Police Support for Landlord Intimidation Continues in Motala Heights

Thursday, 30 April 2009
Abahlali baseMjondolo Motala Heights Press Statement

Police Support for Landlord Intimidation Continues in Motala Heights

Three families from lot 35 in Motala Heights are facing a plainly unlawful attempt at eviction. Yesterday some of them went to court, with the support of the UKZN law clinic, as part of the process of contesting their eviction.

When they returned home from court they were subject to severe harassment from the landlord’s family. It started with verbal abuse – a lot of it highly racist. People were threatened that they would be beaten out of their homes if they tried to ‘be clever’ by ‘running to the court.’ After some time the verbal abuse escalated into physical violence. The nephew and then the pregnant daughter of one of the women facing eviction were both assaulted.

The police were called. When they came they said that they could not help tenants and they just walked away. One of the women replied that: “My mother is in Abahlali baseMjondolo and last year we interdicted the Pinetown police to force them to follow the law and to protect everyone in this community. The court has said that you are not allowed to only see for the rich in this community.” But the police refused to help.

A relative of the landowner who works for the Pinetown Police then arrived. He was in his normal clothes. He said to the tenants: “You can’t stay here. We are in charge here. You people are just like animals. Fuck off from here.” He is notorious in this community for using his position in the police to intimidate people.

After some discussion Abahlali baseMjondolo advised the people to go the station to open an assault charge. At the same time all the Abahlali members in Motala were alerted to try and organise collective self defence.

As soon as the Pinetown police heard the name of the family that had been insulting and assaulting the tennants they just refused to open a charge. This has happened many, many times before. All over Durban the police refuse to open charges against other polices. But here in Pinetown they just refuse to allow a poor person to open a charge against a rich person. In Pinetown the police will only see for you if you have a contact. The name for this is corruption.

A local Abahlali activist went to the police station this morning. She demanded to see the Station Commander or the Station Director. She explained to numerous police officers that:

1. This attempted eviction is clearly unlawful.

2. Everyone has the right to go to court to contest an eviction.

3. There is already an interdict forcing the Pinetown police to obey the law and to offer support to everyone in Motala Heights, including poor people.

4. The harassment of the tenants is unlawful.

She tried the whole day to see the station commander or the director but they were both always ‘in a meeting’. But she was able to get case number. The Pinetown Police station is so deeply corrupted that for a poor person to actually get a case number in a situation like this is very unusual. But there was no real co-operation. In fact the behaviour of the Pinetown Police is disgusting.

For many years shack dwellers in Sydenham, Clare Estate and Reservoir Hills struggled against the Sydenham Police station. After many, many marches and some court cases the Sydenham Police Station is finally starting to treat poor people like human beings. But no one was surprised when polices that were brought in from Pinetown to try and ban UnFreedom Day in Kennedy Road, in Clare Estate, on 27 April were bought from Pinetown. It seems that the movement will have now have to shift its focus of struggle to the Pinetown Police.

The Pinetown police have a long history of working for the rich and against the poor without regard to what is lawful and what is unlawful. They will never arrest a landlord for an illegal eviction or an assault on a tenant. In fact landlords continue to take rent and build on property that they don’t even own! Ricky Govender continues to dump toxic waste where ever he feels like. The police do nothing. Even journalists are blatantly intimidated in Motala Heights.

Tomorrow Abahlali will continue to try and meet with the Station Commander or the Director of the Pinetown SAPS. We will also continue to mobilise the community for the purpose of self defence. We will also look for a pro-bono lawyer that can:

1. Interdict the landlords and their families from insulting or assaulting the tenants that are opposing evictions.

2. Ask a judge to order the arrest of the Pinetown Police officers if they continue to refuse to protect the poor from the open criminality of the rich in Motala Heights.

For further information and comment please contact:

Shamita Naidoo: 074 315 7962
Bongo Dlamini: 074 875 6234

Background to the Struggle in Motala Heights

Press Releases from Motala Heights

*Corruption and Armed Intimidation as Motala Heights Eviction Crisis Deepens, 20 June 2006.
*Motala Heights Eviction Crisis Continues, 30 June 2006.
*Motala Heights Eviction Crisis, Press Release 4, 21 August 2006.
*Shacks Demolished at Motala Heights, Pinetown, 29 October 2006
*Major Crisis as eThekwini Municipality Violently and Illegally Evicts Shackdwellers in the Motala Heights Settlement, 5 November 2006
*Victory for the people of Motala Heights, 13 December 2006
*Gangster Landlord Assaults Woman Activist and Threatens Twenty Families with Eviction, 8 August, 2007
*Four shacks Burn Down in Motala Heights, 10 September 2007
*Motala Heights Crisis Deepens as Violent Intimidation Against the Strong Poor Continues, 13 May 2008
*Court Action Against Intimidation in Motala Heights, 12 & 13 June 2008
*AbM Youth League Chairperson’s shack has just been lost to fire, 30 July 2008
*Armed De-Electrification in Motala Heights, 19 August 2008
*Six Families Under Threat of Eviction in Motala Heights, 20 April 2008

Pictures from Motala Heights

*Ricky Govender gets his demolitions at Motala Heights (3 years ahead of the City’s schedule), 31 October, 2006
*At the High Court for the Motala Evictions Case, 22 November 2006
*Motala Heights on 12 December 2006 – the day before an eviction
*SAPS stop Municipality workers from demolishing shacks, 13 December 2006
* Photo essay on Motala Heights in December 2006 by Antonios Vradis.
*Shack cinema, Motala Heights 11 March 2007
*iPolitiki ePhilayo: Motala Heights Development Committee AGM, emZabalazweni, Motala Heights Settlement, 20 May 2007
*Motala Heights, 2 August 2007. The day after Govender promised to bulldoze Uncle Jame’s house by the end of the month
*Motala Heights, Meeting Against Evictions 4 August 2007
*“Motala Heights Indian Shacks” – pictures by Shamita Naidoo, taken first week of August, 2006
* The morning after 4 tin shacks burnt in Motala Heights, 9 September 2007
*‘Meeting of the Poor Against the Rich’, 17 November 2007
*The Motala Diggers, 31 October, 2008
*New Evictions Threatened in Motala, 20 April 2009
*Launch of the new Creche in Motala Heights, 26 April 2009

Newspaper articles on Motala Heights

*Isolezwe, 30 October 2006 Bathi abayi ezindlini abakhelwe zona
*Mercury, 30 October 2006: Council vows to get rid of shack dwellers
*Mercury, 30 November 2006: Shack dwellers win court order against municipality
*Highway Mail, 17 August 2007: We Won’t Go
*Mercury, 4 September 2007: Photographer was threatened, Police rescue news team after fracas
*Highway News, 11 September 2007: News team threatened for shack story
*Highway Mail, 14 September 2007: Homes in Ashes
*Mail & Guardian, 21 September 2007: ‘They can pack up and go’
*Highway Mail, 24 September 2007: No assistance for Motala Heights fire victims
*Mercury, 8 October 2007: Court halts landlord’s threats
*Daily News, 16 June 2008: Order won to prevent harassment: Tenants take landlord to court
*Mercury, 17 June 2008: Order granted against landlord ‘harassment’
*Mercury, 21 August 2008: Land owner to take legal action to evict tenants

Other Media

*CNN, 11 June 2008: Slums offer surprising hope for tomorrow’s urban world

Legal Documents on Motala Heights

*Affidavit on the Founding of Motala Heights by Bheki Ngcobo
*PDF copy of letter from the Legal Resources Centre to City Manager Sutcliffe, 23 November 2006
*PDF copy of court order preventing further demolitions in Motala Heights (29 November 2006), Letter from the Legal Resources Centre to the Pinetown SAPS (11 December 2006) and a letter from the LRC to the city’s lawyers (12 December 2006)
*Interdict preventing Ricky Govender from bulldozing the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pillay and from threatening or assaulting them, 28 September, 2007
*Court papers for interdicts against Ricky Govender et al, the Station Commander of the Pinetown SAPS & the Minister of Safety & Security, 13 June, 2008
*Letter from CALS to Ricky Govender’s lawyer on ongoing intimidation of James Pillay despite the interdict, 8 July 2008, 2008
*Letter from CALS to Ricky Govender’s lawyer explaining that they have no legal basis to evict, 31 July 2008, 2008

Other Documents

*Facing Uncertainty with Unity: Lives and livelihoods of shack dwellers in Motala Farm by Lisa Fry, late 2006
*Comments by people who resisted evictions in Motala Heights in December 2006, document drawn up in early 2007
*Report on Public Participation Exercises For: “The Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Bill” (See section 3 for an account of the two visits of Tim Jeebodh to Motala Heights.
*Freedom of Expression Institute statement that makes reference to Govender’s death threats to journalists
*Abahlali baseMjondolo & the Police A list of key incidents of police harassment between March 2005 and January 2008 (including references to incidents in Motala Heights)
*Letter to the eThekwini Municipality from groundWork on illegal dumping by Ricky Govender, January 2008
*COHRE report on housing rights in Durban (includes Motala Heights), October 2008

And a poem…

*For Motala Heights, a poem by Jacques Depelchin, April 2009

Various documents on New eMmaus

New eMmaus is just over the hill from Motala Heights and is not under the control of Govender. However the two areas share, in part, a common history as people who were evicted from land owned by the Catholic Church live in both New eMmaus and Motala Heights. (Their ancestors came to the Marianhill Monastery as converts – they were evicted when the monastery sold land off for factories to be developed).

*New eMmaus Cracks, Press Release, 3 October 2006.
*New eMmaus Cracks – photographs, 3 October 2006.
*Emmaus residents fall into housing cracks, Sunday Tribune article, 22 October 2006.
*Abahlali to Mourn UnFreedom Day 2007 & Celebrate the Strength of the Strong Poor in New eMmaus, 27 April, 2007.
*Pictures of the UnFreedom Day Celebration in New eMmaus, 27 April, 2007.