eThekwini Municipality Launches Criminal Attack on the Shannon Drive Settlement

Muntuza Msani, 34. She has lived in Shannon Drive since 1994. This week the eThekwini Municipality smashed up her home in the middle of a storm

Update, 17 February, 2008: Click here to see new video footage of the Shannon Drive evictions.

Update, 12 December: The 86 shacks still stand.

Update, 11 December, 16:44 p.m.: After vigorous protestation and organising for resistance the City has just backed down and given a verbal agreement that they will not demolish tomorrow.

Update, 10 December:The City returned to Shannon Drive today in the form of the Protection Services and a Mr. Coetzee informed the community that they will return on Wednesday 12 December to demolish the 86 shacks. This renewed attempt at eviction will be vigorously contested.

Update, 9 December: The Abahlali branch at Shannon Drive has been quite small for the last two years and the settlement as a whole has not been affiliated to AbM. But today, at 11:00 a.m., a new settlement committee was elected which formally affiliated itself to Abahlali baseMjondolo. A new branch was also launched in the Arnett Drive settlement at 9:00 a.m. Abahlali now has 14 affiliated settlements and strong branches in another 23 settlements.

Update, 5 December: The 86 shacks still stand. The City has not conceded to the demand to rebuild the 16 shacks it (illegally) destroyed. There is an excellent article in Ilanga today: Libajikele esiswini ikhansela.

Update, 4 December, 10:53 a.m.: The Municipality have now left Shannon Drive. The residents remain organised and unwilling to stand aside while their homes are destroyed. However the Municipal officials did persist in looking for rebuilt shacks and promised that if anyone rebuilds their shack they’ll return immediately (presumably with armed force as they did in Motala Heights this time last year) to break them down. (But Motala still stands because the police were forced to threaten the Municipal officials with arrest if they continued to evict illegally.)

Update, 4 December, 10:05 a.m.: Despite all the mobilization yesterday, despite all the media attention, despite the fact that the Municipality have had the illegality of their actions (actions which are in fact criminal as well as illegal) put to them in writing they have just returned to Shannon Drive to continue their attack on the shack dwellers. If one thing is clear it is that the eThekwini Municipality’s absolute contempt for shack dwellers is matched only by its absolute contempt for the law. Sutcliffe as city manager must be held responsible for this criminality. For up to the minute information on what is happening contact Mncedisi Mtolo 0734798561 or Nonhlanhla Mzotho 0836935872.

Update, 4 December: The Shannon Drive eviction crisis is the front page story in today’s Isolezwe and on page 4 of today’s Mercury.

Update, 3 December, 16:40 p.m.: The 86 shacks still stand. The immediate demand has now been extended from a written agreement not to demolish them to a demand to also rebuild the 16 shacks demolished on Tuesday.

Update, 3 December, 11:40 a.m.: Three taxi loads of people from Shannon Drive attended the Sunday afternoon Abahlali meeting to discuss strategies to oppose these evictions and a mass meeting was held in the Shannon Drive settlement later that evening. Most people have stayed home from work, placards have been painted and other preparations made and the residents are ready to contest any attempt at eviction today. Abahlali members from other settlements are there in solidarity including Philani Zungu (0729629312). The Legal Resources Centre has agreed to offer pro bono legal support. iGagasi FM, uKhozi FM and Isolezwe have all undertaken interviews and some journalists remain at the scene.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Press Release from the Shannon Drive Abahlali baseMjondolo Branch

The eThekini Municipality Launches Another Criminal Attack on Shack Dwellers

The Shannon Drive settlement has been here in Reservoir Hills since 1968. Most of the people here are doing domestic work in the big houses. Our whole settlement is not affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo but we have do have a small but strong Abahlali branch here.*

In May this year Bhekani Ntuli from the eThekwini Municipality came to Shannon Drive. Some new shacks had been built in the settlement by people who had been made homeless in the (illegal) Juba Place eviction in December 2006 and, also, by people who have lived here for years as tenants in other people’s shacks but who now needed their own homes. Also some old shacks had been extended here, like people have done elsewhere, because families grow. When Ntuli came he said that not just the new shacks but 100 of the 200 shacks here would be knocked down if each family didn’t give him R100. He said that he wanted this bribe for “drinking money.” He also said that if we paid the bribe we would get numbers painted onto our shacks which would mean that we would not only be safe from eviction but would also get houses. We all discussed his threat and his demand for a bribe and while some people wanted to struggle with the other settlements and to go to court and stop the evictions that way the committee thought it would be safer to pay the bribe and not to offend the councillor by joining the struggle. Everyone paid the bribe and then Ntuli put numbers on all the shacks to show that they were safe.

But at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday 27 November the Municipality came back. They came without warning, like the rain. They said that they were going to break shacks 98-200. Although it was raining so heavily they started breaking down the shacks with Ntuli’s numbers on them. Things got broken as the shacks were smashed up and because people were at work they couldn’t save their things from the rain. They stopped after they had broken 16 shacks because the rain got too heavy for them to keep working. They said that they would come back on Monday to break the rest of the shacks (86).

We asked them what we were supposed to do. They said “Go back where you came from.” Mncedisi Mtolo told them that the people can’t ‘go back home’. They work here, their children are at school here. Their lives are here. They then told Mncedisi to “Put the people on the road.”

The next day the community decided to send a delegation to the Ward Councillor, Jayraj Bachu, to ask him for his help. He first said that he would check on the voters roll to see if the people asking for his help had voted in 2006. Then he blatantly said that he doesn’t want people in shacks in Reservoir Hills. He is a racist. He thinks that Indians must be at one side and that we must be at another side. How can we be good enough to do the washing, cook the food and care for the children in Reservoir Hills but not good enough to live here?

The Municipality don’t tell us when they are coming so it is very difficult for us to be ready for them. It is clear that they do not think that we belong in this South Africa. But we know the law. We know that any eviction without a court order is against the Constitution and is illegal. We know that these evictions are not just illegal acts but criminal acts. We will spend this weekend looking for a lawyer who will be willing to act for us for free and who will go to court and get an interdict that will force the Municipality to stop these criminal attacks on us.

We have the same right to live in this city as everyone else and we will defend it.

For comment and up to the minute information contact:

Mncedisi Mtolo 0734798561 (Resident in Shannon Drive for 15 years)
Nonhlanhla Mzotho 0836935872 (Resident in Shannon Drive for 12 years)

For general comment on the struggle that Abahlali baseMjondolo is waging across the city against the eThekwini Municipality’s criminal attacks on shack dwellers contact:

Mnikelo Ndabankulu 0735656241 (Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesperson and one of the Sydenham 14)

Click here for pictures of the aftermath of the Shannon Drive eviction.

The Arnett Drive settlement, also in Jayraj Bachu’s ward, is currently also under threat of eviction. Bachu succeeding in having the Lusaka Settlement destroyed in October 2005 and the Juba Place settlement destroyed in December 2006. Click here to see him express his opinions on the merits of apartheid style forced removals of shack dwellers to human dumping grounds on the periphery of the city on video…

Update. Three taxi loads of people from Shannon Driven came to the Abahlali meeting on Sunday evening. They are determined to resist. The Municipality has not yet had to justify these evictions. But now that resistance is growing and the media is interested in the case they will have to account for themselves and it will soon become apparent if this is another illegal eviction to be ‘justified’ in the name of the Slums Act.

*Since this press release was written the betrayal by the councillor & municipality in the form of these sudden unannounced evictions has led more or less the whole settlement to come back to Abahlali. A lot of people in Shannon Drive had left after the vicious police attack on the November 2005 attempt to March on Mlaba. It is clear that if you live in a shack in Reservoir Hills disobedience (in the form of a legal exercise of democratic rights) might get you beaten, tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets but obedience (in the form of loyalty to your councillor) will certainly get you evicted. As time passes the choices become clearer.