Solidarity: Sunday Tribune – Berea park families to ‘move by Easter’

As in New Orleans, as in Pietermartizburg a flood, it seems that any sort will do, becomes the excuse to expel the poor from the city (this time via a spell in tents in a bourgeois park.)

Sunday Tribune
Front Page
Berea park families to ‘move by Easter’

January 27, 2008 Edition 1

Chris Makhaye

BUSISIWE Masikane is one of more than 85 people who have been living in a tent in a park on Berea’s Ridge Road.

In the early hours of December 11 last year a pipe burst in her neighbourhood in Hope Street informal settlement near Mayville, damaging several dozen shacks, furniture and other basics items.

Masikane’s shack was close to the pipe and she lost everything, including her double bed, clothes, dishes and cutlery.

The 58-year-old woman, who suffers from arthritis, said she had been living in the informal settlement for the past 35 years and had never been allocated a low-cost house. She now lives in a tent with her sickly daughter and granddaughters. There are separate tents for men and women and children. Lighting is provided by a small generator donated by a religious group.

“We depend on food handouts we get from a Muslim mosque. They come with meals every evening at six,” Masikane said.

After spending more than five weeks, including the hot and rainy festive season, in the tent, Masikane is distressed.

“This is not a place to live like human beings. We don’t have a bathroom.

“The tent is hot and when it rains the place is full of mud,” she said.

Nathi Manzi, spokesman for the tent dwellers, said they were promised by the council that they would be moved within three months. “Many people here lost all their belongings. It was not our fault that the pipe burst, yet nobody is helping us with anything,” he said.

Bongisile Gasa also lost everything on December 11.

“My baby has a horrible rash because of the heat. There are flies all over and we are not safe from disease,” she said, adding that they should be compensated by the municipality for the loss they had suffered.

It is not only the tent dwellers who are concerned about their conditions.

Residents of the area are uneasy and feel that their presence will bring about an increase in crime.

Marc Lurie said the park on Ridge Road was a perfect place for children to play soccer, run and have fun.

“This (the tent dwellers) will have the effect of increasing crime in the area, as it attracts undesirables. Most importantly, it will start to drive down the value of properties in the area.

“It is bad enough that there have been eight bond rate increases in a row.

“But now we have the introduction of a new factor on the Berea to help suppress property price growth – tents and squatters,” said Lurie.

Sam Kikine, an eThekwini councillor, said there were arrangements for the tent people to be allocated houses in Mount Moriah, north of Durban.

“The plan was for them to live in the tents for only a while until other arrangements had been made. They will definitely not be there by the Easter period,” said Kikine.

Head of Housing in the eThekwini Municipality, Couglan Pather, said houses were being built at Mount Moriah to accommodate more than 16 families.

“The families will be relocated between four to five weeks from now,” said Pather.

Click here for pictures by Zainul Aberdeen from The Weekly Gazette
(Zain is one of the journalists to have been unlawfully detained, intimidated and had a camera confiscated by Supt. Glen Nayager).