Daily News: Rights group members freed







The three Abahlali BaseMjondolo members who were arrested during one of the many service delivery protests in eThekwini, have been released on warning by the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court.

Themba Msomi, Thembeka Sondaba and Fikiswa Mgoduka were among a group of protesters arrested on Friday and charged with public violence.

On Monday eight branches of the shack dwellers movement – including Clare Estate, Isipingo, Mayville, Shallcross, Siyanda and Umlazi – organised road blockades in various areas.

The protests were against evictions, arrests of their members and to demand housing.

Abahlali and Cato Crest residents have been in and out of court trying to prevent the city from tearing down their shacks.

They have applied for a contempt of court order against the city for ignoring previous interdicts restraining it from demolishing shacks.

There was a strong police presence at the court on Wednesday as Abahlali members protested outside the court gates.

The three are expected to return to court on October 23.

The movement’s secretary, Bandile Mdlalose, was released on R5 000 bail on Monday after spending seven days in custody. She is due back in court on October 28.

Meanwhile, support for Abahlali has grown.

The KwaZulu-Natal Church Leaders’ Group denounced the actions of the municipality and its failure in providing “the most basic necessities”.

The chairman of the group and Dean of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Bishop Rubin Philip, said adequate housing was a human- and God-given right.

“The court keeps giving interdicts to protect these people, but local authorities seem to neglect authority and the rules of the court,” he said.

Philip, who was part of the Black Consciousness Movement, said the poor treatment of shackdwellers was deeply disappointing.

“It’s like taking a step back into apartheid. This is not what we fought for. We fought for peace, homes, jobs and for freedom,” he said.

He said that the church had opened its doors in case the movement required legal assistance through the church’s independent organisation, the Church Land Programme.

The group accused the city leadership of short-sightedness and dishonesty in its handling of housing, which it said sacrificed the lives of the poor to feed selfish political ends.

Last month the general council of the Bar of South Africa criticised the municipality for sending its land invasion unit to destroy shacks despite interdicts preventing this.

The city has insisted that it has been acting within the law. Houses were being built, but it took time and a process had to be followed.

Mayor James Nxumalo will brief the media on Thursday on the city’s housing programme and to “clarify issues surrounding the Cato Crest unrest and land invasions”.

Nxumalo said the city would be “clearing the misconceptions regarding the court order and demolition of shacks”.

Note: The City cancelled their press conference at the last minute.