Category Archives: operation khanyisa

Another Shack Fire Rips Through Khayelitsha

18 December 2010
Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape

Another Shack Fire Rips Through Khayelitsha – BE Section Burns



Tonight VE section in Khayelitsha has burnt. At least seven homes have been destroyed.

We have made it clear that as a movement we refuse to accept that it is normal for the homes of the poor to burn like this. We are determined to demand that the plague of shack fires is treated as the crisis that it is and that real steps are taken to free us from this plague.

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Up To Five Hundred People Left Homeless in the QQ Fire Last Night

Wednesday, 08 December 2010
Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape Press Statement

Up To Five Hundred People Left Homeless in the QQ Fire Last Night



The fire that raged through the QQ Section shack settlement in Khayelitsha last night has destroyed up to 100 shacks leaving as many as 500 people homeless. Most people have lost everything including ID books, work clothes, school uniforms, medication and family photographs.

The community built and run crèche has also been destroyed.

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ZACF: Electricity Crisis in Protea South

Electricity Crisis in Protea South

by Lekhetho Mtetwa

It was on Sunday morning, the 28th of April 2010 when people
from the bond houses took out illegal connections in Protea South.
They were returning from a funeral when they made these disconnections
by removing electricity wires.

The person who brought them to my yard, framing me as the
one in charge of illegal connections, is a taxi owner named Nkosi.
He kept on saying illegal connection meetings are held in my yard,
as he often saw people gathered outside my yard connecting. The
question is: do I have the powers to stop all people living in the
informal settlement from connecting electricity? No! I don’t have
any power to stop them. Only Eskom could maybe do that with
the help of the state.

I was also threatened that if the main electricity box is burnt,
they’ll also burn my shack. On that night people wanted to burn
the main box and I contacted the Landless Peoples’ Movement
(LPM) comrades to check what was happening outside our shacks.
There we found angry community members planning to wake the
rest of the people of the informal settlement to go and burn the
box. We tried our best to stop them from burning the box and they
all listened, although they were not satisfied.

Days went by and people living in the informal settlement kept
on connecting electricity as they all wanted to watch the World
Cup. Everything seemed normal until they came to attack us in
our yards. That was on the 23rd of May 2010 between eight to nine
o’clock at night. Three of them had guns, one a panga (machete)
and the other a hoe. They jumped the fence and knocked at my
door, and one of them said “Vula! Sifuna indonda” (Open! We want
the man) without announcing who they were, as is customary. It
was after we had finished eating dinner and preparing to sleep. I
had to hide inside the wardrobe to save my life as we didn’t know
who they were and what their plan was if they found me.

My partner, Nthabiseng, had to open after I took cover. Surprisingly
these were faces she didn’t know at all. They then
started to beat my partner and also search for me. By this time,
luckily, my kids were asleep. They beat her and told her that
they would be back for me. I wanted to avail myself to them and
at the same time didn’t want to disappoint my partner
as she didn’t want me to be killed. One of the guys even
stole the phone that belonged to me that was on top of
the television.

As they couldn’t find me, they left after beating my partner.
On the street they met two guys and also beat them.
This was a horrible day for shack dwellers as they had
been targeted. We were fortunate enough because one of
my neighbours came outside as my partner was screaming.
He tried to ask those guys what are they doing but
got no answer. He then asked us to sleep at his place for
us to be safe as the attackers were all over the place.

They then leant us their phone to let our comrades (of the
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front – ZACF) know about
the attack. That’s when Jonathan (of the ZACF) called to
find out about the attack. He then let other comrades
know about everything taking place in Protea South.
After some members of the community were attacked,
there were gunshots outside and one of the shack
dwellers was shot dead with others wounded. People were
screaming for help – which they couldn’t find because police
only arrived after comrade Maureen (of the LPM) was
attacked as well. That was around twelve to one o’clock
the same night. Shack dwellers then got angry and
started to wake others living in shacks to go and burn the
main box that supplies electricity to the bond houses. As the shack
dwellers were on their way to the box, the police tried to prevent
them from doing so but they didn’t want to listen and, instead,
they destroyed the box in front of them.

The following day it was tense to the extent that most of the
people living in bond houses had to lock themselves in their yards.
There were arrests, although the state proved to shack dwellers
that people who have money do not stay in prison for a long time.
They were arrested on Monday, but on Tuesday were released,
which made people from the shacks feel unprotected. Oh, yes,
money speaks all languages.

Attacks and threats kept on taking place, but the police were
now arresting innocent people, just because they are from shacks.
Five people from shacks were accused of all the damages that had
happened. All were from LPM. They were released after few days,
except one, who was left behind. He is still in jail today. He was
accused of being the one who caused all the chaos. He was found
dancing on top of the main burnt box. As we speak there are comrades
who are still in hiding, as they are the most wanted people
by the bond house community. Some left their shacks because
they are being framed as the instigators of the illegal connections.

According to them (bond house community) they believe that
if they can get rid of LPM comrades, their mission will be complete.
There are comrades, including Maureen Mnisi and myself
whom Nkosi and his people want to get rid of. We all need electricity.
Although we live in shacks, we are still human beings.
Even today it’s dark in the area, and now the people living in
bond houses went to Eskom to find out when they will fix the main
box. The response they got was that they must wait for the completion
of a project of installing of electricity for 82 shack dwellers,
which is something that will take a long time. Eskom’s concern is
that it has lost a lot of money in the Protea South area, since this
is the 5th transformer that has been installed.

On the 10th of June, the bond house community marched to
Eskom offices to ask it to install the box because they are paying
for electricity, and that they won’t wait for whatever project it is
busy with. All they want is to watch the World cup. At their March
shack dwellers were not invited, as this might be a sign that shows
us that war is not yet over. One of them who fed me with this information,
when I ask her if they’ve invited shack dwellers said
they didn’t know who to contact. The question is, when they attack,
they know who to attack. It’s surprising, very surprising. Life
is now difficult for both residents of the bond houses and shack
dwellers, as people are now in fear.

At last Eskom heard them; they will be able to see the World
Cup. What about shack dwellers? They also connected… izinyoka
(illegal connections). Oh here starts another problem. Will the
bond house people remove wires again, or maybe they’ll wait until
the World Cup is over? This is a big question that runs in everyone’s

Things seem fine now but for how long? Is it until Eskom finishes
its project? We’ll see as we no longer have trust and are also not
feeling safe. Anything can happen at any time. Maybe it will be
worse this time.

Protea South is an undeveloped area which is abandoned by the
government, whereby there is no electricity, no street lights, no
water taps, no toilets and no proper roads for shack dwellers. It is
only serviced by “easy loos”, which are being shared by more than
ten families. But we are not alone. Those living in the bond houses
are also the victims of the capitalist system. All of us are facing
issues of poor service delivery, exploitation, oppression and
poverty. Fighting each other will not solve these problems. All we
are doing is squabbling for the breadcrumbs that fall off the table
where the bosses and rulers are having a feast!

For how long should we live this kind of life, the life of allowing
the bosses and rulers to play with our minds, to use and undermine
us like this? This must be the question that rings in each and
every one’s mind.

For more information contact me at the following email
address: lekhetho [dot] mtetwa [at] gmail [dot] com

Heritage Day Fire in Arnett Drive

Abahlali baseMjondolo Arnett Drive Press Release
25 September 2010

Heritage Day Fire in Arnett Drive

At 9:45 last night a primus stove broke out starting a big fire in shack number 40 in the Arnett Drive settlement. This shack was completely destroyed and the next door shack was damaged. Gertrude Cele (65) was very badly burnt on her side and stomach and is now in Addington Hospital. She and her partner, Michael Morori, have lost their home and all their possessions.

The fire brigade were called but they came late. However the community was able to organise a chain to pass buckets of water from the river up to the settlement and we put the fire out ourselves. The police came quite quickly and they called the ambulance that took Gertrude Cele to hospital. We appreciate this. The councillor has not come although we phoned him and there has been no support from Disaster Management. We need building materials to rebuild the shack.

There have been fires in our settlement in 1992, 2007 and 2009. These fires are a result of having to use primus stoves and candles instead of electricity. When our self organised electricity connections are destroyed by the police they force us back to the primus stoves and candles and therefore to the fires. The denial of electricity to shack dwellers is the cause of shack fires.

When we first started to organise ourselves as Abahlali baseMjoindolo the politicians would always say that shack fires are the result of drunkeness. Now they always say that shack fires are the result of ‘illegal electricity connections’. They are always trying to blame us for the fires whereas they are the ones that have failed to ensure that we have access to electricity. Everyone knows that when self organised connections are done safely they protect us from fires.

Earlier this year the eThekwini Municipality lifted its 2001 ban on providing electricity to shacks. This was a direct result of the struggle of Abahlali baseMjondolo and we welcome this step forward by the Municipality. However we have still not been provided with formal access to electricity and until we are we will insist on our right to connect ourselves to electricity.

The Arnett Drive shack settlement was formed when this land was occupied in 1978. Since then the settlement has constantly been threatened with eviction. As a result of our struggle in Abahlali baseMjondolo we have now been promised that houses will be built for us here in Reservoir Hills and that we will not be forcibly removed to the human dumping grounds outside the city. We welcome this promise.

However we do fear that all these promises could just be to try and trick us into voting in the next election and that after that the bulldozers will come to destroy the settlement. We cannot relax until the promises that have been made to us our kept.

Our demands are that:

1. We are given formal access to electricity and that while we wait our self-organised connections are not destroyed.
2. We are given toilets and taps.
3. Our settlement is upgraded where it is.

We are also unhappy about the police raids. They come into the settlement during the night, waking us up, making us stand up while they look into our homes. They look for electricity connections and to see if anyone is selling beer. They often steal our money and insult us. Earlier this year they confiscated two crates of beer and two bottles of Smirnoff from one lady and stole R1000 from her. She was also made to pay a fine of R300. During these raids the police treat the poor as criminals. No middle class person has their home raided in the middle of the night. We have the same right as anyone to be protected and not vandalised by the people. However we wish to be clear that we are not fighting the police. We are fighting the municipality and the councillors.

We are not happy about Heritage Day. How can we be happy when Gertrude Cele and Michael Morori have lost their home and Gertrude is in a serious condition in hospital? Some of our parents came here after being evicted from Umkhumbane [Cato Manor] where they fought in the women’s riot in 1959. This is the only heritage that we can take pride in – the heritage of the long and continuing struggles of the poor to have a dignified place in this city.

For more information and comment please3 contact:

Nomhle Mkhetho 079 258 6043
Clement Mtshali 078 115 3215

Click here to read ‘A Big Devil in the Jondolos: A report on Shack Fires’ by Matt Birkinshaw (2008).

Sowetan article on the Kennedy Road Fire

Everytime that there is a shack fire the politicians rush to blame the victims of their criminal neglect by claiming that the fire was caused by an illegal electricity connection. There is no evidence at all to suiggest that thisfire was caused by an illegal electricity connection. Most fires are caused by candles and on this occassion the police and the fire department have ascribed the fire to both an knocked overcandle and an upturned paraffin stove. Illegal electricity connections, when done well, stop fires and save lives. It is the lack of electricity that causes fires.

This article also fails to understand that for many people where they are housed is as important as the quality of the structure in which they are housed – hence the slogan that rejects ‘reruralisation’ and demands the ‘right to the city’. It is also not true, as Dube claims here, that most people do not want to move because they want to be near the dump. The vast majority of Kennedy Road residents do not earn an income from the dump and do not want to be moved to human dumping grounds on the rural periphery of the city because they need to be near work, schools etc.

300 shacks razed by illegal electricity
06 July 2010
Corrinne Louw

DEADLY illegal electricity connections continue unabated in the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement near Durban despite being the suspected cause of a fire that razed 300 shacks on Sunday.

Three people were killed in the blaze that also displaced more than 1000 people. By yesterday morning, residents who spent the night in the open began rebuilding their shacks.

Resident Sipho Mkhize told Sowetan that he had no choice but “to do an illegal connection”.

“We do not get electricity, so we have to do it ourselves. We know it is dangerous but we know how to do it safely. I used to work for the electricity department so I know how to make it safe.

“Me and a lot of other people pay our neighbour, who has a legal connection, for our electricity,” he said.

“Once my shack is up again I’m going to connect my electricity illegally again.”

The shack-dwellers movement Abahlali Basemjondolo is furious.

“If people were given land, houses and electricity, there would be no fires and no deaths,” said spokes- person Mnikelo Ndabankulu.

“The only reason there are fires is because of the failure of the municipality to provide services.”

But KwaZulu-Natal local government MEC Nomusa Dube, who visited the shack settlement yesterday, said the residents refused formal houses offered to them in Riverdene, Newlands East and Mount Moriah.

“We asked them to move and many refused,” Dube said.

“We sympathise with them but they don’t want to move because the (present) settlement is next to the dump site which is a source of income for them.”