Witness: Shack dwellers to oppose ‘slum’ bill

(Mnikelo is from Foreman Road, not Kennedy Road and S’bu and the meeting in general stressed the need for mass mobilization and legal strategies and discussed, carefully, how to ensure that the later don’t weaken the former)

Shack dwellers to oppose ‘slum’ bill
•Mon, 16 Jul 2007

By Thabisile Gumede

THE Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers’’) Movement, an organisation of shack dwellers with members in more than 40 informal settlements in the province, has vowed to oppose the KZN Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Bill, 2006 by all means necessary.

This was revealed at a meeting to discuss legal and political strategies to oppose the slums bill on Friday at the Kennedy Road settlement community hall.

The meeting set up a “slums bill elimination task team” that will educate shack dwellers about the bill. Chairman Sibusiso Zikode said the task team will ensure even the most uneducated shack dweller is familiar with the contents of the bill.

“Abahlali has realised we can’t tackle this bill by thousands of people marching to the streets. We need a technical approach — lawyers and a coalition of experts and NGOs that will assist us in reading through the
documentation in preparation for a legal battle to forge a way forward,” Zikode said.

Representatives from the movement will meet with a team of advocates this week.

The bill makes it illegal to occupy a building or land without permission from the owner.

The bill will give municipalities the authority to formulate slum clearance plans. Municipalities will be able to take land from landowners to set up transit areas and also to evict people in the public interest. Any person who attempts to stop an eviction can be fined up to R20 000 or face five years’ imprisonment.

Abahlali expressed concern the bill will not oblige government to provide existing settlements with basic services while they wait to be relocated or upgraded, or prevent government from evicting citizens without a court order.

“We want government to follow the existing laws and policies that protect against evictions, like the ‘breaking new ground’ policy, that aims to upgrade settlements where people are already living instead of relocating them far from work and schools,” said Mnikelo Ndabankulu of the Kennedy Road settlement.

‘Little consultation’

“The government is very good at doing things in the name of the poor but there is little consultation with the people they claim to assist,” Zikode said.

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions , which works closely with the Abahlali movement, has written to Premier S’bu Nebele, Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and KZN MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, expressing concern about the KZN legislature’s approval of the bill, which it says may be
in conflict with other laws.

“This is in our view a totally inappropriate piece of legislation that represents a giant step backwards in national efforts to improve slum dwellers’ lives and which should be urgently reconsidered,” the letter

When the bill was announced, Housing Department spokesman Lennox Mabaso said it would assist municipalities to act against land invaders.

Published: 16 July 2007