It is very disturbing that the very same municipality that gave permission for people to build and provided the building material is now illegally and violently tearing these shacks down. If the govrernment continues to rule impoverished people in a violent, unlawful, corrupt and criminal way, there will be a risk of retaliation from the oppressed.
We have faced many evictions in the City of Durban since our movement was formed in 2005. Almost all these evictions have been violent, unlawful and criminal.
We have stopped almost all these evictions through organised resistance, mass protest and action in the courts. When the state has attempted to change the law to make it easier for them to evict us we have defeated them in court. In 2009 we won against the “Slums Act” at the Constitutional Court. Last year we also won against the “blanket order” sought by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC [Member of the Executive Council] for Human Settlements. The “blanket order” was intended to authorise mass evictions and to prevent the occupation of at least 1,568 properties in KwaZulu-Natal.
However evictions continue, especially against people who are not organised. On Friday, 8 July 2016 at about 10:00 a.m. the eThekwini Municipal Anti-Land Invasion Unit stormed a section of the Kennedy Road settlement. As always they were armed and they demolished homes without any notice or eviction order. It was a violent, unlawful and criminal act. Some families were still inside their shacks when they were demolished. The Anti-Land Invasion Unit assaulted people and vandalized their belongings including their furniture, etc. At least 30 shacks were destroyed.
Some of these shacks had been built by the municipality to accommodate victims of a shack fire. In 2014 there was a shack fire that destroyed more than 200 shacks. The municipality refused to allow people to rebuild their shacks. The municipality took several months to build a ‘transit camp’ (government shacks) as an alternative to self-built shacks. After the ‘transit camp’ was completed there was serious corruption in the allocation. Some of the government shacks were distributed to the wrong people, while others were sold to people who never had their shacks burnt. As a result of the corruption in the allocation, some of the government shacks were used as spaza shops while other were rented out. More than 20 people whose shacks burnt down did not get the government shacks that were supposed to be allocated to them. These families were left to live in a community hall for more than a year.
The eThekwini Municipality eventually responded to complaints and protests by building another ‘transit camp’ along the side of the M19 . However this ‘transit camp’ did not have enough government shacks to fit everyone who was still homeless after the 2014 fire. Early this year, after further complaints, some families were given building material by the municipality to build for themselves. It is very disturbing that the very same municipality that gave permission for people to build on this land and provided the building material is now illegally and violently tearing these shacks down.
It will be remembered that the Public Protector came to visit the settlement late last year and was told about corruption in ‘transit camp’ construction. The Public Protector discovered that each government shack in the ‘transit camp’ was built at the cost of R35 000 amounting to a total of R35 million. She was probing these allegations. The building of ‘transit camps’ has become a big business for people in the ANC and the rampant corruption in the building and allocation of these government shacks is used to enrich people in the ruling party and to strengthen the power of the party against the people.
After the violent and unlawful demolition of shacks last Friday residents protested. They blockaded the M19 and burnt a municipal motor vehicle. On the following day, Saturday, a municipal truck and a municipal bus were burnt on the M19. There were passengers in the bus when it was attacked and some people were injured.
This protest was not organised by our movement. We do not have members in that ‘transit camp’. The residents affected by the demolitions organised the protest independently of any organisation. Our leaders, their families and other well known members of our movement were driven out of the Kennedy Road settlement by the ANC, at gunpoint, in 2009. We do still have strong supporters in the settlement but none of them were affected by the recent eviction or participated in the protests that followed the eviction.
We have always warned that the anger of the impoverished and oppressed can go in many directions. We have always insisted that the state must relate to us in a peaceful and democratic manner. We have always opposed state violence and criminality. We have always carried out our struggle in a well organised and non-violent manner.
We support many forms of struggle – including, where necessary, land occupations and road blockades – but we have always insisted that struggle must be conducted in an organised and non-violent way. When we organise a road blockade we will always make sure that no one is threatened or harmed. We will always allow an ambulance or other emergency vehicle through the blockade.
We are in solidarity with the residents of Kennedy Road who continue to face shack fires, who have not been allowed to rebuild their homes after the 2014 fire, who have been forced into government shacks or have been denied access to government shacks due to corruption, who have faced illegal and violent evictions at the hands of a criminal state and who have been lied to for so many years by Nigel Gumede and the eThekwini Municipality. We are also in solidarity with the people who were in the bus when it was attacked on Saturday.
We condemn the violent acts of the state and we condemn the violent act of the protestor or protestors who threw a petrol bomb at the bus.
If the municipality continues to govern impoverished people in a violent, unlawful, corrupt and criminal way there will be a risk of more incidents of this kind. The way forward is for the municipality to learn to negotiate with impoverished people in a respectful and democratic manner so that conflicts can be resolved in a just and peaceful way.
We are trying to set up a meeting with the eThekwini Municipality that will be aimed at working out a way forward. We will continue to urge the eThekwini Municipality to deal with communities in a non-violent, respectful and democratic manner. We will remind them that as Abahlali we are committed to non-violent and democratic forms of struggle. We will urge the eThekwini Municipality to respect the laws of this country and to engage meaningfully and respectfully with communities. We will, once again, remind the eThekwini Municipality that the anger of the impoverished and oppressed can go in many directions. We will remind them that unlawful, corrupt and violent forms of governance cannot move the city towards a just peace.
S’bu Zikode 083 5470 474
Zandile Nsibande 062 947 1947
TJ Ngongoma 084 613 9772
Thapelo Mohapi 062 8925323
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