Update 24 October: Click here to see a letter of protest on the Siyanda evictions sent to Obed Mlaba by COHRE.
Breaking News: Siyanda shack-dwellers, facing eviction from the MR577 Freeway site, are staging ongoing marches to halt building and allocations at the Kulula Housing Project. The contractors have just been stopped from proceeding with the patently unfair allocation of housing that has been undertaken without any form of meaningful consultation. There is a heavy police presence again today and the situation is tense. (There is an article in yesterday's Isolezwe here.)
Forced Relocations in Siyanda to Make Way for New Freeway
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 13:01
Press Statement by the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo Branch
DURBAN – Shack-dwellers in Siyanda, KwaMashu, have been threatened with forced relocation to make way for construction of the MR577 Freeway. The eThekwini Municipality has demolished at least 50 shacks in the area this year, without notice or a court order. These demolitions are illegal and criminal acts. Street marches by residents, peacefully protesting against relocation, have been met with violent police action and intimidation.
According the eThekwini Municipality, all those displaced by the new freeway would be moved to the adjacent Kulula Housing Project, concurrently under construction and facilitated by Linda Masinga & Associates (See: http://www.ethekwini.gov.za/durban/government/munadmin/media/press/506) (See also: http://www.ethekwini.gov.za/durban/government/munadmin/media/press/521).
Residents have since been informed that an unspecified number of families affected by the freeway construction will be relocated to eNtuzuma and placed in "transit camps" – government-built shacks or temporary structures, ordinarily used for emergency relief, which are increasing supplied by municipalities in lieu of formal housing.
As those in Siyanda undergo or await eviction – without knowing how, when and where they would be relocated – further controversy has erupted over the decision to move families from other parts of the Durban-metro, as far away as Umlazi and Lamontville, into the finished Kulula houses.
Siyanda shack-dwellers point out that those made homeless by the illegal Municipal demolitions earlier this year still have not been provided any alternative accommodation – in the Kulula houses, or elsewhere. Not only were these evictions carried out without notice or a court order, occupants were prevented from removing their personal belongings from the shacks before the demolitions began.
In marches and memorandums submitted to state and corporate partners in the Kulula Project, Siyanda shack-dwellers have stated that they do not want to move to eNtuzuma, away from jobs, schools and farther on the periphery of the city, where transport costs are much higher. They have moreover refused to accept any relocation to "transit camps," which cannot be considered suitable alternative accommodation.
Metro police have responded violently to peaceful marches by Siyanda residents. On Monday, 15 September, approximately 60 residents gathered to protest further allocation and occupancy of finished Kulula houses by those who are not affected by the freeway construction. Amid heavy police presence, a metro police officer reportedly brandished a loaded weapon at the crowd, shouting that he would shoot them with live ammunition if they did not disband.
Following shack demolitions earlier in May this year, residents marched to the Kulula Project contractor's office to submit a memorandum, where they were fired upon with rubber bullets by police and sprayed with water canons. Five people, including a pregnant woman were shot, injured and rushed to hospital. These five were arrested by police at hospital, upon charges of "public violence." All charges were subsequently dropped.
In addition to concerns over relocation, the allocation of houses and police brutality, residents in Siyanda say that the Kulula houses are unsound, unsafe and have not built with substantive consultation from the community, despite claims to the contrary by the Municipality.
Siyanda launched a new Abahlali baseMjondolo branch on Sunday and residents are determined to oppose state intimidation and to demand genuinely democratic planning.
For up to the minute information and comment on the crisis in Siyanda contact:
Click here to see some pictures.