AbM: Bheki Cele Threatens 66 Families with Forced Removal

8 12 2008

Sunday, 07 December 2008
Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Transport MEC Bheki Cele Threatens 66 Families in Siyanda with Forced Removal to one of the Notorious “Transit Camps”

On Saturday the Sheriff of the Court served a letter from the State Attorney on 66 families in Siyanda, KwaMashu. This letter instructs us to leave our homes by 16h00 this Tuesday, 9 December. More than 300 hundred people in our community are now at risk of forced removal to the notorious ‘transit camps’.

The letter states that our homes will be demolished after Tuesday and that we will be moved to “temporal houses” or “transit camps” to make way for the new MR 577 Freeway.  The letter warns us that should residents “refuse or resist the relocation in any manner, whatsoever, the MEC for Transport will bring an application on an urgent basis to evict them from the road reserve and further seek costs against them.”

This is pure intimidation. Bheki Cele has no court order demanding our eviction and if he tries to have us evicted without a court order he will be guilty of a criminal act. If he tries to evict us legally he will have to make an application to the court and we will have the right to defend our community in the court – this is due process as laid out in the law. We have a right to oppose any eviction and this is not something for which Cele can claim costs against us.

As the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo branch we state clearly that we know our rights with regard to the Prevention of Illegal Evictions from Unlawful Occupations Act, and the protections afforded to us by the Constitution.  We are well aware of the victories won in court against attempts by the eThekwini Municipality to evict our comrades in settlements like Motala Heights and Arnett Drive. We are working closely with our comrades from these settlements who have experience in these matters.

We also know and insist on our rights as human beings.

We state clearly that we consider any forced removal from a shack to a transit camp as an eviction because it is clear that “transit camps” – what the people call amatins – are not decent accommodation and that they can not be considered as an acceptable alternative to our shacks.

We state clearly that we refuse to comply with the notice of eviction and that we will always refuse to accept any relocation to any “transit camps”. The office of the state attorney will be informed of this in writing first thing on Monday morning.

The main reasons for our refusal to allow our shacks to be demolished so that we can be moved to “transit camps” are as follows:

  • We have lived on this land for many years. In 1994 Inba Naidoo, the first councillor after apartheid, allocated plots of land to us. We were given signed certificates indicating that the land was ours. We still have these certificates. These certificates were a promise from the government to the people, a promise that we would be able to live in safety and without fear of eviction after apartheid. We intend to insist that this promise is honoured.
  • We never even put our names on the list for RDP houses. We were happy how we were living on our land. The government approached us saying that they needed us to move us for the freeway but would give us houses in the Kulula project here in Siyanda. They came to us to promise us the RDP houses. We also intend to insist that this promise is honoured.
  • The houses in the Kulula Project that had been promised to us were allocated to families not affected by Freeway construction and not from Siyanda. Promises made to us were broken – and it is clear that there was fraud left, right and centre.
  • Now, after the houses promised to us have been given to other people we are told that we have to move to a ‘transit camp’. A ‘transit camp’ is not a house. This is the third promise to us that has been broken. We will refuse to accept that the promise of a house can be downgraded to a promise of a place in a “transit camp.”
  • There has never been proper consultation with the community. Some sections, such as Enande, have never been included in meetings with consultants and developers of the Freeway. Those in the community selected to meet with consultants and developers, they were promised that the entire community – not half, or only certain sections – would be given houses in the Kulula Housing Project adjacent to the land on which they currently reside. This promise has since been withdrawn, without consultation.

So called “transit camps” are unacceptable for the following reasons:

  • Transit camps are not houses.
  • Transit camps are not an acceptable alternative accommodation to our shacks.
  • Transit camps are government-built shacks.
  • We are not prepared to move from one shack to another.
  • In fact the government shacks are worse than the shacks that we have built for ourselves.
  • Government shacks are too small for family life
  • Government shacks do not have electricity.
  • Government shacks are too hot when it is hot and too cold when it is cold, given that they are made entirely of tin.
  • Government shacks do not have toilets, which is a concern especially for women.
  • Government shacks are allocated to a single household, without any consideration for the size of the family.
  • The allocation of government shacks is decided by the government, without consultation from the community. That means the government decides who should be your neighbours.
  • “Transit camps” are not safe. Siyanda residents that have already been relocated to the government shacks were attacked and chased by those living in the surrounding area.
  • Government shacks take away people’s dignity.

As we stated our last press release, those made homeless by the illegal and criminal Municipal demolitions earlier this year still have not been provided any alternative accommodation – in the Kulula houses, or elsewhere. Not only were these evictions carried out without illegally but the residents were prevented from removing their personal belongings from the shacks before the demolitions began.

We will not accept removal from our own shacks to government shacks.

We are only prepared to accept houses.

We wish to send a strong warning that we will not accept anyone coming to our settlement – not the government, their lawyers, their security or other representatives.  From now on all documents and communications with our community must take place through the Abahlali baseMjondolo office or through the Abahlali lawyers.

For further information and comment please contact Mamu Nxumalo (076 3339386) or Thembi Zungu (074 3423607) from the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo branch or Louisa Motha, Abahlali baseMjondolo co-ordinator (078 0720499)

http://abahlali.org/node/4398

10 November 2008
Siyanda Abahlali Branch

Demands addressed to Mike Mabuyakulu, the MEC for Housing in KwaZulu-Natal, by the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo Branch

1. We demand adequate land and decent housing in the city.

2. We demand one house per family and not one house per shack.

3. We demand that the city (eThekwini) comply with the laws of the country.

4. We demand an immediate and permanent end to forced evictions and demolitions.

5. We demand that there must be an independent commission of enquiry to investigate the rampant and blatantly corrupt sale of government houses by government officials. There must be action against all the corrupt government officials. This is not only a problem here in Siyanda. All Abahlali members are aware of the situation in the Joe Slovo settlement where one of the founders of that settlement, Busisiwe Gule, remains in a shack while with all the papers to her house while Nomaxabiso is still living in Mrs Gule’s house. All complaints about this corruption, right up to the national minister, have just been ignored.

6. We demand fair and transparent allocation of government houses.

7. We demand safe, quality houses built on proper foundations.

8. We demand that there must be inspectors to make sure that all houses are of a quality standard. A certificate must be issued for each house by an independent evaluator that guarantees its quality and safety.

9. We demand compensation to those who have been forcefully removed for the construction of the MR 577 freeway.

10. We reject the current situation where people are only given orders as if in a dictatorship and we demand proper consultation and full participation in the discussion and decision making with regard to all issues affecting the shack dwellers.

11. We demand the creation of job opportunities and that first preference for local jobs to be given to the poorest people in local communities.

12. We demand that the Slums Act be immediately scraped and its notorious transit camps be immediately shut down.

13. We demand that our shacks be upgraded where they already are through the use of Chapter 13 of the Housing Code and not demolished via the notorious Slums Act which is hated by the poor because it is an attack on the poor.

14. We demand that all people of 21 years and older be entitled to a house as they are all expected to vote.

15. We demand compensation as we were exploited to guide the development of the houses that were later corruptly sold to people who do not live in Siyanda.

16. We demand an end to abuse by government officials and we demand that government officials who abuse the people must be investigated and that appropriate action must be taken. For instance there is the case of Npuphuko who offered a family RDP house keys at midnight in exchange for their daughter. She is the daughter of all of us and therefore Npuphuko is the abuser of all of us.

17. We further demand that a meeting be scheduled with us within two weeks so that a way forward can be discussed on these demands.

Contact Mzo Dlamini the March Convener on class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1036″>073 8701244 and Mxolisi Mtshali on ‘ class=”skype_tb_img_adge” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1038″> ‘ title=”” class=”skype_tb_img_flag” name=”skype_tb_img_f1″ v:shapes=”_x0000_i1039″> class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1040″>‘ class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1041″> class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1043″>‘ class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1044″> class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1045″>‘ class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1046″> class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1047″>‘ class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1048″> class=”skype_tb_img_space” v:shapes=”_x0000_i1049″>072 5550965, Mamu-Nxumalo 076 3339386 and Thembi Zungu on 074 3423607

Abahlali baseMjondolo March in Siyanda – Monday 10 November 2008

Abahlali baseMjondolo will march against evictions, corruption, dictatorship and abuse by the state in Siyanda (between Newlands East & KwaMashu) at 9:00 a.m. on Monday 10 November 2008.

The marchers will procede from the Siyanda settlement to the magistrates’ court where Mike Mabuyakulu has been asked to accept the memorandum.

An attempt by the police to unlawfully ban this march was overturned yesterday after intense counter pressure. Abahlali baseMjondolo was prepared to go the high court at 2:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon to interdict the police against the unlawful march ban if they did not back down.

This march will be supported by Abahlali baseMjondolo members from settlements across Durban and Pinetown.

For more information and comment contact Thembi on 0743423607 and on Mzo 0738701244.

http://abahlali.org/node/4266

The Honorable Cllr Obed Mlaba
Office of the Mayor of eThekwini
City Hall, West Street
Durban 4001
Republic of South Africa

Re: Forced relocation of shack-dwellers in Siyanda, KwaMashu

Dear Cllr Mlaba,

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) is an international human rights non-governmental organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices throughout the world. COHRE has consultative status with the United Nations and Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. COHRE works to promote and protect the right to adequate housing for everyone, everywhere, including preventing or remedying forced evictions.

COHRE recently learnt of the threatened forced relocation of shack-dwellers in Siyanda in KwaMashu, to make way for the construction of a freeway in the area. According to a press statement by the newly-formed Siyanda branch of Abahlali baseMjondolo, at least 50 shacks have been demolished this year in the area by the eThekwini Municipality without notice, a court order or the provision of alternative accommodation. COHRE has learnt that eThekwini Municipality promised that all those displaced by the new MR577 freeway would be moved to newly-constructed houses in the Kulula Housing Project. Siyanda residents have now been informed that an unspecified number of families will be moved to eNtuzuma and placed in ‘transit camps,’ which consist of government-built shacks or temporary structures, ordinarily used for emergency housing. As eNtuzuma is further on the periphery of the city, transport costs will be much higher for families as they will be further from jobs and schools. At the same time, the Municipality has reportedly decided to move families from other areas like Umlazi and Lamontville, who are not affected by the freeway construction, into the newly constructed Kulula houses. This has understandably caused much confusion within the community, and the situation is extremely tense at present.

COHRE is disturbed with the trend in Siyanda, and in Durban in general, to use state repression against peaceful protestors legitimately airing their grievances against housing rights violations. In May this year, residents protesting shack demolitions in Siyanda marched to the Kulula project contractor’s office to submit a memorandum of grievances, where they were fired upon with rubber bullets and sprayed with water canons by Durban Metro Police. During this incident five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and injured, and subsequently arrested at the hospital for ‘public violence.’ The charges were eventually dropped against all of the protestors.

On 15 September 2008, a peaceful protest held by affected Siyanda residents to air their grievances about the allocation process of alternative housing in Siyanda, was again met with a heavy Durban Metro police presence, with one police officer allegedly brandished a loaded weapon at the crowd, shouting that he would shoot them with live ammunition if they did not disband.

COHRE has maintained that the manner in which unlawful evictions of shack-dwellers has occurred in Durban is unacceptable, and people have been treated inhumanely and without dignity in the process. In terms of international human rights law, for evictions to be considered as lawful, they may only occur in very exceptional circumstances and all feasible alternatives must be explored. If and only if such exceptional circumstances exist and there are no feasible alternatives, can evictions be deemed justified. However, certain requirements must still be adhered to. These are:

1. States must ensure, prior to any planned forced evictions, and particularly those involving large groups, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with affected persons, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimising, the need to use force.
2. Forced evictions should not result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Governments must therefore, ensure that adequate alternative housing is available to affected persons.
3. In those rare cases where eviction is considered justified, it must be carried out in strict compliance with international human rights law and in accordance with general principles of reasonableness and proportionality. These include, inter alia:

§ Genuine consultation with those affected;

§ Adequate and reasonable notice for all affected persons prior to the scheduled date of eviction;

§ Information on the proposed evictions, and where applicable, on the alternative purpose for which the land or housing is to be used, to be made available in reasonable time to all those affected;

§ Especially where groups of people are involved, government officials or their representatives to be present during an eviction;

§ All persons carrying out the eviction to be properly identified;

§ Evictions not to take place in particularly bad weather or at night unless the affected persons consent otherwise;

§ Provision of legal remedies; and

§ Provision, where possible, of legal aid to persons who are in need of it to seek redress from the courts.

In the past the eThekwini Municipality has not complied with the above principles, particularly with regard to obtaining a court order and providing adequate notice for evictions. On 6 October 2008, COHRE released a report on the situation in Durban entitled Business as Usual? Housing rights and ‘slum eradication’ in Durban, South Africa. The report found that unlawful evictions are commonplace in eThekwini Municipality, and while the Municipality is to be commended on building a considerable number of houses each year, the houses that are being built are often located so far out of town that living there is unviable for many of the urban working classes due to unaffordable transport costs to work, schools, and hospitals. The report also expresses serious concern about the size and quality of the houses that are being built and over the failure to provide adequate levels of basic services to shack dwellers while they wait for formal housing.

While COHRE approves of the provision of adequate alternative accommodation in the event of an eviction, we condemn the existence of so-called ‘transit camps’, which are found to be highly inadequate and serve to destroy the already fragile socio-economic fabric of people’s lives. COHRE also condemns the current practice that effectively entails moving people from their own well-located shacks into government shacks on the urban periphery, without any certainty of the time period they will be there, or indeed what permanent housing options will made available to them in the future. If the Siyanda forced relocations are allowed to proceed it will only add to the excesses of the eThekwini Municipality documented in the recently released report, and roll back the significant recent progress made to improve relations between organised shack dwellers’ and the eThekwini Municipality.

COHRE therefore urges the Municipality to immediately halt all forced evictions of shack dwellers within its jurisdiction, and to cease the use of violence against those peacefully and legitimately protesting against their housing rights violations. COHRE appeals to the Municipality to ensure that all Siyanda residents affected by the new freeway are provided with housing, as promised, in the Kulula Housing Project, and to investigate the allocation of these houses to other residents from outside Siyanda.

We look forward to your response and to an ongoing dialogue with the Municipality on the rights of its people to adequate housing. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Salih Booker
Executive Director

cc.

The Honorable Lindiwe Sisulu
Minister of Housing

Dr Michael Sutcliffe
eThekwini City Manager

http://abahlali.org/node/4154

Breaking News: Siyanda shack-dwellers, facing eviction from the MR577 Freeway site, are staging ongoing marches to halt building and allocations at the Kulula Housing Project. The contractors have just been stopped from proceeding with the patently unfair allocation of housing that has been undertaken without any form of meaningful consultation. There is a heavy police presence again today and the situation is tense. (There is an article in yesterday’s Isolezwe here.)

Forced Relocations in Siyanda to Make Way for New Freeway

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 13:01
Press Statement by the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo Branch

DURBAN – Shack-dwellers in Siyanda, KwaMashu, have been threatened with forced relocation to make way for construction of the MR577 Freeway. The eThekwini Municipality has demolished at least 50 shacks in the area this year, without notice or a court order. These demolitions are illegal and criminal acts. Street marches by residents, peacefully protesting against relocation, have been met with violent police action and intimidation.

According the eThekwini Municipality, all those displaced by the new freeway would be moved to the adjacent Kulula Housing Project, concurrently under construction and facilitated by Linda Masinga & Associates (See: http://www.ethekwini.gov.za/durban/government/munadmin/media/press/506) (See also: http://www.ethekwini.gov.za/durban/government/munadmin/media/press/521).

Residents have since been informed that an unspecified number of families affected by the freeway construction will be relocated to eNtuzuma and placed in “transit camps” – government-built shacks or temporary structures, ordinarily used for emergency relief, which are increasing supplied by municipalities in lieu of formal housing.

As those in Siyanda undergo or await eviction – without knowing how, when and where they would be relocated – further controversy has erupted over the decision to move families from other parts of the Durban-metro, as far away as Umlazi and Lamontville, into the finished Kulula houses.

Siyanda shack-dwellers point out that those made homeless by the illegal Municipal demolitions earlier this year still have not been provided any alternative accommodation – in the Kulula houses, or elsewhere. Not only were these evictions carried out without notice or a court order, occupants were prevented from removing their personal belongings from the shacks before the demolitions began.

In marches and memorandums submitted to state and corporate partners in the Kulula Project, Siyanda shack-dwellers have stated that they do not want to move to eNtuzuma, away from jobs, schools and farther on the periphery of the city, where transport costs are much higher. They have moreover refused to accept any relocation to “transit camps,” which cannot be considered suitable alternative accommodation.

Metro police have responded violently to peaceful marches by Siyanda residents. On Monday, 15 September, approximately 60 residents gathered to protest further allocation and occupancy of finished Kulula houses by those who are not affected by the freeway construction. Amid heavy police presence, a metro police officer reportedly brandished a loaded weapon at the crowd, shouting that he would shoot them with live ammunition if they did not disband.

Following shack demolitions earlier in May this year, residents marched to the Kulula Project contractor’s office to submit a memorandum, where they were fired upon with rubber bullets by police and sprayed with water canons. Five people, including a pregnant woman were shot, injured and rushed to hospital. These five were arrested by police at hospital, upon charges of “public violence.” All charges were subsequently dropped.

In addition to concerns over relocation, the allocation of houses and police brutality, residents in Siyanda say that the Kulula houses are unsound, unsafe and have not built with substantive consultation from the community, despite claims to the contrary by the Municipality.

Siyanda launched a new Abahlali baseMjondolo branch on Sunday and residents are determined to oppose state intimidation and to demand genuinely democratic planning.

For up to the minute information and comment on the crisis in Siyanda contact:

Thembi 0743423607
Mzo 0738701244

Pictures:

http://abahlali.org/node/4140

http://abahlali.org/node/4383

http://www.miriamnouri.com/siyanda.html

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