Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release for the March on Mlaba, 28 September 2007

Press release of Abahlali baseMjondolo in the run up to a march on the mayor of Durban to protest his refusal to supply electricity to the shack dwellers' settlements.

Submitted by bomvu on April 20, 2008

On 28 September 2007 around 3 000 Abahlali baseMjondolo members marched on the mayor of Durban, Obed Mlaba. In previous Abahlali baseMjondolo marches mock coffins were carried and local councillors symbolically buried as a rejection of their top down party authority over bottom up people's power. This time a mock house, identified as Mlaba's, was burnt to protest the plague of fires due to Mlaba's refusal to electrify the settlements. Although the march was legal the police attacked it violently injuring around 20 people and arresting 14. For the first time clergy were also beaten on this march.

Mass March on Mlaba on Friday 28 September 2007: Final Press Release
Across South Africa shack dwellers are rejecting forced removals and asserting their right to the city in a series of popular mass protests unparalleled in post-apartheid South Africa. There have been thousands of protests in the last few years. This week has seen mass action all over the country. On Tuesday 5 000 shack dwellers from the Joe Slovo settlement in Cape Town went to the High Court to register their intention to oppose Lindiwe Sisulu's planned forced removals. Members of Abahlali baseMjondolo were there in support. Yesterday in Johannesburg people from the Protea South, Kliptown, Thembelihle, and Thembisa settlements marched on Sisulu’s offices in Pretoria. Tomorrow thousands of shack dwellers will march on Mlaba in Durban.

There is no conspiracy behind this national wave of mass protest. Most times there is no donor or NGO support. Most times we are on our own and have to stand up for ourselves because we are being treated as if we do not belong in this country. The explanation for what is happening to us is very simple. The ‘experts’ and the rich and the politicians speak about us and for us. They see no reason to speak to us. Therefore decisions are taken for us and not with us. The results of this are clear. We are being denied basic services in the cities. In many settlements thousands of people find themselves sharing one tap or one toilet. Some settlements must live through 3 or 4 fires in one year because electricity is no longer installed. We do not suffer like this because delivery takes time or because money is short. We suffer like this because it has been decided that our settlements must be eliminated and so services are being withheld. When ‘housing delivery’ comes it is not what we fought for and it is not what we were promised. When ‘delivery’ comes some are being made homeless and others are being forcibly removed to rural ghettos like Delft in Cape Town and Park Gate in Durban. The word for this is oppression. It is therefore clear that we have to rebel just to survive. As S'bu Zikode famously said “The Third Force is all the pain and the suffering that the poor are subjected to every second in our lives.” There is only one hidden cause of these protests – it is that the suffering of the poor is hidden to those who have decided that they are too high to need to speak to ordinary people.

Tomorrow's march has the support of a large number of churches and will begin at 9:00 a.m. with a mass prayer meeting in the Kennedy Road Hall to be led by Bishop Purity Malinga from the Methodist Church. The march will then proceed up Kennedy Road and left into Clare Road and straight into Randles Road. It will stop at the corner of Randles Road and Sparks Roads where another mass prayer meeting will be held before the memorandum is read to Mayor Mlaba.

Mike Sutcliffe has given written permission for the march. Glen Nayager has met with Abahlali to assure us that his officers will act to support the right to march. We have elected and trained 1000 marshals. There has been intense mobilization all week and final mobilization meetings will take place this evening. These meetings will include an all night meeting in Kennedy Road, an all night meeting in Empangeni and a film screening and discussion in Foreman Road.

It is rumoured that Mlaba will send Ward 25 Councillor Yakoob Baig to collect the memorandum. Yakoob Baig was buried on 14 September 2005. Thousands of people have participated in the discussions that have flowed into the development of our carefully worked out memorandum. We do not intend to give it to a ghost. We are finished with Baig, just as we are finished with Bachu and Dimba and all the rest of the councillors. They have never spoken for us and we took a decision, two years ago, to speak for ourselves.

While Abahlali are marching through Clare Estate and Sydenham the policy making elites will be meeting with the business elites in the ICC for their 'Housing Summit'. While they plan how to make money in the name of the housing crisis we will be marching. On the Esplanade an urgent application will be heard in the High Court. It has been brought by Abahlali to interdict the notorious Ricky Govender from bulldozing the tin shack in which the Pillay family have lived for the last 16 years in Motala Heights. Last week we had a mass meeting in Motala Heights. The people unanimously asked us to march on Govender next. We have heard their cry.

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
Abahlali baseMjondolo to March on Obed Mlaba for Land & Housing in the City on 28 September 2007

We will march on Mayor Obed Mlaba on Friday 28 September 2007. We will leave from the Kennedy Road settlement at 9:00 a.m. and will, once again, march to Cllr. Yakoob Baig’s offices at the corner of Sparks Road and Randles Road where Mayor Mlaba has been asked to meet us.

The City gives us no choice but to march. If we just carry on with our ordinary lives our ordinary lives will continue to consist of being burnt in the fires, being raped when we try and find a place to go to the toilet in the night, having our homes demolished and either being left homeless or being forcibly removed to rural human dumping grounds like Park Gate far from where we work, school, shop and pray and far from the libraries and sports facilities that we use. The city flagrantly breaks the law when it carries out its illegal demolitions and evictions. When we try to speak we are beaten, arrested and slandered. The basic rights to free speech and association guaranteed to us in the law are just denied to us. Our requests for meetings for us to be able to discuss our future are not honoured. For instance on 28 June we received a fax from Cogi Pather, the Head of Housing, stating that “The Municipality is not keen to enter into a protracted debate with a large group of people.” We are treated as if we do not belong in this country. We are treated as if the law is not for us, as if the land is not for us, as if the electricity is not for us, as if the schools are not for us, as if the city is not for us. This is not democracy. This is not justice. The City gives us no choice but to march. We will march under the banner of ‘Land & Housing in the City!’

Operation Vuselele & Our Demands
We have elected a team of march organisers who have been setting up meetings in settlements everywhere. We have a large number of mass meetings scheduled in other settlements for next week at which support for this march will be discussed and so is likely that support for the march will continue to grow. Each settlement, group of people in each settlement or organisation that decides to support the march are discussing their list of demands. Next week representatives of all the settlements and organisations will meet and we will draw up a collective memorandum. But there is already strong support for the following demands to be made to Mayor Mlaba:

• An immediate moratorium on all evictions, demolitions and forced removals
• An immediate moratorium on the eviction and harassment of street traders
• An immediate commitment to seriously explore the possibility of upgrading rather than relocating each settlement and to undertake this exploration in partnership with each settlement
• An immediate moratorium on the selling of government owned land to private developers
• A commitment to the expropriation of privately owned land (e.g. Moreland land) for collective, social housing
• An immediate moratorium on the exclusion of the poor from schools and universities
• An immediate commitment to breaking with the current undemocratic form of development and to accepting the right of people to co-determine their own future.
• The immediate building and maintenance of sufficient numbers of toilets in all settlements (for our dignity, to keep us safe from disease and to keep women safe at night)
• The immediate provision of electricity in all settlements (to stop the fires that have plagued us since the City stopped providing electricity to shack dwellers in 2001)
• The immediate provision of adequate water in all settlements
• The immediate provision of refuse removal in all settlements
• The immediate provision of support for community run crèches
• The immediate recognition that all settlements will experience natural growth, especially as children grow up, and that this requires existing shacks to be expanded and new shacks to be built
• An immediate explanation as to what happened to the R10 billion Phoenix East housing development promised by Obed Mlaba after we marched on him on 14 November 2005
• An immediate explanation as to what happened to the piece of land adjacent to Loon Road promised to the Foreman Road settlement for housing by Obed Mlaba when he visited the settlement while campaigning for the 2000 local government elections.
• An immediate investigation into the rampant corruption in the drawing up of housing lists
• An immediate investigation into the activities of the notorious Pinetown gangster landlord Ricky Govender (including his violent intimidation, illegal evictions and alleged cut rate purchase of publicly owned municipal land with the aim of evicting shack dwellers and building high-cost housing for his private profit)
• An immediate investigation into the activities of the notorious police officer Glen Nayager

We also have demands to the provincial government:

• The Slum Elimination Act is immoral and illegal. Our settlements are communities to be developed not slums to be 'eliminated'. This Act must be scrapped immediately.
• There must be immediate action to prevent farm workers from being evicted and harassed.
• There must be immediate action to prevent the enclosure of land for private game reserves.
• There must be immediate action to prevent the eThekwini & Msunduzi Municipalities from continuing to carry out illegal evictions
• We opposed the hosting of the 2010 World Cup on the grounds that we couldn't afford to be building stadiums when millions have no houses. But now that it is coming there must be an immediate commitment to declare that the World Cup will be an ‘100% Evictions Free World Cup’ all across the province. i.e. That there will not be any evictions of shack dwellers or street traders.

We will also use the platform created by this march to publicly state our full support for the people of Joe Slovo, in Cape Town, who are heroically resisting forced removal to the human dumping ground of Delft, and for the people of Khutsong. Since 2004 shack dwellers across the country have been protesting against evictions, forced removals, failure to provide even the most basic services to settlements and the completely undemocratic form of development that ‘delivers’ us out of the cities. All of these struggles began in confined corners but now we are getting to know each other. We will stand together and fight together. We have no choice. Everywhere we are under attack.

Support for the March
So far people from the following settlements and organisations have confirmed that they will attend this march:

Durban: Kennedy Road, Foreman Road, Jadhu Place, Puntan’s Hill, Burnwood Road, Banana City 1 & 2, Joe Slovo, Crossmore, Arnett Drive, Pemary Ridge, Shannon Drive, Kenville, eMgudule

Pinetown: Motala Heights, New eMmaus, Mpola

Pietermaritzburg: Ash Road, Eastwood, iSaka (Mkondeni), The White House

Port Shepstone: eGamalakhe

Rural Network: Babanango, Newcastle, Pongola, Utrecht, Richmond, Greytown, Melmoth, Empangeni & eNkwalini

Landless Peoples’ Movement: Pongola, Eston

Socialist Students’ Movement & other UKZN students: UKZN, Durban

Various churches and clergy: Durban & Pietermaritzburg

Comment on this March
Mnikelo Ndabankulu 073 5656 241
Shamita Naidoo 0764940965
Lousia Motha 0781760088
Philani Zungu 0729629312

Comment on shack dwellers' struggles in Jo'burg & Cape Town
For comment on shack dwellers' struggles in Jo'burg contact Maureen Mnisi from the Landless Peoples’ Movement on 082 337 4514. For comment on shack dwellers' struggles in Cape Town contact Mzwanele Zulu from the Joe Slovo Task Team on 076 3852369 or Ashraf Cassiem from the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign on 076 1861408.

For more information on Abahlali baseMjondolo we highly recommend you visit http://www.abahlali.org