eShowe: Death Threats, Ban on Political Meetings, Mass Evictions, Corruption, Water Disconnected | Abahlali baseMjondolo
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eShowe: Death Threats, Ban on Political Meetings, Mass Evictions, Corruption, Water Disconnected

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Press Statement from Residents of Tin Town Settlement, King Dinuzulu Township, eShowe

Serious Crisis in Tin Town as Residents Confront Mass Illegal Evictions, Death Threats, A Ban on Political Meetings, Rampant Corruption and Denial of Basic Services Including Water

On Saturday, a woman in the Tin Town settlement, King Dinuzulu township, eShowe was threatened with necklacing by the Community Liaison Officer (CLO) for Ward 13 if she held a community meeting in her home to discuss shack demolitions with representatives from Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban.

Families are being illegally evicted every Thursday and a total of two thousand families face eviction.

Residents in Tin Town are living in fear. Political meetings have been banned by the local councillor and when the CLO heard that the meeting with Abahlali baseMjondolo was to go ahead on Sunday he threatened the woman that had offered to host it that she would be necklaced and her home burnt to the ground, with her children inside. Other Tin Town shack-dwellers, seeking to attend the meeting, were also threatened. The CLO said they would be tied up, thrown in the boot of a car and left to starve or suffocate.

In the past threats of violence against political activities and any attempt at community organising have been issued directly from the councillors’ office.

The councillor’s office recently cut off the water to the settlement, affecting an estimated 200 households, in efforts to chase residents from their shacks.

Women in the area have been making telephone calls to Abahlali baseMjondolo day and night. They fear the councillor and they fear the demolitions issued by the Umlalazi municipality that have already left 8 families homeless.

Council officials have been going door-to-door, telling residents they must tear down their shacks themselves, or else an eviction team will return at any time to carry out the job. Evictions are being carried out every Thursday. On 9 July 2009, 8 families were ejected from their homes and their shacks and all their belongings destroyed by the eviction team. They were not issued with a PIE notice or given warning of the demolition. These evictions were therefore illegal and criminal acts.

The evictions in Tin Town began upon the completion of the first houses in Sunnydale, a nearby Umlalazi Municipality housing project, constructed by Umpheme Development Pty (Ltd).

The agreement between the developer and the municipality was that those allocated new houses were to demolish their own shacks. However, the families currently living in Tin Town shacks are renters, and have not been allocated houses. Those who are being allocated houses are shack lords who are not living in the shacks that the own. They are renting out shacks in Tin Town for R130 per month, and living in homes outside the area.

Therefore the shack lords are collecting their allocated houses, while their renters are being illegally put out on the street with nowhere else to go.

Residents also say that, while shack-dwellers are being left homeless in Tin Town, families from as far as Pietermaritzburg have moved into the new housing project along with the shack lords.

In spite of threats by the councillor, a small community meeting, with Abahlali baseMjondolo, went ahead this Sunday. It was held secretly in a nearby forest. It could not be a proper mass meeting because of the death threats. Community representatives at this meeting decided to issue this press release but to do so anonymously because death threats that have been issued against anyone speaking up against the evictions. Since the meeting residents have been calling the Abahlali baseMjondolo head office to say they wanted to attend the meeting but were too scared or had not bee informed about it as open mobilisation was not possible.

The councillor is a former war lord. He remains a very dangerous man.

Following the meeting, Abahlali baseMjondolo contacted the Umlalazi municipality and the development agency working on the housing project. They say they were unaware that those living in the shacks were renters and were being left homeless in the demolitions.

The municipality has accordingly suspended all demolitions in order to investigate the matter. Abahlali baseMjondolo commends the municipality on this action.

Representatives from the municipality and the development agency are scheduled to visit Tin Town this week. Abahlali baseMjondolo is hopeful that these meetings will prevent any further evictions and homelessness in Tin Town and that shack-dwellers may be granted houses in the new project.

Currently, in Tin Town, there is only one source of water for 200 families. A pipe sprays water up from the ground, which then must be fitted with a hose to fill a bucket (See photo). There are no toilets and no electricity. This is unacceptable.

The demolition of homes in Tin Town is part of a provincial effort to rid KwaZulu-Natal of shack settlements in accordance with the notorious Slums Act. Abahlali baseMjondolo has challenged the Slums Act in the Constitutional Court. This is a clear case where demolitions and evictions are benefiting shack lords, and not the people of Tin Town.

Abahlali baseMjondolo has fought against political repression and threats of violence against residents by councillors and shack lords in other communities. We have won many of these battles – for instance in Motala Heights. The movement condemns the actions of the councillor in Tin Town and will stand firm with Tin Town residents against the councillor.

We welcome the promise by the municipality and the developer to suspend the evictions and to visit the community to see the situation for themselves. However immediate action must also be taken against the extreme political intimidation in the area – it is unacceptable that a councillor can ban political meetings and issue death threats against people. It is also unacceptable that people are being denied basic services, especially water.

Problems like this occur when the government and developers negotiate with councillors instead of communities.

At this stage it is not possible for any contact people in eShowe to be listed on this press release. However we urge the media, the churches and all progressive organisations to visit the area and to see the situation for themselves. However please understand that you will probably have to speak to people secretly and anonymously.

Updates on the situation in Tin Town can be obtained from the Abahlali baseMjondolo office at 031 – 2691822.