Siyanda Eviction to Richmond Farm: 26 Families Left Homeless, Housing Misallocation and Reports of Corruption Continue

18 03 2009

SIYANDA – 17 March 2009 – At 5am on a rainy Tuesday, 50 Siyanda families in Siyanda Section C began to dismantle their shacks in compliance with a negotiated relocation order to the Richmond Farm transit camp. The Department of Transport and the eThekwini Municipality had sought their eviction to make way for the new MR577 freeway. People had agreed to go to new houses in the Khalula Project but then their houses were sold off corruptly. They were then told to go to the Richmond Farm Transit Camp (government shacks) with no garuantees of when, if ever, they would get houses. They refused this and rebelled. Eventually they went to court and they won in court – they won an investigation into the corruption, that various measures would be put in place to ensure judicial oversight over conditions in the camp and that no one would spend more than one year there before being given a formal house

Homeless

The court order, issued by the Durban High Court last week, stated that all respondents in the case would be allocated transit camp structures. But 3 families cited in the case are now homeless. In South Africa it is a criminal offence to leave any person homeless in an eviction. In this case it is also contempt of court.
The consultants overseeing the eviction – Linda Masinga & Associates, hired by the Department of Transport – told one respondent named in court documents that he had not been allocated a transit camp structure.

The consultants said they could not locate his name on their list.  They said they would consult another list on their laptop, sometime next week.  Until then, the man and his family remain homeless.

Another woman, also a respondent named in court documents, was denied occupancy in the camp: her surname was misspelled on the consultants’ list.  She is also homeless.

The fact that Abahlali baseMjondolo has made arrangements for all its members who were left homeless to be sheltered with other comrades does not detract from the fact that these people no longer have homes of their own. If this is development then it is just another name for a war on the poor. It is not just the court that is treated with contempt. People are treated with total contempt.

Moreover 7 other families, not cited in the case, were also evicted from Siyanda Section C yesterday and left homeless.  They were staying in backyard shacks with their relatives. In this case there is no contempt of court but these eviction are still illegal.

A consultant for Linda Masinga & Associates on the scene of the eviction informed residents that they could not speak directly with her, that all communication must be between Abahlali’s attorney and the state attorney in writing.

In addition to the 10 families that were formerly residing in Siyanda Section C and who have now been left homeless, 16 other families were forcibly evicted from the Richmond Farm transit camp in the last two days. They are not Abahlali members.

On 16 March, while occupants of the transit camp were at work, police broke the locks of occupied transit camps, and removed people’s belongings from inside, without notice or court order. This was thereforee, an illegal eviction. Linda Masinga & Associates reportedly were on the scene.

Police left occupants’ belongings outside, some items were broken, some items, were stolen including cash, food and clothes.  One man who returned from work to find his transit camp structure emptied and the lock broken, lost his identity documents, his certificates and work documents, some which were thrown on the ground in mud and water.

Some of the families left homeless from the Richmond Farm eviction are being accommodated by residents who have now been relocated to the transit camp from Siyanda Section C.

One already cramped, two-room 30 square meter structure is currently housing 10 people, including young children. Is this Slum Clearance or this the creation of government slums? The answer is clear.

Corruption

Reports of bribery and misallocation are widespread in the Khalula Housing Project and the Richmond Farm transit camp.

The Durban High Court ordered the municipality to immediately undertake an independent investigation into allegations of corruption in the Khalula Housing Project, which resulted in the misallocation of houses and landed Siyanda residents in temporary emergency shelter at Richmond Farm instead of the houses that they had been promised.

Residents say a fieldworker for Linda Masinga & Associates, named Ntuthuko Zulu, sold not only Khulula houses, but also transit camp structures at Richmond Farm.

One woman said she paid R7 000 for a transit camp structure.  She was evicted yesterday.

An old man paid a deposit of R3 500, and he was preparing to pay the remaining R6 500 in instalments to Zulu.

Another elderly woman, in tears while speaking to SABC News, was crammed into a transit camp structure with evicted Siyanda residents.  She said the same fieldworker told her she must pay R10 000 and move into a transit camp structure.  She paid him the first instalment of R3000.  She was evicted and left homeless on 17 March.

Other families reportedly paid R5 500, others R3 500.

The Durban High Court ordered the municipality to immediately investigate the corruption.  As yet, no investigation has been launched.  Abahlali remains concerned that an investigation be independent, for how can the same parties – the Municipality and the Housing Department – investigate their own corruption?  We need an independent investigator who is not biased to Abahlali or to the Municipality.  The Department of Transport said in front of the Magistrate that everything is in order. Clearly it is not.

Transit Camp Conditions:

When the Siyanda residents arrived in the morning to the Richmond Farm transit camp, there had not been water since last Saturday.  Empty buckets were lined up behind the taps, waiting for the water to be restored.  Only at approximately 3pm was the water restored, as new residents sought water not only for drinking but also for cleaning in the rainy, muddy relocation.  Now, as of today, there is no water at Richmond Farm transit camp.

Outdoor communal toilets were blocked or broken.  There is no electricity in the transit camp, but residents were assured in court that at the very least water and toilets would be available.

As the court ordered the eviction to take place on a Tuesday adults could not go to work and children could not go to school.

Bus fare in the transit camp is higher than in their previous homes in Siyanda.  Residents have lived in Siyanda for upwards of 30 years. Some residents have moved from self built five roomed homes to tiny government shacks.

Trucks were still moving residents in the dark, and without electricity. Some people would have to wait until the following day to fully move into the structures.  The last families from Siyanda arrived just before 7pm.

Statement on Corruption

On 10 November 2008, the Siyanda community handed in a memorandum to Spokesperson for the MEC of Provincial Housing Lennox Mabaso, where many of the very same issues of misallocation were raised.  The MEC never responded.  The question is when is the municipality is going to investigate, after how many hundreds of millions of Rand have been spent?

In Joe Slovo in Durban, Abahlali raised similar concerns over the misallocation of houses in 2005.  The Department of Housing was aware of this, but did nothing.  No investigation ever took place.

The Department of Housing has been too tolerant of these criminal elements.  We suspect that the Department of Housing has something do to with the corruption, and we suspect that officials are benefiting from it.  What more evidence of misallocation is needed than bribery in the Khulula Housing Project and Richmond Farm?

We want the Department of Housing to take responsibility.  We are calling on the Provincial Department of Housing to answer to this.

People are now homeless.  We are challenging the MEC to say what has he done.  What more evidence do they want?  The people are in the tin houses as we speak, and they are prepared to take up the matter.

No one should ever be forced into a government shack against their will. Abahlali did win major progress to get judicial oversight over the transit camp and to ensure that there would be garuantees about conditions there and about the maximim time that people would stay there before getting a house. But already the government is breaking the law. Already people have been left homeless. What is the point of winning victories in law when the government breaks the law? Will government officials and consultants be arrested for breaking the law, for contempt of court?

But it has been very good that the story of this corruption has been all over the radio today. People in Siyanda started their struggle against corruption in 2006. They have organised many protests. Now, finally, this story has exploded. Now everyone knows about this crime against the poor. Now everybody in Durban is talking about this outrage. We have dragged these lies and this crime into the light. We will keep it there until there is justice in Siyanda. We will continue to fight for justice in Siyanda. We are growing in Siyanda and we will keep up the pressure – in the courts and on the streets. This story is not over.

There are many Siyandas in Durban and in South Africa. We call on all organisations and movements of the poor to fight this corruption where ever they find it, and to keep on fighting it until they defeat it.

Contact:

Thembi: 074 3423607
Mnikelo: 079 745 0653
Mama Nxumalo: 076 333 9386

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One response

28 07 2009
janinelivewired

We need to take issues like these seriously. All South African’s have the right to decent and affordable housing….come on ANC do something about it.




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