Meeting with the eThekwini Municipality Today

16 September 2014

Abahlali baseMjondolo press statement


Abahlali leadership is set to meet with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlement and Public Works led by MEC Ravi Pillay and the eThekwini municipality political principals at 4:00 p.m. today

Our movement engages in many kinds of political action. These range from organising a land occupation or building a crèche to road blockades, mass marches, court action and negotiations with the government.

We first entered negotiations with the eThekwini Municipality in 2007. Those negotiations were long but eventually bore fruit in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding. However after that MOU was signed we were attacked in Kennedy Road and it has not been implemented. The plans to upgrade the Kennedy Road settlement via a participatory process rather than to destroy it are still in place though. Also some of basic services that were agreed to be provided to settlements are now being provided in some areas.

In 2011 negotiations with the municipality were reopened. However Nigel Gumede, head of Human Settlements in the Municipality, openly threatened S’bu Zikode and so we returned to the streets.

Last year, after a city wide programme of road blockades in protest at the repression of the Marikana Land Occupation, and international pressure, Ravi Pillay indicated a willingness to open negotiations between the province and our movement.

The movement has since had several meetings with the Department. The MEC has always opened his doors for engaging with Abahlali. This engagement has led to the formation of the task team comprised of Abahlali representatives and provincial officials. However the Task Team is missing representatives from the eThekwini Municipality as what the politicians and officials call ‘an implementing agency’. We are noting that the Team is positive and working well but that it lacks a political will from the Municipal political principals. Although these several meetings have not born any fruits but we still believe that the MEC is serious about moving away from a politc of repression and toward a politic of negotiation.

In our recent meeting with the MEC held on the 25 August 2014, amongst other issues discussed, were various issues pertaining to human settlements such as housing lists, allocation policy and the MEC budget speech. We also discussed the Abahlali/Provincial Department of Human Settlement and eThekwini Municipality Task Team. We have discussed the Abahlali voting position in the General Election which has really worried the ANC at all levels. We have discussed what the politicians and officials call ‘land invasion’ and what we proudly call ‘Land Occupations’ and the proposed National Human Settlement Indaba.

In this meeting we requested the MEC to facilitate a meeting with us and the eThekwini political principals. We thank the MEC for organizing this meeting.

We are going to this meeting with positive minds knowing very well that in our last meeting with eThekwini S’bu Zikode was openly intimidated in a full Council Meeting at the City Hall. We hope that this time around, Nigel Gumede will not intimidate any of us. We are determined to build this relationship and to reclaim our city.

We are looking forward to this meeting since we cannot avoid that while we can occupy land on our own and connect to water and electricity on our own under the current political system a lot of the demands for the development of shack communities can only come through the municipalities.

Over the years our several meetings with officials have shown that they are whole heartedly willing to work with communities but that there is no political will and support for this from the politicians. Over time we have been able to shift some officials to a participatory form of development and to get them to understand that we want land and housing in the cities, and not in the human dumping grounds far outside of the cities. It is thus clear to us that the only hindrance towards moving to a partnership between the organized poor and the officials is the lack of political will from the politicians which is a result of the attitude of certain individuals like Nigel Gumede.

Despite the humiliation we had in 2012, we have decided to come down without compromising our dignity for the purpose of fulfilling our vision which is improving the lives of the shack dwellers and the poor in South Africa in general. By so doing we would like to see the materialization of meaningful engagement between eThekwini Municipal officials and democratically elected and accountable community structures.

In every process of negotiation we are careful to keep our power outside of the negotiations so that we can return to the streets whenever it is necessary. Every time we enter negotiations the first demand that is made from the government side is usually that we must agree to stop land occupations. We cannot stop land occupations for as long as land is allocated on the basis of money and not social need. It is also usual for the government side to try and deal with us as individual communities. We have always resisted this. There is some pressure to make this meeting only about the Cato Crest crisis and the Marikana Land Occupation. We have insisted that we will address the Municipality collectively about all the issues confronting our members. All of the 23 Abahlali baseMjondolo branches in and around Durban that are in good standing have been invited, by us, to elect delegates to attend today’s meeting.

We are willing to work with any level of government that is willing to form a partnership with the organised poor that can lead to an improvement of the lives of the poor.


MaMkhize Nxumalo – Chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo 078 4332719

Zandile Nsibande – Abahlali Women League 074 7675706

Abahlali Spokesperson – Thembani Ngongoma 084 6139772