Ricky Govender Bulldozes the Shembe Temple in Motala Heights

Sunday 16 January 2011
Abahlali baseMotala Heights Press Statement

Ricky Govender Bulldozes the Motala Heights Shembe Temple

The notorious gangster landlord Ricky Govender has bulldozed the Motala Heights Shembe Temple. This surprise attack on our community and our culture was carried out without warning or notification and we hereby give notice that we will not allow Ricky Govender to vandalize our community or our culture.

Govender started to level ground with a bulldozer on Thursday. He first flattened the wetland in lot 42, which is at the bottom of the valley along the main road. He then started to grade lots 50 and 51 which run up the the side of the hill next to the shack settlement from the big houses in the valley. When Govender brings in the bulldozers to grade he always breaks water pipes, drainage pipes, electricity connections and even washing lines. This time was no different.

There are often disputes about who owns land in Motala Heights because of confusion arising from the time of the Group Areas Act. Some tenants have three different people claiming to be their landlords. As far as we can tell Govender has, for years, been taking land that does not belong to him and building houses that he then puts for rent. When we last went to Pietermaritzburg to check the title deeds lot 42 did not belong to Govender. We couldn t get any information for lot 50 but there was a whole long list of owners for lot 51 and Govender s name was not on that list.

He claims that he brought in the bulldozers to grade this land because he is building low cost houses that will cost R300 000 each. He claims that the eThekwini Municipality supports this development.

Govender must give the community proof that he has authorisation from the owners of this land and from the Municipality to develop this land.

On Friday afternoon Govender s bulldozer suddenly moved up the hill and bulldozed the Shembe Temple. There was no warning and no discussion with the community or with the Shembe Congregation. It looks like he decided that while he had the bulldozer here he should just send it up the hill to destroy the Shembe Temple too. Ricky Govender, his brother Nelson, and an associate of theirs known as Paddy, were on the site when the bulldozing took place. When the driver of the bulldozer (Gwala) was challenged on what he had done he referred people to the owner of the bulldozer who referred people to Ricky Govender. The name of the company that owns the bulldozer is ANVH.

The Motala Heights Shembe Temple was first built in 1997 by Baba Dlamini who moved to Nazareth in 2006. The Shembe congregation here has worshiped at the Temple every Saturday since 1997 which makes thirteen years in total. This is scared ground.

Lindokuhle Magwaza of the Motala Heights Shembe congregation says:

“This is a disaster. It is very bad and we are very angry.”

Samukele Mngxati, chairperson of the Motala Heights A Branch says:

“We want to know why Ricky Govender is behaving like this. This is not the first time that he has tried to undermine or even destroy our community. He was behind the attempt to eradicate the shack settlement in 2006, he has tried to evict and intimidate many of our comrades in the tin houses and in December last year he stopped the Municipality from improving the road into our settlement (which was something we had fought for) by instructing the contractor to stop work while he was on site. He then got the contractor to drop the gravel that was meant for the public road leading to the shack settlement at his pub and used the gravel to improve the land outside his pub. We will not allow any more development for the rich in Motala Heights if there is no development for the poor. If the City is not willing to listen to us we will invade all this land graded by Govender and develop it ourselves for the poor, for the shack dwellers and tenants.

James Pillay, spokesperson for the Motala Heights B branch says:

“If the government fails to deliver to us we will invade the land and develop it ourselves. We need houses and we cannot stand by while we are ignored and all the land is taken by the rich and for the rich. Everyone on this farm needs to have a decent house.”

Bheki Ngcobo, former Chairperson of the Motala Heights A branch says:

“Nothing must happen here in Motala Heights without us being consulted. As Abahlali always says Nothing for us without us. We cannot accept this.

Shamita Naidoo, Chairperson of the Motala Heights B Branch says:

“Last year there was a threat to destroy a Hindu Temple in Marianhill. [Deputy Mayor] Logie Naidoo said that there can be no demolition of any religious building unless it is neglected. That Temple was then saved from demolition. The Shembe Temple is sacred ground for the Shembe congregation and it must also be saved. No one has a right to just bulldoze some one s sacred place.”

A meeting and prayer service was held on the site of the desecrated Temple today. It was decided to rebuild the Temple and the Temple has been rebuilt. It was also decided that on Monday:

1. A delegation will go to get a legal opinion on the legality of Govender s destruction of the Temple.
2. A delegation will take this matter to the elders of the Shembe church.
3. A delegation will take this matter to the eThekwini Municipality.
4. We will assemble at the Temple on Monday morning and we will not allow it to be destroyed again.

On Tuesday, when the children return to school, we will be monitoring all the schools in this area to ensure that no poor children are excluded from school because their parents can t pay school fees.

For more information and comment please contact:

Lindokuhle Magwaza, Motala Heights Shembe Congregation: 073 200 3726
Samukele Mngxati, Chairperson of the Motala Heights A Branch: 072 298 0937
Shamita Naidoo, Chairperson of the Motala Heights B Branch: 074 315 7962
Bheki Ngcobo, Former Chairperson of the Motala Heights A Branch: 078 534 6007
James Pillay, Spokesperson of the Motala Heights B Branch: 084 703 4694