There is an archive of entries on Motala Heights here.
Press Statement from Abahlali baseMotala Heights
30 October 2010
Motala Heights Will be a Community for All
When we joined Abahlali baseMjondolo and started our struggle in 2006 the municipality, led by the ward councillor Derek Dimba, were trying to destroy the jondols up on the hill. They were coming with guns and tear gas and evicting the people and destroying their homes. They were doing this illegally.
In the tin houses down in the valley the landlords, led by the gangster businessman Ricky Govender, were also evicting the poor people. They were coming with thugs and they were also evicting the people and destroying their homes. They were also doing this illegally but the polices were supporting them as they supported the municipality.
Derek Dimba was always in Ricky Govender’s house. The rich were united and we, the poor, were divided. Together they were trying to push all the poor people off this farm and to develop it for the rich. Govender was building the commercial housing developments for the rich himself.
Since 2006 we have had some ups and some downs in our struggle here in Motala. But we have faced a lot of threats and intimidation and united the poor in the jondols and in the tin houses against the power that the rich had over this community. We stopped the evictions in the jondols and in the tin houses. We electrified the jondols ourselves. We built a crèche. We organised all kinds of events and mutual aid. Through our participation in the larger struggle of Abahlali baseMjondolo we were also able to negotiate with the Municipality along with our comrades in the movement from other areas from the end of 2007 till the beginning of 2009. As a result of these negotiations we won an agreement from the municipality to provide more services to the poor in Motala and to build houses for the poor in Motala. This was a real victory. We went from a situation where all of the poor people were being driven out of Motala to a situation in which we brought the rich under some control and won an agreement that Motala would be a place for everyone and that we could all live here safely. That agreement is an agreement to put the social value of the land here before its commercial value and to put the right of an established community to remain together before the rights of the rich to use their money to make more money by evicting us and developing the land for commercial housing.
Land & Housing
The Department of Land Affairs came with Zamo from the Housing Department and showed us where development could be done. They said that this year is the second year of the planning period and that next year will be the third and last year.
But after a while no one in our office could get to Zamo but Kalinca [Kalinka Copello –a PhD student from Brazil] could. Why is it always like this? Mike Sutcliffe will meet with any student from England or America and try to charm them but he’ll never meet with us.
Zamo told us that Ricky Govender was working with Faizel Seedat of the housing department to do a private sector commercial development. Seedat and Govender call this ‘low cost housing’. But Govender will rush you R600 000 for a house. This is not low cost housing.
Govender has built a show house that is priced at R595 000 and he says that he has a paper that states that the municipality has given him money to develop the area. A comrade working in a steel company told us that Govender recently bought enough steel to build 1 600 houses. We’ve heard that Ricky Govender is building low cost houses for the government in Phoenix and Verulam. Here in Motala he is telling the poorest people to make a list of all their income including child support grants and any businesses that they have. This is creating the impression that Govender is providing the houses that we have fought for. We took a copy of Govender’s form to Zamo and Zamo was shocked. We can’t risk our housing budget getting into Govender’s hands. Money is a devil to anyone. It cannot go to Govender or to any other individual person. That money is for the community.
Govender’s vehicles and bulldozers were all repossessed in December by the sheriffs. It is widely known that he is owing money everywhere. Govender continues to dump illegally in the community and Dimba is not fazed about this. Even the Highway Mail has written about this. This has been going on for years. But Dimba is not fazed. Govender remains above the law in Dimba’s eyes. The poor are below the law and the rich are above the law. It seems that the law is only for the people in the middle.
Zamo has left the Housing Department and Nompilo has gone on maternity leave. We’ve heard nothing from the Department since Kalinka spoke to Zamo on the 8th of April and Nompilo told us on the 15th of April that the land assessment had gone to land affairs. Therefore we want clarity. The Municipality must come straight to the point and discuss everything openly with us like Zamo did. We are very angry.
Our demands to the Housing Department are that:
1. We want an urgent meeting to give us clarity on the status of the plans for our housing development and, also, clarity on what Ricky Govender is doing in Motala, on what land and with what money. We need to know what is his relationship with the Municipality.
2. We want regular meetings during the whole planning period of the development in Motala.
Some of our members are saying that instead of struggling all the time for the government to build us houses like they promised we should just demand that they just give the poor the land and then we can do our own mud houses. Some of us are old, we were born from here and we’ve never seen anything from the government. If they just give us the land and the paper to say that it is ours then we can see for ourselves. We are not hungry for their money. We are hungry for the land.
We read in the Daily Sun about that man that every day when we goes to look for work he also looks for bricks. Every day he comes home with three or four bricks and he is building his house solely three or four bricks at a time. If the government can’t build for the people it must let the poor people build for themselves. It’s like how they try to stop illegal electricity and water connections while they are failing to provide legal electricity and water connections.
We stopped all evictions in the jondols in 2006 and there have been no more evictions since then. We stopped all evictions in the tin houses for a few years using various strategies including rent strikes, legal strategies and mobilisation. Most evictions are illegal and so legal strategies usually work very well. After a number of defeats Govender stopped intimidating people. He’s very quiet these days although he has recently been coming with people who we do not know and filming in certain plots in Motala. We don’t know why. But now the land lords are starting to get their confidence back. Ten families are threatened with eviction in lot 6 and a number of families in lot 35. Govender is threatening five families in Lot 46. They have not received eviction letters yet. It is just at the verbal abuse stage now. Govender is also trying to evict two families from Lot 13. He has been trying to evict these families for years but he has always failed. We have successfully defended these families.
We have been to the deeds office to check who really owns the land from which people are being evicted. It costs R150 to get each file. This is another way of excluding the poor. But from what we have found it seems clear that Govender and other people arriving and claiming to be landlords are just stealing land. According to the deeds office lot 36 is owned by the National Housing Board. And lots 18 and 51 are owned by the Municipality. All these lots were set for public housing in 1986. We demand that all the land owned by the Municipality must go to the poor and not to private housing or other commercial developments.
In every eviction case the papers from our side are also served on the eThekwini Municipality but they have done nothing. Whenever government can’t do anything for us we have to see what we can do for ourselves.
Since we started our movement we have only been unable to defend two families from eviction in the tin houses. We do not accept that people should be left homeless when there is a lot of empty land in Motala, some of it owned by the Municipality and some of it owned by the National Housing Board. Therefore we have identified and allocated land for these families so that they can build their own homes and stop being tenants of the rich. If government is not gonna take any steps to protect the poor who are made homeless then we have no choice but to take the law into our own hands. We will continue to do this. We demand that no one is made homeless in Motala. If government cannot afford to build us RDP houses now then they should just give us the land right now.
We are still struggling for services. We tried to get the municipality to bring a grader to make the road to the jondols as this had been promised to us but then we were referred to Derek Dimba and so of course nothing happened. Everything that is supposed to be for the poor fails when it touches Dimba. If the Municipality is serious about working with all the people they need to work directly with the poor people and not with the councillors that are just here to oppress the poor. The councillors represent the rich and not the poor and therefore we must be allowed to represent ourselves. This is basic logic and yet it is often taken as a crime for the poor to organise ourselves and to speak for ourselves in this country.
Two years ago Bongo Dlamini and Shamita Naidoo made a statement to the Water Department about the need for more stand pipes in the tin houses. This was agreed to in the negotiations with the Municipality and PPT. But Bongo is late one year now and the Water Department only came now, on Wednesday last week. At first they just asked if there was a tap for the tin houses and we said yes but one stand pipe for all the tin houses without their own taps is not enough. We were very clear on this point and they have now agreed to put in new stand pipes in all the places where there is no water. We also negotiated with Zamo and PPT that they would build toilets in three places in the tin section. This was the first promise that was made to us in the negotiations but it has not been kept. We want them to bring those containers with toilets and showers.
The people with taps inside their tin houses are paying R200 and upwards for water. This is unaffordable for many families. From August billing is coming with a sewerage tariff but they don’t have a sewerage system. They are using the pit system.
There is a man called Steven (Duma) who has got an office in Pinetown which is called “Deprived Community Services and Helping Hands”. He helps the deprived communities to get water connections in their houses. He charges a fee of R1000 and then R60 per month. But now the Municipality is saying that his water connections are illegal. They won’t provide water connections but when someone else does they say it is illegal. Steven connections were like heaven to some of the tenants in the tin houses. Someone that is willing and able to do the work that the government is failing to do should be given the right to do that work.
Those that can’t afford water through Steven are still going through their neighbours. Often there is one legal meter for twenty families.
When it comes to electricity Operation Khanyisa is operating very well in the jondols. We are gonna steal electricity until they put the electricity inside. If they disconnect again we’ll just reconnect. They can’t stop us. Some people in the tin houses have prepaids but the bills are still coming too high. When electricity is unaffordable we have to go back to chopping wood. People have to wake up very early in the morning to chop wood.
We are also having a problem with the postal service. The tenants in the tin houses don’t get their post. The letters for those of us that are tenants of Govender go to Govender at his supermarket or warehouse. Either we don’t get the post or when we do get it it has been opened. We want our own cluster boxes with keys.
The clinic not only provides services to residents of Motala Heights but they also service nearby communities and the Westmead Industrial Area. However, the clinic here in Motala Heights is open only on Mondays and Fridays. Mondays from 9 till 3 and Fridays from 9 till 1. The nurses often arrive after 10am and take their own time for lunch while we are waiting outside. They have done away with providing services on Wednesdays.
They are supposed to give porridges and milk for the poor kids, pensioners and the sick, but they are not giving it. In Reservoir Hills the clinic even gives hampers for the very sick but not here.
Condoms are supposed to be supplied for free but people are afraid to go and ask the nurses for condoms because they ask people a thousand questions. That’s why we have had to organise condom distribution ourselves.
The blood pressure machine is not working and even our people with the killer virus are not getting their HIV medication. In fact they are not even getting porridge. Often the clinic just refers us to the hospital and then when we go to the hospital they refer us to the clinic. Sometimes the clinic refers us to Marianhill Hospital which is a semi-private hospital but you have to pay R150 to spend the night there and R360 for a scan and poor people just can’t afford this. We prefer to go to Khan’s Hospital because it is a government hospital.
One of the nurses is very helpful and she said that we have rights as people and that we must complain. But the other nurse is very rude to the poor people. She even refused to treat one very sick man who is living in an old truck because she said that he smelt. It is the job of nurses to treat everyone who needs treatment. This man is dying. He is in very critical condition. The hospice and the hospitals won’t help. The clinic chased him away because he was smelling. He spends all day just sitting in the bus shelter. Before the owner of the truck said that he could stay there, and put a plastic over the broken windscreen for him, he was living in the Post Box but it caved in under the rain. What kind of country are we where people must live like this? Where people must die like this?
The Health Department did set up a Health Committee here but it is not functional. There is no communication. It is the usual story with these top down structures.
As a movement we supported the Public Sector Worker’s strike because everyone needs to be paid properly and because most public sector workers are supporting a lot of people who aren’t working. But some of our people couldn’t get their HIV medication during the strike and their health has really gone backwards. This is not right. Nurses and other public sector workers must understand that when you work for the public you work for the people and the people mustn’t be forced to pay the price for the legitimate struggle of nurses against the greed and arrogance of the government.
We really need help with looking after some of the HIV ladies and their children here.
Every year the government makes the budget but there is nothing for us. It looks like nobody knows us. We are like the animals to them. But we are living people.
The municipality must come to all the communities and allow us to have input in the budget. We have two demands about the budget:
1. They must bring the budget to us and show it to us so that we can see where the money is going.
2. From next year and onwards there must be a participatory and democratic budget planning meeting in each community each year. Government must stop pretending that the councillors represent everyone in the meetings where budgets are decided. The councillors represent the rich. They do not represent us. We represent ourselves. Therefore the money for Motala should be allocated by an open meeting in Motala.
Every year we have the same struggle to get the poor kids into schools. Last year the poor kids were even stoned by the rich kids in Wyebank. We fill in the fee exemption forms for all the kids but some of them are rejected. Others are not rejected but they are just ignored and nothing is done. While there is no feedback the fees are accumulating. The poor children are treated badly. Sometimes they are sent home for silly things like having their hair too long when there is no one at home to look after them. It’s not right for a child to be roaming around on their own.
Everything that touches Dimba fails.
Dimba says that there is no way in hell that he will come to Motala. He says that he feels threatened by us. But no one has ever got aggressive with him. All we did was to come to his meeting and ask him our questions through a loud hailer. If councillors think that questions are threatening that is their problem and not our problem.
When Shamita phoned him recently, on the speaker phone at the Minister’s Fellowship, he took off with her and put the phone down.
He won’t even give us the proof of residence.
Like in most areas where Abahlali baseMjondolo organises, Dimba, like most councillors, refuses to give us the proof of residence forms that you need to get a bank account, to make your cellphone legal and to get grants. This is one of many ways that the councillors try to control the poor from the top down. We have had now made our own arrangements to get proof of residence certified for people on a regular basis without having to go through Dimba. In Kennedy Road Abahlali baseMjondolo just started issuing proof of residence forms on its own. We are looking into this.
In 2007 the PR councillor, Mr. Narenjee from the IFP, said in the paper that he assisited in the provision of low cost houses in Motala. But where are these houses? When we ask him he runs away.
We have noticed that in fact councillors and officials don’t understand about land and housing. They don’t even understand about schools. We have to learn them. We are willing to keep learning them. But we as the poor shouldn’t have to be learning them all the time. They are paid to do their jobs. We are paid nothing to organise in our communities.
We meet on the roadside every Saturday. The government treats us like we haven’t got hands, like we haven’t got minds, like we are babies. But we stand together even though finance kills us all the way.
We get most of our solidarity through all our comrades in Abahlali baseMjondolo but here in Pinetown we are also getting support from the Minister’s Fellowship. We want to thank them for their living solidarity, a solidarity with dignity.
For more information and comment please contact:
Sipho Khanya: 073 588 9729 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 073 588 9729 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Louisa Motha: 078 176 0088
Shamita Naidoo: 074 315 7962
Krinesh Rajah: 082 463 6853