Solidarity: Another Devastating Shack Fire in the Kennedy Road Settlement

11 08 2010

Click here to read ‘A Big Devil in the Jondolos: A report on Shack Fires’ by Matt Birkinshaw (2008).

Press Release: 10 August 2010.
Another Devastating Shack Fire in the Kennedy Road Settlement

If electricity, water and adequate housing were provided in the Kennedy Road shack settlement these recurring shack fires could have been prevented.

The Kennedy Road shack settlement burnt once again at about 10 pm on Sunday, 08 August 2010 – two hours before women’s day. As of today thousands of residents in Kennedy are homeless in this cold winter weather. If the municipality had given them houses or provided them with basic services, such as electricity, refuse collection, road access and water they would have been safe from fire. Fire is a serious threat to our lives. It is an undeniable fact that electricity is not needed by us but that our lives’ need electricity. In settlements that have electricity it is so unlikely to have fires of this nature as it is happening again and again in Kennedy.

When the state refuses to provide the poor with electricity and then violently disconnects us from electricity when we connect ourselves it is sentencing us to burn. These fires are not accidents. They are our sentence. No amount of regular lying that the cause of the fires is self organised electricity connections can disguise the fact that we burn because it has been decided to deny us electricity. This is the reason why Kennedy Road burns again and again. The poor in Durban have been abandoned to fire, left to burn, because we do not count in this city.

This is the time to practise what the officials and ministers preached when they came to the Kennedy Road settlement during the last shack fire that claimed four lives.

Women in Kennedy Road spent Women’s Day rebuilding their shacks while the rest of the women were celebrating the women’s day. This shows, very clearly, the truth of the position of the poor in South Africa. Rich women talk about how far women have come on TV while poor women try and build a new shack from other people’s rubbish and the burnt and reburnt remains of an old shack.

How long will the people continue to die or to have their belonging burned down to ashes, before the authorities respond to our suffering? Abahlali condemns the continued brutality of shack fires. Abahlali calls upon Mhlonishwa Willies Mchunu, the Minister of Community Safety & Liaison Office in KZN, to investigate the causes of the shack fire that is believed by some to have been caused by the conduct of the leadership that was imposed by him upon the community of Kennedy Road settlement in September 2009. We call upon Nigel Gumede, who is the chairperson of the Housing Portfolio Committee in the eThekwini Municipality, to also keep the promise that he made, and that is on record, to house the community of the Kennedy Road settlement by February 2010.

We call upon the municipality to extend its support to the victims of this fire. This fire is caused by their neglect of the poor and they must take full responsibility for the victims. They chose to build a stadium instead of building us houses or providing us with electricity. A long as the authorities such as Nigel Gumede continue to lie in the manner that they do people will continue to suffer and the city will continue to waste rate payer’s money to rebuild shacks or temporary homes instead of permanent ones.

For more information and comment please contact:

Mnikelo Ndabankulu: 079 745 0653
Nozuko Hulushe: 082 259 5492
Bandile Mdlalose: 074 7308120

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