Oppose the ‘Slums Act’

7 03 2009

This statement was put together in the 24 hours following the publication of an article in the Witness newspaper written by an official in the KZN Housing Department in support of the Slums Act. It was not possible to contact all potential signatories in 24 hours.

Oppose the ‘Slums Act’

25 and 26 February 2009

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has passed legislation[1] affecting the lives and rights of shack dwellers. The shack-dweller movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, has challenged this law and will take their case to the Constitutional Court. But after a provincial judge ruled against the movement’s first challenge, an article by the head of media services for the Department of Housing (published in the Witness newspaper on 24th February 2009) said:

“Legal representatives of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement, probably without proper analysis of the act, tried to portray this important legislation … as an inhumane and unconstitutional legislation designed to allow the government to embark on irresponsible evictions of homeless people. To further its purpose, the Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement has deliberately ignored our consultative and partnership approach since 1994. … Additional research would have highlighted the fact that the government, Slum Dwellers International and other associations representing homeless people have signed partnership agreements to work together since 2004. … As all provinces move to finalise their acts there is no reason to fear”.

In a subsequent statement, the South African secretariat of the above-mentioned Slum Dwellers International (SDI) has clarified that: “SDI does not support the Slums Act. In this respect we agree with Abahlali Basemjondolo”.

When the Bill was tabled in parliament in 2007, Abahlali baseMjondolo warned:“this Bill is an attempt to mount a legal attack on the poor”.

When he visited South Africa in April 2007, then United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Housing, Miloon Kothari, expressed his real concerns about this law. In his subsequent report to the UN, he said: “such legislative developments may weaken substantive and procedural protection concerning evictions and increase exemptions for landlords. They may even result in criminalizing people facing eviction”.

The Geneva-based Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) have publicly detailed their concerns about this law.

Leading Wits University housing expert, Marie Huchzermeyer, has analysed this law concluding that it “is not only reminiscent of apartheid policy. It reintroduces measures from the 1951 Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act, which was repealed in 1998”.

Durban-based lawyer with the Legal Resources Centre, Ranjith Purshotum, has said of this law that “Instead of saying that people will be evicted from slums after permanent accommodation is secured, we have a situation where people are being removed from a slum, and sent to another slum. Only this time it is a government-approved slum and is called a transit area. This is the twisted logic of the drafters of the legislation”.

The Church Land Programme (CLP) was asked to check among some relevant organisations whether they supported Abahlali baseMjondolo’s position regarding the ‘Slums Act’. So far, during the last 24 hours following the publication of the Housing Department’s newspaper article, all of the following organisations have agreed to put their name behind this statement. The following organisations:

l do not support the Slums Act; and

l support Abahlali baseMjondolo in its opposition to the Slums Act.

a. Grassroots movements that are part of the Poor People Alliance together with Abahlali baseMjondolo have given their support (Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, and the Rural Network).

b. in addition, the following organisations:

SACC – South African Council of Churches
Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference: Land and Agrarian Reform Initiative
AFRA – Association for Rural Advancement
PACSA – Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness
KZNCC – KwaZulu Natal Christian Council
Diakonia Council of Churches
ESSET – Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation
Ujamaa Centre for Biblical and Theological Community Development and Research, UKZN
CLP – Church Land Programme.

[1] the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act 2007

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