Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Press Release from the Motala Heights Development Committee (affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo)
CRISIS LOOMS AS HUNDREDS THREATENED WITH FORCED EVICTION AT MOTALA HEIGHTS (PINETOWN)
On Saturday 17 June ward Councillor Derek Dimba arrived at the Motala Heights settlement with municipal officials and 5 car loads of municipal security guards to mark out shacks that would then be destroyed by the highly militarised police Land Invasions Unit. They had probably chosen the Youth Day weekend thinking that many people would be away at their rural homes. They were wrong. The community was able to mobilise quickly and see off this first threat in what a number of people have described as a coming civil war.
The Motala Heights Development Commitment spent Sunday gathering detailed information from residents and preparing affidavits and were at the Legal Resources Centre first thing on Monday morning. They then moved on the Municipal offices in New Germany where they were able to win an unscheduled emergency meetings with Mr. Geoff Nightingale. Nightingale confirmed that the Municipality planned to move 63 families to Nazareth Island and evict the other residents. He said that they could not build houses on the land where the people where living because local businessmen (and well known gangster) 'Ricky Govender wants to develop the area himself'. He also confirmed that Cllr Dimba had asked the Municipality to immediately destroy new structures that had been erected. The eThekwini Municipality does not allow the construction of new shacks or the expansion or development of existing shacks. The Development Committee pointed out that all the new shacks and developments (all well made wooden cabins) had been built by long standing residents who needed more space for growing children, had got married or wanted to move out of over crowded shacks after finding work and so on. Nightingale said that this was a matter for Dimba and the Committee to resolve and he promised to try and schedule an emergency meeting for today.
The Motala Heights settlement lies amongst the gum tress on the hill behind Motala Heights suburb which is, in turn, just behind the many factories in Pinetown’s industrial area. It was founded in 1994 and the residents mostly come from Zululand, the Eastern Cape and Ixopo although some are from as far away as the Free State. Almost everyone came here to work or to reunite families divided by migrant labour. Most of the men in the settlement work in the factories and most of the women work in the houses in the adjacent suburb. There are almost 300 shacks in the settlement. The land is owned by local tycoon Ricky Govender and he is aiming to extend the suburb up the hill in a large private development after the shack dwellers have been evicted. [Update: The Municipality told the people that the land was owned by Govender at this meeting but later the Motala Committee went to check at the deeds office and found that in fact that land is owned by the Municipality!]
The 63 families scheduled to move to Nazareth Island would rather stay in Motala Heights where they are close to work and the other benefits of being near to Pinetown. The more than 200 families who now face eviction and the destruction of their community, their houses and their access to urban opportunity are determined to resist eviction by all means. They will explore all legal options but will also use mass mobilisation and will draw on the support of shack dwellers elsewhere to defend their homes, their community and their right to live near the city. The resistance will be organised by the new democratically elected and mandated Motala Heights Development Committee which is affiliated to the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement.
For comment on the particular situation confronted by Motala Heights please contact the following members of the Motala Heights Development Committee:
Mr Bhekuyise Ngcobo 0769211289, Chair
Miss Lousia Motha 0781760088, Deputy Chair
Mr Alson Mkhize, 0827608427
For comment on the general situation confronted by shack dwellers in the eThekwini Municipality as they face the onslaught of the Municipality’s looming mass evictions and forced removals under its ‘slum clearance’ programme please contact the following members of the Abahlali baseMjondolo secretariat.
Mr S’bu Zikode 0835470474, Chair
Mr Mnikelo Ndabankulu 073565241, Media Liason
Miss Fikile Nkosi 0842501446
Mzuyanda Ngthobane (24), Nkosinathi Gabella (28) and Slethiwe Ngcobo (3) all confront eviction from their home in the Motala Heights Settlement. They are pictured outside Mr Ngthobane’s home. Mr Ngthobane is a long time resident of Motala Heights and has just built his own wooden home after years of sharing a shack with 6 others.