GLOBAL AFRIKAN PEOPLE’S PARLIAMENT (GAPP) STATEMENT REGARDING THE GRENFELL TOWER FIRE TRAGEDY
The Global Afrikan People’s Parliament (GAPP) would like to extend our deepest condolences to all those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire which occurred in the early hours of Wednesday 14th June 2017. We are deeply heartbroken at the preventable and senseless loss of life as well as the incalculable devastation that has been caused as a result of the fire.
To all those who have lost or not been able to verify the whereabouts of family members, friends, and loved ones; those of you who are critically ill, injured and maimed; as well as those members of the public who have witnessed this horrific and major tragedy of international repercussions, with long-term effects and consequences; our hearts, thoughts, prayers and solidarity go out to you. We hope that you receive the trauma care and counselling that is necessary to help deal with the immediate aftermath, mental health and wellbeing needs that affected families, residents and communities have.
As the Grenfell Estate residents struggle for justice unfolds, we express our outrage at the magnitude of this corporate manslaughter in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC), the richest borough in the UK.
We express outrage that the residents’ years of previously documented complaints about how the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) – to which the local council had delegated management of the tower – were compromising safety and refusing to listen to tenant concerns and forewarnings. Instead of redressing these complaints, the gaps between the two Kensingtons, South Kensington and North Kensington, the former being more prosperous and the latter more impoverished and disenfranchised), widened!
We share your outrage at the manifest systematic ethnic and social cleansing occurring in the borough characterised by increasingly structurally violent gentrification, redlining and ‘containment’ of those considered less socially desirable in social housing as well as the private rented sector; who have been compelled to live in abysmal conditions and a perpetual state of disrepair. Data on inequality in the whole of England drawn from the UK Government’s English Indices of Deprivation 2015 shows the area surrounding Grenfell Tower to have been among the most deprived in the country. The residents of Grenfell Tower were surrounded by inequality, with clear differences in their income, and disparities in wealth, employment and life expectancy when compared to those living in luxurious private residential housing just metres away. The RBKC contains some of the most expensive residential properties in the world, at the same time, it has one of the highest rates of residential overcrowding and the highest rate of out-of-borough placements for homeless people in London. Whilst many questions being asked about why this tragedy has occurred remain unanswered by officialdom, it is undeniable that environmental racism and classism were factors in the state’s neglect and complicity in disregarding the views of local residents, their families and communities regarding the negative impacts of gentrification in the area which disproportionately affected their economic, social, and physical well-being.
As in other gentrifying areas in communities across the country, council officials and developers have used the politically neutral language of economic development, sustainability, and construction of public amenities to justify gentrification, land enclosures and property seizures. However, these apolitical discourses are designed to obfuscate the realities of gentrification being a process which ejects and ‘contains’ residents who are generally working-class and otherwise racialised. Nevertheless, ignoring the racialised and classed history of the area thwarts the supposedly race-neutral arguments, indicating that urban regeneration, and its associated racialised gentrification, is an environmental justice issue. For it was environmental racism and classism which has left Afrikan heritage, Asian, Arabic-speaking, Muslim and other racialised, migrant, refugee and impoverished communities confined to the most deprived parts of the RBKC, as elsewhere in London. And it was environmental racism and classism that ensured the economic priorities of the borough council and private developers were put above those of Grenfell constituencies at the same time as neglecting social justice concerns.
From our GAPP standpoint of promoting Community Repairs, including Community Regeneration as an essential Pempamsie (sewing together) part of holistic Pan-Afrikan Reparations for Global Justice, we urge you to build principled unity, with others to advance your cause, in common with similar endeavours.
We as concerned and aggrieved members of the public, in solidarity with you as local residents, the Grenfell Action Group, your related associations and leading members of the local community, must continue to find ways and means to join forces with other citizen and community groups and campaigns who have been similarly impacted; collectively organise more effectively to resist this structural manifestation of the Maangamizi which epitomises the intersection between race and impoverishment, (which has not only impacted people of Afrikan ancestry and heritage but other racialised groups, diverse migrant, refugee, disenfranchised and impoverished communities), to ensure that the campaign for justice for the victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy extends to tackling this issue systemically, all over London and the UK. This is the relevance of the ‘Stop the Maangamizi’ Campaign and our ongoing struggle for Pan-Afrikan Reparations for Global Justice.
Since spatial and other environmental decisions are often related to political power, it is important to do so in ways that succeed in holding the UK government, led by Teresa May, which failed in its obligations to review of Part B of the Building Regulations (2010) to account. Theresa May’s new chief of staff, former Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, and other Tory housing ministers who preceded him, were derelict in their duty to review fire regulations in high rise blocks like Grenfell Tower. This review of fire regulations in high rise blocks was called for after an inquest into a tower block fire in Lakanal House, in the London borough of Southwark, which killed six people and injured 20 in 2009.
It is now the time for all to wake up to the genocidal criminality of the neoliberal capitalist austerity policies being draconically imposed with impunity and contempt for those they are impoverishing by Tory/Lib-Dem and right-wing Labour governments. In January last year, Conservative MPs voted to reject a Labour Party proposed amendment to the Government’s Housing and Planning Act 2016. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill proposed by former shadow housing minister, Teresa Pearce would have required private sector landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”. Not surprisingly, 72 of the MPs that voted against the amendment were landlords themselves, who derived an income from a property. Although such legislation would not necessarily have applied to the majority of the residents of Grenfell Tower; it remains the case that criminally profiteering social and private landlords as indeed others responsible for and complicit in the corporate manslaughter of the families, and residents of Grenfell Tower, must be held to account in accordance with the full rigor of ‘Just Law’.
We must heighten participatory democratic resistance in the creation of a people’s movement to effect change to the humane alternative represented by Jeremy Corbyn, resurgent Labour and other progressive forces of which GAPP is an integral part. This is necessary to build the power to bring about an end to such “dangerous living conditions and contraventions of health and safety legislation inflicted upon tenants and leaseholders”. Ultimately, we must strive to do all that is humanly possible to prevent another such tragedy occurring by ensuring that we not only build on local community struggles, but also seek to transform them into ones that are capable of not only resisting but also dismantling the existing undemocratic status quo.
We must similarly work to ensure that those who have been made homeless as a result of this tragedy are not shipped out of the borough as we have seen with other racialised and impoverished families. We must also organise to ensure that those people, families and groups affected, are enabled to remain in the communities they’ve known for years; are provided with adequate, decent, affordable and permanent housing; are provided with the cost of resettlement, replacing their possessions and repairing the damage holistically of all that has been lost, including their homes, livelihoods and established social networks; and that Grenfell residents are able to implement their right to the city, environmental justice and holistic sustainable development. Furthermore, that this occurs in ways which minimise displacement, facilitates community continuity, self-determination and self-governance and guarantees the reparatory justice redistribution of income and wealth glocally.
Finally, we must ensure that such new domains and locales are transformed into healthy and lively places to live, work, and play which meet the environmental justice requirements for the ecological harmonisation of the built and natural environment. It is such transformation that will enable, as we of GAPP hope, all of us to appreciate the Afrikan wisdom in living by the ethics and principle of Ubuntu – I am because you are and because you are therefore we are too!
GAPP Leadership Facilitation Team