Bheki Cele Threatens 61 Siyanda Families with Forced Removal

Sunday, 07 December 2008
Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Transport MEC Bheki Cele Threatens 61 Families in Siyanda with Forced Removal to one of the Notorious “Transit Camps”

Mamu Nxumalo speaking at the meeting against forced removals, 7 December 2008

On Saturday the Sheriff of the Court served a letter from the State Attorney on 61 families in Siyanda, KwaMashu. This letter instructs us to leave our homes by 16h00 this Tuesday, 9 December. More than 300 hundred people in our community are now at risk of forced removal to the notorious ‘transit camps’.
The letter states that our homes will be demolished after Tuesday and that we will be moved to “temporal houses” or “transit camps” to make way for the new MR 577 Freeway. The letter warns us that should residents “refuse or resist the relocation in any manner, whatsoever, the MEC for Transport will bring an application on an urgent basis to evict them from the road reserve and further seek costs against them.”

This is pure intimidation. Bheki Cele has no court order demanding our eviction and if he tries to have us evicted without a court order he will be guilty of a criminal act. If he tries to evict us legally he will have to make an application to the court and we will have the right to defend our community in the court – this is due process as laid out in the law. We have a right to oppose any eviction and this is not something for which Cele can claim costs against us.

As the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo branch we state clearly that we know our rights with regard to the Prevention of Illegal Evictions from Unlawful Occupations Act, and the protections afforded to us by the Constitution. We are well aware of the victories won in court against attempts by the eThekwini Municipality to evict our comrades in settlements like Motala Heights and Arnett Drive. We are working closely with our comrades from these settlements who have experience in these matters.

We also know and insist on our rights as human beings.

We state clearly that we consider any forced removal from a shack to a transit camp as an eviction because it is clear that “transit camps” – what the people call amatins – are not decent accommodation and that they can not be considered as an acceptable alternative to our shacks.

We state clearly that we refuse to comply with the notice of eviction and that we will always refuse to accept any relocation to any “transit camps”. The office of the state attorney will be informed of this in writing first thing on Monday morning.

The main reasons for our refusal to allow our shacks to be demolished so that we can be moved to “transit camps” are as follows:

• We have lived on this land for many years. In 1994 Inba Naidoo, the first councillor after apartheid, allocated plots of land to us. We were given signed certificates indicating that the land was ours. We still have these certificates. These certificates were a promise from the government to the people, a promise that we would be able to live in safety and without fear of eviction after apartheid. We intend to insist that this promise is honoured.
• We never even put our names on the list for RDP houses. We were happy how we were living on our land. The government approached us saying that they needed us to move us for the freeway but that they would give us houses in the Kulula project here in Siyanda. They came to us to promise us the RDP houses. We also intend to insist that this promise is honoured.
• The houses in the Kulula Project that had been promised to us were allocated to families not affected by the freeway construction and not from Siyanda. Promises made to us were broken – and it is clear that there was fraud left, right and centre in the allocation of the houses.
• Now, after the houses promised to us have been given to other people, we are told that we have to move to a ‘transit camp’. A ‘transit camp’ is not a house. This is the third promise to us that has been broken. We will refuse to accept that the promise of a house can be downgraded to a promise of a place in a “transit camp.”
• There has never been proper consultation with the community. Some sections, such as eNande, have never been included in meetings with consultants and developers of the freeway. Those in the community selected to meet with consultants and developers, they were promised that the entire community – not half, or only certain sections – would be given houses in the Kulula Housing Project adjacent to the land on which they currently reside. This promise has since been withdrawn, without consultation.

So called “transit camps” are unacceptable for the following reasons:

• Transit camps are not houses.
• Transit camps are not an acceptable alternative accommodation to our shacks.
• Transit camps are government-built shacks.
• We are not prepared to move from one shack to another.
• In fact the government shacks are worse than the shacks that we have built for ourselves.
• Government shacks are too small for family life
• Government shacks do not have electricity.
• Government shacks are too hot when it is hot and too cold when it is cold, because they are made entirely of tin.
• Government shacks do not have toilets, which is a concern especially for women.
• Government shacks are allocated to a single household, without any consideration for the size of the family.
• The allocation of government shacks is decided by the government, without consultation from the community. That means the government decides who should be your neighbours.
• “Transit camps” are not safe. Siyanda residents that have already been relocated to the government shacks were attacked and chased by those living in the surrounding area.
• Once people have been put in the government shacks there is no guarantee that they will ever get out.
• Government shacks take away people’s dignity.

As we stated our last press release, those made homeless by the illegal and criminal Municipal demolitions earlier this year still have not been provided any alternative accommodation – in the Kulula houses, or elsewhere. Not only were these evictions carried out illegally but the residents were prevented from removing their personal belongings from the shacks before the demolitions began.

We will not accept removal from our own shacks to government shacks.

We are only prepared to accept houses.

We wish to send a strong warning that we will not accept anyone coming to our settlement – not the government, their lawyers, their security or other representatives. From now on all documents and communications with our community must take place through the Abahlali baseMjondolo office or through the Abahlali lawyers.

Bathengisa Ngathi!

For further information and comment please contact Mamu Nxumalo (076 3339386) or Thembi Zungu (074 3423607) from the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo branch or Louisa Motha, Abahlali baseMjondolo co-ordinator (078 0720499).

Also see:

  • Siyanda residents wounded by police rubber bullets during road blockade, 4 December 2006
  • What Happened at or to the SMI, 18 December 2006
  • Abantu abampofu namaPhoyisa, 14 January 2007
  • The Strong Poor and the Police, 19 January 2008
  • Victory in Court While Evictions Continue Outside, 26 August 2008
  • Isolezwe: Bebesho ukubakhipha ngodli ezindlini zomxhaso, 16 September 2008
  • Siyanda Crisis: Evictions, Police Intimidation, Unjust Housing Allocation etc., 17 September 2008
  • Siyanda Pictures, 17 September 2008
  • Letter to Obed Mlaba on the Siyanda Crisis from the Centre on Housing Rights & Evictions, 24 October 2008
  • Siyanda – the day before the big march, 9 November 2008
  • Memorandum of Demands by the Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo Branch, 10 November 2008
  • Pictures of the Siyanda March (1), 10 November 2008
  • Pictures of the Siyanda March(2), 10 November 2008
  • Pictures of the meeting to plan resistance to Bheki Cele’s evictions & pictures of the transit camp to which people are supposed to be forcibly removed, 7 December 2008
  • Bheki Cele Threatens 61 Siyanda Families with Forced Removal, 7 December 2008
  • Siyanda Abahlali baseMjondolo Letter to the State Attorney, 9 December 2008
  • Pictures of the removal to the transit camp (accepted by 2 families), 11 December 2008
  • Siyanda on Google Earth, uploaded 12 December 2008
  • 64 Families Remain in the their Homes and Refuse Eviction to “Transit Camp” Under Heavy Police Presence, 18 December 2008