Shack dwellers vow to continue protests until members are released

2013-10-08 00:00

SHACK dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo has vowed to continue protesting in different parts of the city for as long as three of their members remain in police custody.

Yesterday, the organisation’s members barricaded roads in Clare Estate, Isipingo, Mayville, Shallcross, Siyanda and Umlazi in an attempt to force the city leadership to respond to their demands.

In recent weeks, the organisation has been engaged in running battles with police and municipal officials.

Abahlali general secretary Bandile Mdlalose was yesterday released on R5 000 bail after she spent a week in Westville Prison.

Abahlali say three of their members are still in custody.

Mdlalose was arrested during a violent protest that claimed the life of a 17-year-old pupil, Nqobile Nzuza, in Cato Crest. Nzuza died after police used live rounds to disperse a crowd of protesters who barricaded Bellair Road with rubbish, burning tyres and trees.

Three lives have been lost this year alone in the Cato Crest clashes, including the murder of housing rights activists Nkululeko Gwala and Thembinkosi Qumelo.

Last month, another housing rights activist, Nkosinathi Mngomezulu, was shot by the city’s land invasion unit during a resisted demolition of shacks. He was rushed to King Edward VIII Hospital.

Abahlali has been accused of having a political agenda, but they say they are fighting for houses and social justice.

Former Abahlali president S’bu Zikode said most of their members belonged to a range of political parties like the ANC, DA, IFP and Agang SA, but they were not happy with corruption around housing.

“The massive scale of urbanisation that has seen millions of people move into informal settlements around the city in search for better prospects has no political agenda. People are tired of being treated like fools while the level of corruption and injustice continues in the city,” he said.

Zikode said protest is the only language understood by the authorities.

“We want them to deliver what is rightfully ours, despite being killed, beaten and tortured,” he said.

Zikode said out of the 3,5 million people living in the city, 800 000 were living in informal settlements. The majority of internal migrants come into the city, already with 400 000 housing backlogs, in search of jobs. KwaZulu-Natal has over 604 shack settlements, with 430 in Durban alone.

eThekwini municipality spokesperson Thabo Mafokeng said they will devise a strategy in the light of the latest protests in the city.

“We are busy formulating the best ways to deal with their concerns,” he said.

Tensions have been high between the shack dwellers and the city over the allegations of housing corruption.

Abahlali baSemjondolo was established in 2005 in the Kennedy Road informal settlement by community members who demanded proper houses.

Zikode said they have no political links and no interest in contesting elections.

“We are dealing with social injustice. However, the municipality thinks we are against the ANC,” he said.

Zikode said members pay a monthly fee of R20 and he claimed the organisation had over 25 000 members in KZN and the Western Cape, with no money coming from international organisations. “We get legal assistance from some NGOs and we have the support of the churches,” he said.

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