Kennedy Road is Burning Again – The Fires Must Stop, the Settlements Must be Electrified Immediately

Click here for pictures of the rebuilding after the fire.

8 July 2009, 3:44 a.m.
Emergency Press Statement from Abahlali baseKennedy

Kennedy Road is Burning Again – The Fires Must Stop, the Settlements Must be Electrified Immediately

Our settlement is burning again. More than twenty shacks have been lost. It's too early to say if anyone has been hurt or killed in this fire.

The cause of the fire was, again, a paraffin stove which means that, in reality, the cause of the fire was again the eThekwini Municipality's inhumane refusal to provide electricity to shack dwellers or to allow us to access electricity on our own.

Why are we left to burn like this? Why do our lives count for nothing? Why are we shot at when we march against the fires or take direct action on our own and electrify our communities ourselves?

Tokyo Sexwale, you say that people struggling for decent and safe houses in the cities are trying to 'render the country ungovernable' and that there will be 'zero tolerance for anarchy'. You yourself have said that one of the reasons why you took up arms against apartheid was that apartheid's matchbox houses were unacceptable. But now that you live in a R56 million house you say that our protests must be crushed by the police. The conditions in our shacks are much worse than those in matchbox houses. The conditions in the transit camps to which we are being evicted all over the country are much worse than in the matchbox houses. Will you have the decency to come and live with us in a shack settlement for even just one week, and then in a transit camp for even just one week, before you so recklessly decide that shack dweller's demands for decent housing are a threat to society?

Obed Mlaba and Mike Sutcliffe we read in the newspapers that you shouted with joy and that your eyes filled with tears last Friday as your stepped on to the top of the new football stadium. We have never heard you shout in anger or weep in pain when we have burnt. You showed no emotion when your police shot at us and beat us. You were not even moved when a frail elderly lady was shot 6 times in the back with rubber bullets or when a priest was beaten by your police when we were marching against the fires in 2007. Where is your humanity? Why can't you see that your stadium has eaten money that could have built us houses and electrified our settlements? You might think that your stadium is beautiful but all that we see as we go past it are the children that wake up screaming in the night because of the relentless fires that your greed and lust for power have caused. All that we see are the lives that have been broken and all the funerals that we have attended. Will you have the decency to come and live with us in a shack settlement for just one week before you so recklessly decide to waste the people's money on the vanities of the rich while the poor burn and burn and burn?

Shack fires are not accidents. They are a politician-made national emergency. We refuse to accept that it is normal for us to burn.

We must and will do what ever it takes to make our communities safe.

We invite all movements, trade unions and churches in South Africa and around the world to join us and our comrades in the Poor People's Alliance in refusing to accept that it is normal for the poor to burn. Read our report on shack fires. Struggle with us against the fires and for safe cities for all. Do not allow Sexwale, Mlaba or Sutcliffe to ever appear in public without having to answer for the fires that they are causing.

For more information contact Mashumi Figlan at 079 584 3995.