Shack Dwellers to Demand Full Disclosure of the eThekwini Municipality’s Plans for Them from Sutcliffe

Thursday, 31 August 2006 12:00
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release

Shack Dwellers to Demand Full Disclosure of the eThekwini Municipality’s Plans for Them from Sutcliffe

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Conference, Kennedy Road Community Hall, Kennedy Road, Clare Estate, Durban, Monday 4 September, 9:00 a.m.

Abahlali baseMjondolo have completed a detailed application for information from Mike Sutcliffe in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. We have excellent pro bono lawyers waiting to take Sutcliffe to court if he refuses to comply with our request for information. We are constantly told that the ‘slums will be cleared’ by 2010 yet in most settlements our people have absolutely no idea of what plans have been made for their future. In many instances we fear that the plan is to relocate us to apartheid style rural ghettoes far from work, schools, clinics, libraries, shops and so on. We also fear that many people who are not on ‘the list’ for housing face the (illegal) demolition of their homes without alternative housing being provided.

We are requesting full information on all aspects of the eThekwini Municipality’s plans with regard to the Moreland development announced by Obed Mlaba last year, the full details for the upgrade or relocation plans for each of the more than 30 settlements in which Abahlali have a strong presence, and general information about the city’s budgeting and policy making with regard to housing.

We have been trying to get the information on the city’s plans for us for a long time. Obed Mlaba announced the Moreland project, which he said would begin by August this year, after we tried to march on him on 14 November 2005. That march was illegally banned by Sutcliffe and our people were illegally assaulted by the police. When Mlaba announced the Moreland project he said that he would give us full details and agreed to meet with us at the Pemary Ridge settlement. We faxed him a detailed list of questions in preparation for that meeting on 27 November 2005. He cancelled the scheduled meeting and ignored our questions and we have never heard from him again. But we did see press reports indicating that Moreland distanced themselves from Mlaba’s announcement andf it is clear that the Moreland development has not, as promised, begun by August. Because we could not get answers from the Municipality we decided to approach the provincial government. On 7 January 2006 we faxed our questions to the MEC for Housing, Mike Mabuyakulu. We received no answer. On 20 February 2006 we attempted to march on the Mabuyakulu to demand answers to our questions. That march was, again, illegally banned. We tried again on 27 February 2006. Once again our march was illegally banned. But this time we had, due to the support of the Foundation for Human Rights, a top legal team ready to act. We went to the High Court and won an interdict against Sutcliffe and the police forcing them to refrain from illegally interfering with our fundamental right to protest. On that day thousands of us marched on to the City Hall where we delivered our questions to Mabuyakulu’s representative, Lennox Mabaso. Our questions were ignored. For months we phoned and faxed regular reminders. Eventually a meeting was scheduled for 20 July 2006. At that meeting we were told that the provincial government could not help us and that we should go to the Municipality. The Municipality has consistently acted illegally to refuse us our basic constitutional rights and has simply refused to speak to us so we now have now choice but to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act, backed up with legal force, to compel them to disclose their plans for our communities.

The press conference will start at 9:00 a.m. at the Kennedy Road Hall. There will be a very short input from Abahlali and short statements of support from some of our supporters. There will then be an opportunity for questions. At ten a small delegation will leave in a taxi for the city hall. At 10:30 we will personally deliver our request for access to information to Sutcliffe’s office.

The following individuals, and representatives from the following organisations, will be at our press conference to offer their support:

The Open Democracy Advice Centre
The Freedom of Expression Institute
The Landless People’s Movement
The Treatment Action Campaign
Durban & Pinetown Informal Traders
Wentworth Development Forum
Westcliffe Flat Residents’ Association
The Church Land Programme
The Diakonia Council of Churches
The KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council
Bishop Dladla (Zion)
Bishop Reuben Philip (Anglican)*
Professor Dennis Brutus

For further information on the Access to Information Legislation, the right to information and processes for realising that right please contact:

Mukelani Dimba, Open Democracy Advice Centre, 0826996586
Na’eem Jeenah, Freedom of Expression Institute, 0845742674

For further information or comment on the growing solidarity with Abahlali from various church organisations please contact:

David Ntseng, Church Land Programme, 0728391153
Lucas Ngoetjona, KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council, 0722541341

For further information or comment from Abahlali baseMjondolo please contact:

S’bu Zikode, President, 0835470474
Philani Zungu, Deputy President, 0729629312
M’du Hlongwa, General Secretary, 0723358966
Mnikelo Ndabankulu, PRO, 0735656241
Lindela Figlan, Foreman Road Settlement, 0725274600
Zodwa Nsibande, Kennedy Road Settlement, 0834925442
Louisa Mota, Motala Heights Settlement, 0781760088

*Bishop Reuben will in Cape Town on Monday but he will send a representative with a written statement of support.