Solidarity: ‘Sekwanele! We are fed up and cold here in the tents.’

25 06 2008

24 June 2008
Statement from Abahlali baseMjondolo bakuAsh Road

Sekwanele! We are fed up and cold here in the tents

The tented ‘transit camp’ into which some residents of the Ash Road settlement in Pietermartizburg have been forced.

We see many things planned for us, promised to us, and written about us in the newspapers but there is never our voice - always it is the words and the empty promises and the visions of the politicians, the so-called leaders, and the Municipality. It is not right for outsiders and ‘leaders’ who are not forced to be living in tents in the winter to be the only ones who speak and act. They tell us again and again in different ways the same thing - “be silent, be patient, we are making plans and visions for your future”. For us who are living here, this makes us to see that we are treated as if we are not people. We are human beings and now we are saying No! No more of this disrespect and lying. We are fed up; the time has come for the world to know that we think, we speak, we act. Councillor Green and his family have not been living in the tents. As far as we are concerned he must therefore shut up.

When the heavy rains fell in January, we were put into these tents on the Tatham sportsground. We were told this was for three months only and we were forbidden to return and rebuild our homes. It is six months later now, and we are still here. It is the middle of winter now, and we are still here. The freezing cold, at night especially, is really killing us - one of our neighbours in the tent has already died from the cold; another one nearly died the other night from smoke from a fire that was lit to try and stop dying from the cold! We have been living so long in these tents that they are now all torn and worn-out. When it rains it is not just freezing cold but leaking so there is water inside too. This week, the municipality has also threatened that they will soon remove the few portable toilets they put here for us to use. Well this will just make our life, which is hard to bear already, even harder and unbearable for us.

We have no trust in the promises and visions that others make for us. They promise us ‘temporary housing’ in formal tin shacks that they will put somewhere else, and they promise houses and flats (that we do not want) somewhere else that they do not know yet. We can see now that, even if these promises eventually come, they would not be better than the housing we can build for ourselves anyway. We think there is no future for us and our children living in tents or temporary tin houses. For us it will be better to rebuild our jondolos right here on the sportsground and this is what we will do. Our mud shacks give us a better protection from freezing cold and summer’s heat.

Now it is clear to us that we are the ones who can really make a better life for ourselves - definitely better than tents and empty promises! We, the people who are living in these conditions, are the ones to find a better solution. It is going to be better to leave behind all the politicians, the committees, the officials and so on and we will discuss and plan and act together as the people taking our own issues forward in the way that we decide.


Contact: as members of Abahlali baseMjondolo we have worked together to write this statement. For reasons of security and intimidation we cannot give individual names but the following telephone numbers can be used to speak to residents from the tents and from the shack settlement: or .

Annexure: for some background information from an independent housing rights organisation called the Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) please read the attached report from a workshop held by COHRE at the invitation of Abahlali baseMjondolo bakuAsh Road at the Ash Road settlement on the 7th of June this year.

Update: 25 June 2008 The council removed the portable toilets from the tents without explanation last night. And one of the tents burnt down. People have to try and keep warm in the flimsy tents in the cold ‘Maritzburg winter and so there is always a threat of fire.

Previous entries on the Abahlali baseMjondolo site on the Ash Road settlement:



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