South Africa: Kennedy Road Burns Once Again
3 November 2013
Kennedy Road Burns Once Again
On Tuesday the Isipingo Transit Camp was flooded once again. It is built on a flood plain and there is no drainage and so there are regular floods. The residents took to the streets and organised a road blockade in protest at the living conditions that have been forced on them against their will.
Our movement has rejected transit camps from the first moment that that they appeared and we have constantly called for them to abolished and for all people that have been forced into these inhuman places to be provided with decent housing as a matter of urgency. The municipality has now announced that they will not build any more transit camps and they have promised to house people in transit camps. Their decision to stop building transit camps is a victory that comes directly from our struggle. We welcome this victory but we do not see clear plans to provide decent housing to the 10 000 people who have been sentenced to the transit camps. Therefore our struggle against the transit camps continues and it will continue until every person forced into a transit camp has access to decent housing.
Today the Kennedy Road settlement burnt again. More than 90 shacks were destroyed. Our movement has been campaigning against the conditions that lead to relentless shack fires since 2005. We have recently won an important victory. The Municipality’s 2001 decision to stop providing electricity to shack settlements has been overturned. Again this victory comes directly from our struggle. However electricity needs to be provided at a much quicker rate, and there are many other things to be done, before the plague of fires becomes a thing of the past. Therefore our struggle against the conditions that lead to shack fires continues.
Last weekend the Mayor, James Nxumalo, left Kennedy Road in humiliation as people rejected his attempts to try and keep us quiet by throwing us meat as if we are dogs. He said that he would return to the settlement today. He did not come. Maybe he realised that you can’t ask people to vote for you while their homes are burning as a direct result of years and years of government contempt.
In today’s Sunday Tribune Nxumalo is saying that his outreach programme is mobilising civil society and charitable organisations to donate to underprivileged communities. He says nothing about how the politicians only come with breyani or inyama at election time. We are not underprivileged. We are oppressed. We want justice and not charity. Nxumalo says that by politicising his outreach programme we are stooping to the lowest. We say that by not politicising poverty Nxumalo is trying to make our poverty look normal. We say that by not saying anything about how the Municipality and the ruling party use violence, including murder, to keep us poor by excluding us from the city, excluding us from decision making about our own future and the future of the city and preventing us from making our own arrangements to get land, housing and services when the government fails us, Nxumalo is trying to make oppression look normal. He says nothing about the recent murders in Cato Crest and in the New Germany settlement in Reservoir Hills. It seems that for him murder is fine but refusing to be treated like a dog is a big problem.
Nxumalo also proudly says that the Municipality is planning to build 750 houses in Kennedy Road as part of an in situ upgrade. He says nothing about the fact that when we started our movement in 2005 the ANC’s plan for Kennedy Road was to destroy the settlement and force some of the residents into the human dumping grounds outside of the city while leaving others homeless. He says nothing about the fact that the plan to destroy this settlement, and others in Clare Estate and Reservoir Hills, was stopped by the struggle of our movement. He says nothing about the fact that the new plan to upgrade the settlement is a demand that was won by our movement. We won this concession in the negotiations that began in 2007 and were concluded in 2009. This is all recorded in writing in the Memorandum of Understanding that we signed with the Municipality in 2009. Nxumalo says nothing about the fact that after the City announced the Kennedy Road upgrade our movement was attacked in the Kennedy Road settlement by the ANC with the open support of senior politicians to make sure that only ANC members would enjoy the fruits of our struggle. He is trying to make our victory look like an idea that came from the ANC.
Leaving people to live in floods and fire year after year is stooping low. Murdering people that stand up for justice is stooping very low. Politicising poverty and the politics that keeps poor people poor is standing up for justice. If the Mayor thinks that standing up for justice is stooping low then it is clear to us that he likes injustice and wants it to continue.
We will not stop politicising poverty or the oppression that we are experiencing at the hands of Nxumalo and the eThekwini Municipality.