Occupy Durban! - Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
27 November 2011
Occupations Currently Underway in
Hillary, KwaMashu and Pinetown
We are human beings, not dogs, and every human being has a right to a decent home and a right, if they choose, to a place in the city. Economic, political and legal systems that deny these rights are a threat to our humanity and must be resisted. There is enough money and space in this world for every person to have a decent home. The problem is that the money and space are being held by the few to exclude the many. If the few continue to exclude the many then it is our responsibility to ourselves, our families and our communities to resist this oppression.
In South Africa the state uses violent demolitions and evictions to prevent poor people from developing land and building informal homes on our own. The economic system prevents those without money from buying or renting formal homes. The state promises formal houses to the poor but the number of people without houses is growing, most of the houses built by the state are unfit for human beings and in the rural peripheries of the cities. For some people the promise of a house has turned into the nightmare of forced removal to a transit camp.
We are in the middle of the Sixteen Days of Activism to end violence against women and children. Many conferences are being held. There are many discussions on television. Yet who will stand with the poor, with poor women and their children, when the state or private landowners send out the police or security guards to evict them, demolish their homes and steal their building materials? We do not see or hear from all these NGOs that are talking about the rights of women and children when the state and private landowners use violence to deny poor women and their children the right to a home.
As a movement we are struggling to build a society in which there is an economic system where human beings come before profit and a political system in which leaders take direction from below. We are struggling to build a society in which there will be a fair distribution of land and decent housing for all. But we are alive now, our children are growing now. We are living in the rain and with shack fires now. Therefore it is clear that we also have to take direct action to struggle for what land and housing we can get right now even as we continue the long struggle for a more democratic and just world.
Four weeks ago 77 people were evicted from the Valley View flats in Hillary. These flats are owned by SOHCO which is a social housing company. Social housing was set up to cover those who don't qualify for RDP houses but are too poor to qualify for bonds. It is called a 'public private partnership'. But the private side of this arrangement has taken over the public side. Tenants are being exploited by paying rentals that will, over their lives, be worth much more than the value of the flats and those that are falling behind are being evicted. They remain unable to get RDP houses and unable to get housing through the market and are therefore being excluded from access to housing. Social housing is therefore failing and it will continue to fail until the alliance between the government and private investors looking to make private profit is abandoned and replaced with an alliance between the government and co-operatives of people needing housing.
Last night 50 of the evicted people returned to the flats to occupy them. The police succeeded in forcing them out again. Tonight they have returned to reoccupy the flats. If they are evicted again they will return tomorrow night.
Contact Details for the Hillary Occupation:
S'fiso: 079 818 1987 Nomfundo: 082 541 0855
The KwaMashu comrades were first evicted from eBhandeni, which was in Siyanda in KwaMashu in 2009. They were evicted by Nandi Mandela as a road was being built. It was said that the road was important for the 2010 World Cup and that the poor people would have to make way. They were never given alternative accommodation as demanded by the law and were just left homeless.
They have tried several times to engage with the councilor, Mr Lucky Mdlalose who has neglected them. After a long time of failing to get any help from the councilor they decided to occupy the vacant land which is next to the school called Thobile Primary School. On Wednesday last week the shacks that they had built on the land were demolished by people from the Municipality. The cars that there were driving had these number plates: NDM 6902, NDM 6903 and NDM 6999. The comrades were brave and they rebuilt their shacks the next day.
On Friday the municipality came with cars that had these number plates: NDM 6963 and NDM 6903. They demolished the shacks again and this time they also stole the people's building material. The community went to the police station to open a case of theft. The police refused to open a case but one police officer did call the councilor who responded by saying that as there is COP 17 coming the councilors have been given a mandate to make sure that no one is dirtying the community and that they must take care of the animals and nature. Later there was a debate on Vibe FM between the councilor and Bandile Mdlalose, the AbM Secretary General. During that debate the councilor said that he would make arrangements for alternative accommodation but he has not contacted them. Around thirty people have now decided that on Monday morning they are going to occupy the KwaMashu community hall with their children as there were all made homeless by Nandi Mandela and then again by the Municipality and the Councilor is doing nothing to protect them. The occupation will start at around 7 a.m. Tomorrow.
Contact details for the KwaMashu Occupation:
Jabulile : 074 542 5939 Mama Mdlalose 073 501 4200
The eMmaus land occupation, in Pinetown, was founded in September 2010. These people had previously been evicted by the Mahogany Ridge 2 Property Owners' Association and before that by the Roman Catholic Church after it sold its land to industry. They had been left homeless after these evictions and needed a place to stay. Since then they have suffered more demolition and theft of their building material. The Mahogany Ridge 2 Property Owners' Association has also put an electric fence around the occupation which is very dangerous for children. The land owners are currently trying to get the people evicted through the courts. AbM is fighting the case in the courts and on the 19th of October 2011 the movement organised a mass march on the landlords in defense of the land occupation.
Contact details for the Pinetown Occupation:
Khanyi Dlamuka, eMmaus AbM Coordinator: 071 218 3007
It is clear that to many people in government, and to many rich people, the poor remain dirt, something to swept out of the cities. If housing is to be given to us it is housing that is unfit for human beings and will hide us away in rural human dumping grounds. In Durban our attempts to organise and struggle for land and housing have been met with serious and violent repression from the state and the ruling party. Neither the economic system nor the political system are working for the poor and therefore we will continue to struggle for justice. We invite all the comrades who are in Durban for the COP 17 meeting to come and show their solidarity for the occupations in Hillary, KwaMashu and eMmaus and for our struggle for the right to organise for land and housing and to be able to engage the state meaningfully.
The Poor People's Alliance: Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People's Alliance - a unfunded national network of democratic membership based poor people's movements.