Friday, 06 March 2009 Abahlali baseMjondolo Press
Siyanda Win in the Durban High Court
The Struggle Against Corruption and Transit Camps Continues
Today 8 orders were granted in favour of Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Durban High Court. The orders that have been granted are a breakthrough. We can call this a landmark judgment because the orders provide for judicial oversight of the new and entirely notorious phenomenon of the transit camp – also known by the government as decant areas in Jo’burg, as temporary relocation areas in Cape Town and as amatins, blikkies and government shacks by the people. However while it is progress to get judicial oversight over the transit camps our aim is to eradicate them entirely. We will not claim victory until this has been achieved.
The background to this matter is that residents of the Siyanda settlement had been told that they would have to be moved for the construction of a new free way. They were promised houses in the nearby Kalula development and they agreed to accept relocation on the basis of this promise. However the houses promised to them were corruptly allocated. Transport MEC Bheki Cele then sought the forced removal of the Siyanda shack dwellers to the nearby Richmond Farm transit camp. Residents were offered no guarantees about conditions in the transit camp, about the duration of their stay there or where, if anywhere, they would be sent next. They were also subject to ongoing and armed intimidation by the state.
Transit camps often look like concentration camps with razor wire fencing, spot lights, single entrances and 24 hour police guards. Residents are often highly controlled in these places as if they were in prisons. In most cases these camps are far from the cities where people live, work and school. People are taken there against their will with no guarantees about the conditions there, how long they will have to be kept there and where, if anywhere, they will be taken next.
Transit camps were a key colonial and apartheid tactic for regulating access to cities and criminalising the ordinary lives of poor people. It is an absolute disgrace that a democratically elected government has reintroduced this abomination in to our cities. Abahlali baseMjondolo, and all of our partners in the Poor People’s Alliance, will oppose these camps in every way that we can.
The day before yesterday armed police arrived without warning at the (ANC affiliated) Palmiet settlement in Clare Estate, Durban, to try and intimidate residents into accepting forced removal from their shacks to the notorious Welbedacht transit camp in Chatsworth. Some accepted. Others rebelled and burnt a picture of their councillor, the notorious Jayraj Bachu on whom Abahlali baseMjondolo first marched in 2006.
Our comrades in the Symphony Way occupation in Delft in Cape Town are currently resisting forced removal to the notorious Delft transit camp. Our comrades in the Protea South settlement in Jo’burg are also resisting forced removal to a transit camp – the transit camp near their settlement has stood empty for two years now. Everywhere this resistance is met with violence and intimidation from the state.
The transit camps were re-introduced to our country with no discussion. Now the Slums Act, which we continue to oppose, will give legal sanction to this abomination.
We wish to make it clear that neither we nor any of our comrades in the Poor People’s Alliance will ever accept transit camps. We will also continue to oppose corruption. Right now in Joe Slovo (Durban) people whose houses were corruptly allocated are also being told that they must go to transit camps. Transit camps can not become the easy way out for government when people complain that officials and councillors have corrupted people’s houses. People who have been promised houses must get houses. Corruption must halted and there must be justice for people who have lost their houses through corruption.
The orders granted in court today mark important progress but there is still a long way to go. We always knew that we could not permanently stop the construction of the road and it will now resume. We have not been able to get the Siyanda families immediate access to their houses that were corruptly sold off.
However we have won the following:
- With in one year the Siyanda families that will be moved to the transit camp must be given permanent access to adequate decent housing.
- There must be an immediate investigation into the corrupt allocation of houses in Siyanda and, where necessary, restitution made to the victims of this corruption. There will have to be a report back to the court on this in two months time.
- Every three months there must be a report to the court on the conditions in the camp.
- The Siyanda residents have the right to return to the court after two weeks if conditions in the camp are not adequate
We will monitor the state’s compliance with the orders very closely. We will also insist that the state does not investigate its own corruption in Siyanda – the investigation must be independent.
We have won major progress – there is now judicial oversight over the camps dealing with the conditions there, how long people will stay etc. There is now also judicial oversight over claims of corruption – claims the government usually just ignores. However we stress that no one is happy to be leaving their homes and no one is happy to be going to a transit camp – even if it is for a maximum of one year.
The struggle to completely eradicate transit camps, as well as the Slums Act and all other attempts to criminalise the poor and to drive the poor out of the cities continues.
We pass our gratitude to all the lawyers who worked on this case including Advocate Juliet Nicholson and the Legal Resource Centre. This was not an easy case but we won everything that we asked for from the court and we say well done to everyone. We also thank the abafundisi from the Rural Network, also partners with us in the Poor People’s Alliance, for the strong solidarity in the court and in the community.
Despite all the challenges and hardships that we are facing the movement is growing. We will launch a new branch in Siyanda tomorrow.
Ya Basta! Zindabad! Qina! Onward!
For further information and comment please contact:S’bu Zikode: 083 547 0474 Mashumi Figlan: 079 584 3995 Zodwa Nsibande: 082 830 2707 Mama Nxumalo: 076 333 9386
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