'But we were thousands': Dispossession, resistance, repossession and repression in Mandela Park

Ashwin Desai, Richard Pithouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


This article seeks to give an outline of the key events in the unfolding struggle in Mandela Park, Cape Town, South Africa, against evictions and disconnections from water and electricity. It also seeks to situate this sketch of the emergence and trajectory of these struggles in a broader narrative about the Post-Apartheid State's turn to neo-liberalism. We argue that, in certain instances, the increased political legitimacy of the State, consequent to the elite transition from apartheid to neo-liberalism, has enabled it to step-up attacks on the poor. Furthermore, we also argue that some of the new movements that have emerged to oppose neo-liberalism mark a new stage in the South African struggles: against the elitism of the ANC tradition, they believe that, in Fanon's famous phrase, 'the only magic hands are the hands of the people'. However we caution that, largely as a result of the strains and difficulties of organizing under growing state repression, there is a danger that new forms of authoritarianism could emerge and pose a serious risk to the growth and development of the rebellion begun by these new movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-269
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Asian and African Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Neo-liberalism
  • Racism
  • Social movements
  • South Africa
  • Struggle
  • World Bank

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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