Mercury: Court battle holds up major road – shack people fight plan to move them

shack people fight plan to move them
Court battle holds up major road

January 26, 2009 Edition 1

Tania Broughton

RESIDENTS of an informal settlement in KwaDabeka are fighting a court battle to prevent their removal to an “undignified, unsightly and uninhabitable” transit camp to make way for a major arterial road.

The transport department brought an urgent application in the Durban High Court late last year for the eviction of the residents so that their homes could be bulldozed to clear the way for the dual carriageway highway.

The department claims the residents are being obstructionist and have threatened construction workers. It said it was losing R65 000 a day because of the delay in the construction of the R550 million MR 577, which will cross the Umgeni River to link Inanda with Pinetown.

But the residents of Siyanda settlement said they had been promised two-storey brick “better than RDP (reconstruction and development)” houses by the department’s consultants, and that it was reneging on the deal.

In papers filed with the court, Buzani Cele, on behalf of the 50 affected families, said it had been agreed at a meeting with consultants Linda Masinga and Associates in 2005 that some families would be moved to Mount Moriah, some to Ntuzuma and some to the Khulula formal housing estate. She said all the houses at the Khulula estate had been allocated to Siyanda residents by the eThekwini Municipality.

However, the department had breached this agreement and given some of the houses to “outsiders”. Cele said this “misallocation” had been conceded by consultant representative Nandi Mandela.

And, while an investigation into the matter was under way, the department had served eviction notices on the shack dwellers, directing them to move off the land by December.

Cele said the transit camp was at Richmond Farm, about 1.5km away.

“These (the accommodation at the camp) are not houses. They resemble containers … they are two thirds the size of a government house. Many of our families have six or seven members and it is impossible to move into such tiny units.

“On top of this, they will be baking hot in summer and freezing in winter.”

Cele said that whichever judge was to decide on the issue, an on-site inspection of the camp should be done before a ruling was made.

“We all fear that, once we have been moved to the transit camp, we will fall off the radar as the department will have achieved its aim, being to clear the way to build their new road,” she said, citing other examples in South Africa where communities had remained in transit camps for up to 12 years.

Cele said the department had refused to say how long the residents would be required to live there. She denied that she or her neighbours had threatened or interfered with the contractors and that they were living in “slums” and the transit camp would be better for them.

“Transit camps are breeding grounds for domestic violence, poor hygiene, HIV transmission and assaults, and are totally unsuitable for habitation by any community,” she said.

The matter will be before court tomorrow.