14 May 2009
Song rang out at the Constitutional Court today, in demand of an end to KwaZulu-Natal’s Slums Act.
The crowd was chanting “phansi nge slums act no Sbu Ndebele” meaning down with the Slums Act and (former) KwaZulu-Natal premier Sbu Ndebele.
“We want houses, there are people from Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal and more people are still coming by bus,” said a protester who identified herself as Nolunde.
Only 50 of the protesters were allowed in court.
The group called Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement, which works towards improving the living conditions of shack dwellers, had tried unsuccessfully to get certain provisions of the act declared unconstitutional in a lower court, so decided to approach the Constitutional Court.
“The act was imposed by the KwaZulu-Natal department of housing. This act was imposed against the will of the poor who the government is meant to serve. It is a clear attack on the poor,” said Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesman Mnikelo Ndabankulu.
The act was passed in 2007 by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and it aims to eliminate slums, prevent new slums from developing and control and upgrade existing slums.
Ndabankulu said slum dwellers were not happy with the act. They saw it as an attempt to give legal support to evictions and to criminalise their organisation.
He said they were also not happy with the government’s temporary relocation areas, because they resulted in people being taken to areas far away from cities.
In 2008 KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Vuka Shabalala ruled in favour of the government on a challenge to the act.
The departments of housing and land affairs will be part of the court hearing in Johannesburg.
KZN GOVERNMENT DEFENDS ITSELF
The KwaZulu-Natal government defended its controversial “Slums Act” in the Constitutional Court on Thursday – saying there were at least 200,000 people living in degrading conditions in the province.
“There are people living next to the railway lines in Umlazi in circumstances which are degrading,” said the province’s housing department senior counsel Jeremy Gauntlett.
“The State has to deal with the problem,”said Gauntlett.
“And that means you start treading on various bunions.”
The judges were told that a slum was not limited to an informal settlement with poor conditions, but could also be a city building which had been neglected.
Gauntlett said there were remedies for owners or residents facing eviction proceedings.
The owners or occupiers could “attack” notices of eviction in court.
The MEC could use the power “gingerly” and first order a municipality to help rectify the conditions that led to the area becoming a slum, or as a neighbouring municipality to help with, for example, the provision of sanitation.
Gauntlett said that the law was still new and “we must wait to see what the MEC does with this power”, suggesting that the case might be premature as the challenge was not related to a specific eviction attempt.