Press Statement by the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League
Abahlali baseMjondolo Case Against the KwaZulu-Natal Eradication and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act to be Heard in the Durban High Court on 6 and 7 November 2008
Across the country the government is chasing the poor people out of the cities. Across the country we are mobilising to defend our right to the cities.
We are in the cities for good reasons - we need work, education, clinics, libraries and more. Pay is higher and prices are lower in the cities. Therefore we need land and housing in the cities. But the government only want our votes. They do not want us in the cities. Therefore we have said ‘No Land! No House! No Vote!’
In Joe Slovo, in Cape Town, the people say “Asiyi eDelft!”.
In Makause, in Johannesburg, the people say, “Stop the ‘Eradication and Prevention’ of our homes!”.
It is the same everywhere. The government want to make it so that if you are inside you are inside and if you are outside you are outside. The poor struggle to stop this business of putting some people to one side and other people to the other side.
In Durban we have said that we are Durbanites and that we reject reruralisation. We have held our ground. We have refused to go to the human dumping grounds like Parkgate. Years ago the councillors and the Land Invasions Unit said that we must go back where we came from. They said that whether we agreed or not we would be gone very soon.
We are still here. We are not going anywhere.
But people are still being evicted in places like Siyanda and Bottlebrush. People still come home to find the red crosses on their doors or the yellow poles on either side of their houses. Although evictions continue there are now negotiations on the future of 14 of the Abahlali settlements that are in the eThekwini Municipality - we welcome these negotiations and we have hope in these negotiations. After a year of talking there are now some important breakthroughs.
Poor people must be allowed to stay in the cities. We need upgrades and not relocations. It is the Slums Act that must go. It is evictions that must go. It is the Land Invasions Unit and the Red Ants that must go. It is the hatred of the poor that must go. It is the rule of money over the lives of people that must go. It is the selling of the land that should be for the people that must go. It is the shooting and the bulldozers that must go.
When Umkhumbane was destroyed in 1956 the government said the destruction was for ‘development’. But actually they wanted to divide the people living there into four kinds of people and to take them to four kinds of different places - Africans to Umlazi, Indians to Chatsworth, Whites to Umbilo and coloureds to Wentworth. Now when they come to destroy our settlements they still say that it is for ‘development’. But it is still really to divide the people into different kinds of people that must live in different places - but now it is the rich on side, the poor on another side.
From the beginning we said very, very clearly that we did not want the Slums Act. We said it at the Public Participation meeting. We were told that we were out of order. We put out a very clear statement. We were ignored. We went to parliament to say that we did not want the Slum Act. We were ignored. We invited everyone opposed to the Slums Act to join us and build a coalition against the Act. We marched against the Slums Act - we were beaten, shot at and arrested and our demands were ignored. So now we are going to the High Court. We are confident that here we will not be beaten, shot at, arrested or ignored. We thank the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits for their support - on every step along this road they have talked to us, not for us. This is a living solidarity.
We will continue to build the power of our movement outside the court. The newly formed Abahlali baseMjondolo branch in Siyanda will be marching on Mike Mabuyakulu to protest against evictions and corrupt housing allocation on 10 November 2008. The newly formed Motala Diggers have just launched a women’s community garden in Motala Heights. The struggle goes on.
Mike Mabuyakulu is responsible for the internationally notorious Slums Act. He seems to think that eradicating the homes of the poor will magically eradicate the housing crisis. He says that the growth of shack settlements is a matter for the National Intelligence Agency and the South African Police Services. Will the NIA and the SAPS investigate and arrest the lack of jobs, good schools, clinics and hope for a better life outside of the cities? Will they investigate and arrest the lack of affordable decent public housing in the cities? No, they will arrest the poor people that decide to build their own houses in the cities. We note that Mabuyakulu has never said that all the illegal evictions by government and business are a matter for the NIA and the SAPS. He wants to make being poor a crime while making it acceptable for government and business to make poor people even poorer.
For the rich vacant land is an investment. It is an investment that can make them richer. Sometimes they are pushing for shack dwellers to be evicted so that they can cash in.
For the poor vacant land is a waste. It is wrong to waste when people are suffering. That land can help us to survive.
The government has worked very well with business and they have succeeded in working together to make the rich richer. However the government has failed to work with the poor to make things better for ordinary people. In fact the government is working with the rich to attack the poor and drive us out of the cities.
We are not surprised that all over the world the organisations of the poor say that if their government is failing to house them then they must occupy vacant land and buildings so that the poor can house the poor.
Building shacks can only be a crime if being poor is a crime.
Mabuyakulu is not the only one who is trying to make poverty a security issue. The City of Tshwane spends more on private security companies to keep the poor out of the city than they do on providing life saving basic services for the poor. This is what happens when poverty is criminalised. It is clear that the Municipalities would rather keep us out of the cities, keep us poor and even make us poor, than let us into their cities and have to give us services.
Mabuyakulu says that there is no land for housing the poor in the cities. But everyone can see that there is land for shopping malls, office parks, gated communities and even golf courses. Every day the government is choosing to allow the land to be used by the rich so that they can make themselves richer. Where are our children going to access good education and good work if there is no land for the poor in the cities?
We are not only demanding that the Slums Act be scrapped. We are demanding the all levels of government implement the Breaking New Ground Policy - a progressive housing policy that stresses participatory upgrades but has never been implemented. We are also demanding that a new Act be discussed with the people and then passed into law. We need an Act that will open the cities and protect the poor. We need an Act that will emphasize on upgrading. We need an Act that will follow the example of the Brazilian government that passed the City Statute in 2001 after years of struggle by poor people’s movements. The City Statute says that the social function of land must come before the commercial function of land - the needs of the poor must come before private profit.
We have very serious concerns about the government shacks which are also called tin houses, temporary structures, transit camps and temporary relocation areas. People do not want the government shacks. There is no life in the government shacks. Sometimes there are no shops. People are scared - they have seen that in Cato Crest people have already been staying in the government shacks for three years. People do not see any guarantee that the government shacks will be temporary. They are too small and this is breaking up families. There is no freedom there. The councillors and not the communities control the allocations. The government shacks are breaking up communities - communities of support, communities of struggle. Sometimes it takes twenty years to build a community. But everywhere relocation is destroying communities leaving people poorer and weaker.
In the Protea South settlement in Johannesburg the government built temporary structures in 2005. They did not consult the residents and after they were completed residents refused to settle there. Since then the government has been wasting money to guard the structures and to pay rent for the private-owned land on which they were built.
Everyone knows that the government shacks are being built to hide the poor for 2010. All the money being wasted on these shacks could be used for upgrades.
When we complain about the government shacks the councillors say that we are uneducated. When we complain about all the huge corruption and party political dirty tricks they say that we are uneducated. We will not be educated to accept our own oppression.
Anyway the educated and the uneducated are all saying one thing on the Slums Act - shack dwellers, NGOs, university professors and even Miloon Kothari who came to visit Abahlali baseMjondolo when he was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing are all saying one thing about this Act: it is a disgrace.
Mabuyakulu says that the Slums Act is aimed at Slum Lords. It is true that there are shack lords in some places and that they charge the people rent. We are against shack lords. They are against us because we are for democracy and against rent. But we notice that everywhere the government works with the shack lords to keep political control over the people! They push the slum lords to the media as if they can speak for the people! And who are the lords of the government shacks? Who controls allocation? Who is paid to build these shacks?
A world class city is not a city in which the poor are hidden away in rural dumping grounds. A world class city is a city where there is space, dignity and respect for all.
Stand with us in our struggle for the right to the cities. Join us in the struggle to democratise our cities from below. Work with us to resist the new war on the poor.
Iyolala ibonene Nomphathiswa!
This statement is issued by the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League who have organised discussions on this court case in all Abahlali baseMjondolo affiliated settlements and branches in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. This statement draws on the experiences of the Youth League in this series of meetings. It is endorsed by all the organisations in the Poor People’s Alliance which are:
Abahlali baseMjondolo (KwaZulu-Natal & Western Cape)
Landless Peoples’ Movement (KwaZulu-Natal & Gauteng)
Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal)
Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign (Western Cape)
For further information and comment contact the following members of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League:
For general comment on the Slums Act and the struggle against it in the streets and in the courts you can also contact:
S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo:
Louisa Motha, Abahlali baseMjondolo:
Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Abahlali baseMjondolo:
Maureen Mnisi, Landless People’s Movement:
Reverend Mavuso, Rural Network:
Ashraf Casiem, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign:
Stuart Wilson, Centre for Applied Legal Studies:
For a full background on the Abahlali baseMjondolo struggle against the Slums Act, including the court papers, newspaper articles and previous press releases visit: http://abahlali.org/node/1629