eMacambini: Holding onto Paradise

29 12 2008

(This is the full version of an article first published in The Weekender.)

Holding onto Paradise

The proposed development of eMacambini will destroy the life of a rich rural community as well as one of KZN’s most beautiful landscapes, writes Peter Machen

If you drive up the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal, you’ll see what was once little than a series of small seaside towns gradually morphing into something that increasingly looks like Jo’burg. Currently the twin epicentres of this urban spread are Umhlanga and Ballito, but the virus is spreading around the province. It has already filled the once semi-rural suburbs of Hillcrest and Waterfall with strip malls and gated communities and threatens to take up wherever there is a beautiful view waiting to be destroyed. Read the rest of this entry »


Media: Deflt families vow not to move

23 12 2008

Aziz Hartley
December 22 2008 at 10:40AM
Source: Cape Times

About 40 Delft families who were given formal houses “by mistake” after their temporary accommodation burnt down say they will defy any efforts to move them. Read the rest of this entry »

AbM: 50 Shacks Burn in Kennedy Road

23 12 2008

21 December 2008

About 50 shacks burnt in the Kennedy Road settlement last night. This is the 8th fire in the settlement this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Media: Blaze leaves 200 people homeless

23 12 2008
December 22, 2008 Edition 1
Source: Mercury

DEVASTATED residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Clare Estate, Durban, will not be spending Christmas in their homes after fire gutted nearly 30 shacks at midnight on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »

Media: Citing solidarity, evicted S. Africans refuse new homes

23 12 2008

Members of a campaign dedicated to securing homes for ousted residents of a Cape Town housing development dance the celebratory “toyi-toyi” — stomping their feet, clapping and singing — after helping one family find their new home in South Africa’s Delft township earlier this month. Five families belonging to the Symphony Way Anti-Eviction Campaign have received new homes, but say they will not move in until the other evicted families are housed.

While they’ve been given a house in Delft 7-9 by the government in Cape Town, Jolene Arendse and her family have decided that they won’t move in until all families living in makeshift homes on Symphony Way receive housing, too.

After months of often violent protests, five families belonging to the Symphony Way Anti-Eviction Campaign (AEC) received keys earlier this month to their new houses in Delft 7-9, a recently constructed residential development on the outskirts of Cape Town.

Accompanied by an entourage of 80 campaign members sporting red T-shirts bearing the slogan “No Land! No House! No Vote!”, the families found their way through a maze of nearly identical and unnumbered one- and two-story buildings.

After several false starts and wrong turns, the crowd soon found each family’s home. With wide smiles and shouts of excitement, each family christened their new home with water and a silent prayer.

“I’m glad that I received a house for the sake of my children,” said Ethel Abbels. “I’ve been on the waiting list for 17 years. I pray that everybody will get a house very soon.”

Roughly 10 months ago, these families were among thousands who illegally occupied unfinished houses belonging to a government-run N2 Gateway housing project in another part of Delft, a township on the edge of Cape Town. Alleging that they had been given permission to occupy the homes by their local councilor, these families also claimed that their actions reflected their desperate need for housing.

Like Abbels, nearly all the families that occupied the new project’s homes had been on the city of Cape Town’s waiting list for housing, many for more than a decade. While they waited, many rented makeshift shacks in the backyards of residents’ properties.

After two months of protests, court cases and mass meetings, Cape Town’s High Court authorized the eviction of the roughly 1,600 unlawful occupants of the N2 Gateway homes. Beginning at dawn on Feb. 19, police and private security moved from door to door, removing each family.

The scene quickly turned violent, as police began shooting into the gathering crowd of residents, pursuing them as they ran for cover and leaving 20 people wounded. Television cameras and news photographers captured the confrontation, with images reminiscent of the battles between police and anti-apartheid activists.

With their belongings confiscated by a police eviction team, residents were left on the sidewalk along Symphony Way, a main thoroughfare. Rather than dispersing, residents constructed housing for themselves and continued to demand that the city meet their housing needs. Protestors even blocked the road to emphasize their demands.

After a particularly cold and wet winter and a prolonged negotiations process, the first group of Symphony Way residents was able to get their keys. Part of the South African government’s “Breaking New Ground” housing policy, each low-income house was built using a government subsidy provided to each qualifying family.

While acknowledging the happiness of the moment, the recipients of the new houses remained critical of the government’s failure to provide homes for all 127 families still living on Symphony Way. Some have even, in a show of solidarity, refused to accept their new houses, citing the agreement they made after their mass eviction to move into their new homes as a community.

“I am very happy, as I have finally received a house,” said Alfred Arnolds. “But on the other hand, for all the time I am waiting, I am not going to stay in this house until everyone on Symphony Way [receives] their houses. This is how I feel due to the mandate we undertook to move together.”

Jolene Ardense isn’t moving in yet, either.

“The reason why I’m not moving into the house is because of the mandate that we took in the beginning of our struggle that everyone will move together,” she said.

The official statement of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Cape Town-based social movement that has helped to organize the residents of Symphony Way and other squatter camps, echoed these concerns.

“Despite this small victory, each of the five families remain unsatisfied,” the statement reads. “They want their own house, but they do not want their own house if all their brothers and sisters on Symphony Way do not get their own houses as well.

“… As a result, each family has decided that they will not abandon their community on Symphony Way,” the statement continues. “Instead, they have undertaken to hang their keys up in the community office and make a commitment to not leave Symphony Way until every single family on the road is allocated a house.”

Organizers say the sense of solidarity grew out of personal relationships and various community programs developed in the wake of the mass evictions. Residents have had to rely on each other for essentials like building materials, child care and firewood.

While they wait for homes, Symphony Way residents continue to face police harassment. Five officers from the Delft police station last Wednesday threatened a local community organizer and assaulted two visiting Americans, then returned an hour later to arrest a Symphony Way resident for swearing at a police officer and malicious destruction to property.

These assaults fit a pattern of police abuse following the initial mass evictions. Since Feb. 19 of this year, there have been more than 10 such incidents, including the pepper-spraying of this reporter on June 29, 2008.

Baby from Cape Town’s worst squatter camp treated for cholera

20 12 2008
Published 17 hours ago, by Adriana Stuijt

In only the second-ever reported cholera case in the Western Cape province, a Cape Town hospital confirmed that a four-month-old baby from the swampy Wallacedene squatter camp near Kraaifontein was treated for cholera — but is recovering.

The unnamed baby boy was admitted to the Karl Bremer Hospital in the suburb of Parow near his shack in the infamous Wallacedene squatter camp. He is now reportedly out of danger. For an idea of what it’s like to actually live with one’s family in one of those squatter camps of Cape Town, see the video. Much of greater Cape Town is not really suitable for habitation but people have settled there to be near jobs in the northern industrial areas – creating miserable conditions for themselves. Also see: SA’s ticking time bomb: water pollution… Read the rest of this entry »

AbM: Post Annual General Meeting Speech by S’bu Zikode

16 12 2008
14 December 2008
Post Annual General Meeting Speech by S’bu Zikode
Delivered to Abahlali baseMjondolo at the Blue Lagoon, Durban

AEC Note: S’bu Zikode had originally declined to stand for re-election as president of the movement. After all of the more than 200 delegates at the AGM unanimously voted in a secret ballot for his return to that position, S’bu took a few weeks to reconsider his decision. S’bu delivered the following speech to Abahlali in which he accepted the position for one more year.


Comrades, as you all know we have come from a very unique AGM of our beloved Movement, a Movement whose unique strength has enabled so many shack dwellers to stand together and to be very strong in defending and protecting ourselves, our communities and our right to the cities.

Our 2008 AGM held in the Kennedy Road Hall on 23 November was as successful as all the others that we have held since the launch of our movement in October 2005. Our movement is still growing and all of our branches and affiliated settlements elected their representatives and the hall at Kennedy Road was overflowing. Everyone was free to say what ever they wanted to say. The voting went well and it was wonderful to have our comrades from the Poor People’s Alliance with us. But, as you all know, I took a decision not to stand for another term. As I explained my intention was always to remain strongly committed to the movement but it seemed clear to me that all positions at all levels of leadership in our movement need to be shared, that the burden of leadership in a movement of volunteers needs to be shared, that I need time for my family and to be able to read and to think about what we have achieved with our living politic – a politic that was always based on us thinking carefully about our lives and our struggles. We have to change ourselves before we can change the world and, without time to think, that change becomes difficult.
Read the rest of this entry »