This was the message from Abahlali to the KwaZulu Natal Legislature on Friday 4th May 2007 at Kennedy Road community hall. The legislature had come to introduce a bill, “ KZN Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Bill, 2006”. The hall was packed to capacity by people from affiliating settlements of Abahlali BaseMjondolo Movement.
It took two intense hours for the legislature to realize that Abahlali mean business when they talk about land and housing rights. They showed again that they are not passive recipients of government services or promises but active critics of non participatory models of governance. In these discussions Abahlali slammed the legislature for not being sensitive to the suffering of people living in shacks and for allowing the municipality to push shackdwellers out of the cities to remote areas. They shared inhumane experiences they had received from municipal agencies which carried out evictions in areas like Motala Heights, Juba Place and Crossmore without taking into account the negative impact that these will have on people’s lives.
“Lies! Lies! AND More Lies!,” these were some of the words from Abahlali in response to the panel. Key questions were: why choose to start by eliminating instead of providing houses? Why start with giving municipalities more powers instead of delivering houses? Why only choose making laws as the first option instead of listening to shackdwellers? How come there are no answers to ‘W” questions that Abahlali sent to MEC Mabuyakhulu, Mayor Mlaba and Manager Sutcliffe, instead more repressive laws to the poor?
In defense of its call, the legislature claimed no knowledge of the stuff taking place in Ethekwini and committed itself to taking all the issues that people raised with the MEC. In addition the legislature proposed that there needs to be a meeting between Abahlali, the legislature and Ethekwini council to work on issues. Not being easily fooled, Abahlali challenged the legislature arguing that they know what’s going on in Ethekwini and they are just protecting their colleagues. Rejecting the bill, Abahlali vowed to continue with mass action against Ethekwini council and the MEC if their land and housing demands are not met.
On Sunday the 6th May 2007, the Chairperson of the KZN portfolio committee on Housing drove from Estcourt to the Motala Heights settlement, to hear from people what their grievances are and what do they think the legislature should do. Abahlali were amazed and appreciated the gesture but wonder how much of this changed the MECs mindset and attitude towards shackdwellers.
VIVA ABAHLALI BASEMJONDOLO VIVA!