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Wentworth Women’s Statement on the Earth Summit

By: 
Wentworth Women
Date Published: 
October 10, 2002

“Cease your dealing in our death”

    Women of one South Africa’s poorest townships, Wentworth on the edge of Durban, issued a statement about why they are protesting at the Earth Summit held in Johannesburg in August. They have called their grassroots organization the Wentworth Summit on Sickness and Death (WSSD), mirroring the official title of the world leaders’ gathering, the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Our land stolen from us through the barrel of the Bible and the tolling of big guns. Dumped in godforsaken pits on the outskirts of Durban. Exploited for cheap labour in the foul factories of Shell, Sasol, BP and Engen. Maimed, diseased and killed by pollution that rains down no matter what ill wind is blowing. Forgotten, lied to and bluffed by politicians who claim they came to liberate us. And now, in this new century, when we organize we are repressed, locked up, insulted, beaten and shot. We now say enough! We now stand up as parents with children wheezing for clean air. We stand up as wives whose husbands have cancer of the blood. We stand up as a community disgusted at the sight of what they have tried to turn us into—gangsters and gossipers, drunks and dealers. We stand up as neighbors who cannot bear to see the suffering next door any more. We stand up as human beings who demand a decent life. We say to the big polluters—Shell, Engen, Mondi, BP and Sasol—cease your dealing in our death. Stop pumping cancer and asthma into the air we breathe. Should it cost too much to clean your smoke stacks, then close down and get lost. In the meantime we demand £100 per person a month for all who suffer from asthma, and all medical costs for those with lung cancer and leukemia. We say to the ANC [African National Congress] government coalition, you claspers of hands, you smellers of money, you cravers of applause, you hypocrites. You have done nothing for us. We will now do what is necessary, by all means necessary, ourselves. We say to you NGOs and churches and trade unions, do not tell us to be patient or swallow our rage. There can be no compromise with the satans of industry and the stooges in government. You are part of the problem unless you understand this. We are dying. You can fall off your high horses on the way to Damascus. You can turn around and join us in our struggle. We say to all other community movements and groups across the land, let’s join hands. Let’s forget about color and creed. Let’s fight together. Let us take our right to life in our hands.