Shack dwellers’ victory boosts residents

Shack dwellers’ victory boosts residents

See you in court, say Pearls opposers
March 17, 2006

By Carvin Goldstone

Umhlanga Rocks residents opposed to the development of the Pearls of Umhlanga flats have found the courage to fight the eThekwini Municipality after a victory over the city by Abahlali Base Mjondolo (Shack Dwellers’ Movement).

The Umhlanga Ratepayers’ Action Group, which has been appealing against the development, has had several appeals blocked by the city council.

The Pearls, which is expected to consist of high-rise blocks of flats, a commercial boulevard and a spa health centre, is being developed on prime beachfront land in Lagoon Drive.

The group is concerned that the development will increase the Umhlanga population by 100%, cast shadows over the beachfront, devalue properties and set a dangerous precedent for development in the area.

At a meeting this week residents decided their best option to stop the development would be to seek a court interdict. The group’s attorney, Jack Hawkey, told them such an application was their only hope of success.

“No litigation is certain and all litigation is costly, but there are examples of the court intervening where the municipality has adopted a bully-boy and arrogant approach,” he said.

Hawkey gave three examples in which the court had intervened against the municipality.

One of these was the victory by Abahlali Base Mjondolo, which had obtained an interdict preventing police officers from stopping a march to the city hall, he said.

Throw money
The movement defeated the municipality after acquiring the voluntary services of academics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and attorneys from the Freedom of Expression Institute, and took to the streets with placards and T-shirts proclaiming their need for housing.

In contrast, the much wealthier residents of Umhlanga are planning to throw money at their attempt stop the municipality from passing the plans for the Pearls development. Hawkey said it would cost R100 000 to take on the municipality legally.

Residents at the meeting pledged financial support and circulated forms appealing for assistance. The group is also considering staging a march on the offices of the developers.

Hawkey said they would seek a court order ordering the review of plans previously approved and compelling the developers to obtain an environmental impact assessment.

Ethekwini Municipal Manager Michael Sutcliffe said the city was taking into consideration the matter of the shadows, sanitation, bridges and the overall development.

He said people had the right to build and people could also protest, but he did not think an attempt to stop the Pearls development would succeed in court.

He said the city had dealt with the environmental issues and development in Umhlanga was proceeding well.

On the Pearls’ website, the developers claim to have site development plan approval for some of the blocks of flats.

In a statement released yesterday, the developers said they were building within the stipulated rights of the property and no further studies had been required.