this same political party was responsible for initially opposing her court case and later failed to provide her with a home, even after being instructed to do so by the highest court in the land.
It is a shame that Irene Grootboom's funeral was presided over not by friendly legal advocates or fellow community activists, but by the same political party that left her to spend her last years in a shack. Perhaps, she and tens of thousands of her fellow citizens would be alive today if they had the decent and affordable housing that is there right.