Memorial Service for Mhlengi Khumalo

Memorial Service for Mhlengi Khumalo – Kennedy Road, 6:00 p.m. Friday 28 October 2005

Hamba Kahle Mhlengi Khumalo
Ugesi, umhlaba, nezindlu ngabe kuyiphephisile impilo yakhe.

Last Friday 16 shacks burnt down in the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban. A one year old boy, Mhlengi Khumalo, was very badly burnt and died in King Edward Hospital on Saturday night. This was the third fire this month. The fire started when a candle was knocked over. Until 2001 pre-paid electricity meters were being installed in shacks. To get electricity you needed to pay R350 and to be able to represent your case in a certain way. According to S'bu Zikode from the Kennedy Road Development Committee "It all depended on who applied. If you seemed ignorant because you can't speak English you were just told to wait outside." The eThekwini Metro has since informed Kennedy Road residents that there is a 'new policy not to install electricity in informal settlements'. Their electrification policy openly states the following:

5. Informal Settlements
In the past (1990s) electrification was rolled out to all and sundry. Because of the lack of funding and the huge costs required to relocate services when these settlements are upgraded or developed, electrification of the informal settlements has been discontinued.

Kennedy Road is one of the settlements that has, in the words of Deputy City Manager Derek Naidoo, been 'ringfenced' for 'relocation' to the rural 'periphery of the Metro'. But people won't move. There is no work or decent education or health care in the rural periphery of the Metro. People are insisting that they have a right to live in the city and to live decent lives in the city. It is quite clear that the Metro is withdrawing basic services from informal settlements in an attempt to force people out. In Kennedy Road the Metro simply stopped cleaning the 147 pitlatrines and left 6 000 people with 6 portable toilets. In Quarry Road even the portable toilets were removed leaving people with no safe sanitation of any sort.

On 13 March and 14 September many thousands of people from Kennedy Road marched on their councilor, Yacoob Baig, to protest against the dangerous conditions in which they were being forced to live. On 4 October more than a thousand people march on their councilor, Jayraj Bachu. But ordinary life remains a crisis in Durban's informal settlements. The Metro's policies are quite literally life threatening.

Right now there are more than 70 people in Kennedy Road with receipts for payments for electricity installation who have neither a refund nor electricity. If the installation of electricity to the settlement had not been halted some of these fires, and possibly Mhlengi's death, could have been avoided. Pre-paid meters won't stop fires altogether though since many people can't afford to buy electricity on credit. The fires will stop when decent housing with free basic services are a right for all.

Mhlengi Khumalo's funeral will be held on Saturday at the home of the Khumalo grandparents. A memorial service will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Friday in the Kennedy Road community hall, 286 Kennedy Road, Clare Estate. All of the 12 settlements that have joined together in the abahlali base emijondolo movement to fight against forced removals and for land, housing and basic services in the city will send representatives. A number of other poor communities around the city, as well as various organisations that are supporting poor communities in their struggles for a decent life, will also send representatives.

Media are most welcome to attend the Friday memorial service.

For comment or further information please contact S'bu Zikode (0835470474) or Nonhlanhla Mzobe (0826892606).