Abahlali Deliver their PAIA Request – 4 September 2006

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.

Thursday, 06 September 06:47 PM
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release

MEC’s Office Instructs Shack Dwellers to Stop All Communication with the Media

On Thursday last week Abahlali baseMjondolo announced that we would use the Promotion of Access to Information Act to compel the eThekwini Municipality to disclose its plans for shack dwellers to shack dwellers. The next day we received a sudden invitation to attend a meeting with the office of the provincial MEC for housing at 3:00 pm today.

We took time away from our work and made ourselves available for this meeting. We hoped that we would finally get answers to our basic questions about what future the government is planning for us when we are told that the slums will be cleared by 2010. We would like to register our profound disappointment and disgust at the way in which this meeting was conducted by Mxolisi Nkosi, the HOD in the Dept. He behaved like an Inkosi berating his subjects in front of his councillors. There was no democracy in the meeting. We were not allowed to speak and when we insisted that this was our right we were threatened. Mr. Jaguja, a respected member of his community, of Abahlali and the Methodist church was insulted by Lennox Mabaso and told to ‘shut his mouth’ when he tried to speak. The purpose of this meeting was for us to be told to know our place. Nkosi said that he had been getting phone calls from the media and instructed us to stop speaking to the media. We will not be intimidated. We will keep speaking to the media.

Nkosi then instructed us, making much use of complicated English words that we don’t understand, that from now on the province would not be dealing with our matters. He insisted that Abahlali must go back to the Municipality and that the councillors are the route to communicate with the Municipality. We have tried this for years. The councillor system failed us and then the Mayor failed us. Recently Mike Sutcliffe told a researcher from England that his ‘slum clearance’ programme would not meet its 2010 target because of a lack of funding from the provincial government. Now the provincial government tells us to back to the city!

Nkosi is trying to make the councillors as Gods above the people. We will not accept this. As citizens of democracy we have a right to stand together, make our selves strong and demand answers directly from government. We will not be sent back to the control of lying and corrupt councillors who take their orders from above and not from below. In some of our settlements our councillors have even tried to intimidate us with armed threats. We have no choice. We will now go back to the streets in our thousands. And we want to make it very clear that it is Nkosi and not some third force that will be making us march.

On Monday and Tuesday we will be protesting because we have been denied access to the housing summit that is happening at the IEC in Durban. We are the ones who need houses but we are denied access to the conference. The rich will be there in numbers to speak the language of house prices and to demand that the poor are relocated to keep prices high. No one will be there to speak for the poor and for putting people before the profits of the rich.

The government talks about Breaking New Ground and says that upgrades are better than relocation because they keep the people near the city where there is work, schools, healthcare and so on. The government’s own policy states that relocations make the poor much poorer. But the city and the province want to push the poor out of the city. They are in the pockets of the rich. This is not the democracy that we and our ancestors fought for. There is no justice in this.

We will keep struggling and we will keep talking to the media. Our ancestors were not silenced by Shepstone and McKenzie. Our parents were not silenced by Botha and Buthelezi. We were not silenced by De Klerk. We were not silenced by Sutcliffe when he tried to ban our marches. We will not be silenced by Nkosi. On the question of our right to speak to the media the struggles against apartheid have already won us a victory that we will defend. In this case the law is on our side. We will defend our right to speak.

Democracy is not about us being loyal to Nkosi. Democracy is about Nkosi being loyal to the citizens of this province.

For further information or comment please contact:

S’bu Zikode, President, 0835470474
Philani Zungu, Deputy President, 0729629312
M’du Hlongwa, General Secretary, 0723358966
Mnikelo Ndabankulu, PRO, 0735656241
Nonhlanhla Mzobe, Kennedy Road 0760884352
Colbert Jaguja 0732854270
Lindela Figlan, Foreman Road Settlement, 0725274600
Zodwa Nsibande, Kennedy Road Settlement, 0834925442
Louisa Mota, Motala Heights Settlement, 0781760088

12 September 2006 11:50 PM


On Monday 4 September the shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo used the Promotion of Access to Information Act to demand that City Manager Sutcliffe tell them, in concrete detail, what the city’s plans are for them. The next day Mxolisi Nkosi, the HOD in the Dept of Housing, called Abahlali in to berate them and demand that they cease speaking to the media. Abahlali asserted their refusal to be silenced all over the media spectacular out arguing Departmental Spokesperson Lennox Mabaso in two major radio debates. The next day S’bu Zikode, president of Abahlali, got a visit from the NIA. Nonhlanhla Mzobe, a key Abahlali activist, found that her boss at Durban Solid Waste had received a letter from the local councillor, Yakoob Baig and the head of the BEC of the ANC, Nicodemus, demanding that Nonhlanhla be fired for supporting the ‘red shirts’.Yesterday Abahlali, together with community organisations from the Municipal flats in Wentworth and Chatsworth, protested outside the ICC wearing t-shirts demanding that the state “Talk to Us, Not For Us.” Again this put them all over the newspapers and radio.

Tonight Abahlali were invited to be on P4 radio from 18:00 to 19:00. They had recently raised some money via a 16 team football tournament to help with the transport between the Abahlali settlements across Durban, Pinetown and now ‘Maritzburg. Some of this money was used to hire a small car, a Tazz, to help with all the getting round for radio interviews, meetings and so on in the hours after taxis have stopped running. At around 17:40 S’bu Zikode (President), Philani Zungu (Deputy President) and Mnikelo Ndabanakulu (PRO) got into the car to leave for the radio interview. While the car was still stationary, officers from the Sydenham police station, notorious for its corruption, brutality and anti-African racism, pounced. They thrust guns into the faces of the Bahlali and accused them, in a highly racialised manner, of driving a stolen vehicle. The cops ordered the three men out of the car. When they saw that Mnikelo was wearing a red Abahlali T-shirt they pulled it off him, insulted him, pushed him around, threw the shirt into the mud, made a great show of standing and spitting on it and announced that ‘there will be no more red shirts in Sydenham’.

S’bu Zikode politely but firmly told them that they had no right to act like this and suggested that this was racist political intolerance. He was assaulted. Philani was also assaulted as the two were bundled into the van. The police picked up Mnikelo’s red shirt and said they were taking it to use as a mop. By the time Philani arrived at the police station he was bleeding from a head wound.

Mnikelo, S’bu’s wife Sindi, Philani’s mother Ma Zungu and a handful of others soon got to the nearby police station. They were denied entrance, sworn at and racially abused in English and Fanakalo. Numerous police men stated that S’bu Zikode and the red shirts would be driven out of Sydenham. Someone sent an SMS to P4 radio explaining that their guests were under arrest. This was announced on air. Bahlali started arriving from all over Durban and Pinetown. There was soon a crowd of around 40. People waited on the side of the road. There was no toyi-toying and no threatening behaviour of any sort. Niren Tolsi from the Mail & Guardian arrived on the scene.

Access to the prisoners and medical attention for Philani was asked for, but denied. The police refused to say what the charge was.

In Kennedy Road there was a mass meeting on the hall. More than 500 people squeezed in and more waited outside. An SMS was sent to people at the police station to see if bail was possible. The police said that there would be no bail. When this was conveyed to the meeting a group of women in the front decided to march to the police station.

Within minutes of people getting onto the road the police arrived. They gave no warnings to disperse and began shooting with rubber bullets and live ammunition. They even used live ammunition in the hall. Anyone on the road or even moving between the shacks was shot at. At least one person, a women in her 50s known as Zinovia was shot in both legs. She managed to make it to the Kennedy Road office under the hall where she got some care. Niren Tolsi moved down to the settlement where he witnessed what happened next.

Back at the police station there was a glimpse of S’bu and Philani lying face down on the floor handcuffed and bound at the feet. Mnikelo’s red shirt was lying on the floor next to them. A few people started gaining access to the charge office. A whiteboard with the heading of ‘Suspicious Behaviour’ listed ‘3 Black Men Driving a Tazz’ at the top. It was announced that S’bu and Philani were to be charged with assaulting a police officer. This is a ludicrous charge. Numerous people had witnessed the unprovoked and highly racialised police assault in the Kennedy Road settlement.

Word was received that the police were continuing to shoot at the settlement and that there had been some attempt at a fight back with stones and bricks. Zikode got access to his cell phone and sent out two messages “Please look after Sindi!” (Sindi is his wife) and “Nayager has satisfied himself with us. Too tough with Philani.” (Nayagar is the notorious station commander with a record of racist violence towards Abahlali.) Zikode was assured that Sindi was ok and asked if he wanted people to protest outside the police station, as they were determined to do, or to make a tactical retreat in the hope of calming the police down. He replied “Up to them! I am fighting for them. Not for myself.”

Suddenly a group of white men in camouflage print uniforms with camouflage webbing hanging down from their shoulders arrived all pumped up with adrenalin and a will to violence. They began threatening the people outside the police station with their guns. They jabbed people with the guns and threatened to shoot. They declared that the collection of about 40 people was an illegal gathering and began herding people off with their guns. There were machines guns and shotguns everywhere. But it was negotiated that S’bu’s wife, Sindi, and Philani’s mother, Ma Zungu could stay. The others were moved off with guns being used like cattle prods. One of the policemen shouted, in Fanakalo, ‘Hamba inja! Hamba!’ Rafiq, the notoriously racist and violent local police reservist told anyone who’d listen that ‘The Red shirts must be driven out. These people must go back where they came from’.

Eventually medical attention was secured for Philani. Sindy and Ma Zungu were able to briefly enter the cells. They were then forced to leave the station. While they were in the charge office Station Commander Glen Nayager was on the telephone to journalists telling them the S’bu and Philani had assaulted a police officer and that people in Kennedy Road had opened fire on the police. These were blatant lies. Last time the Sydenham Police attacked Abahali after Sutcliffe illegally banned a march from the Foreman Road settlement on 14 November 2005 they claimed that Abahlali had started the attack by stoning a car. But the events are recorded on film and the car in question, which belongs to academic Richard Ballard, never had a scratch. It is an incontrovertible fact that the police attacked without warning on that day and then lied about it. Anyone who doubts this can see the film or speak to Dr. Ballard. It seems that they are going to do the same now.

Sindi and Ma Zungu were forced out of the charge office but promised that S’bu and Philani would not be moved. Kennedy Road was still occupied by the police. But around Sydenham small groups of Bahlali were meeting in settlements or in safe places like BP Quickshop in Clare Road where Des D’sa (from Wentworth) and Orlean and Pinky Naidoo (from Chatsworth) arrived to offer solidarity to Mnikelo, still shirtless, and Bahlali looking for a late taxi to get back to Pinetown. A march of the full force of Abahlali, 30 000 people from 34 settlements, on the Sydenham Police Station was suggested. Word came in that S’bu and Philani had in fact been moved – perhaps to CR Swart, perhaps to Cato Manor – the new man at the desk couldn’t really say but they were gone.

S’bu and Philani will appear in the Durban magistrate’s Court tomorrow where they will be welcomed as heroes as they walk up the stairs and into the dock. Abahlali will be there, Wentworth will be there, Chatsworth will be there, important church leaders will be there. The case number is 116/09/2006/

Durban claims to be a world class city are only true if George Bush is world class. This savage assault on democracy has left the city’s reputation in tatters. No stadium or airport can undo what was done tonight. The story of tonight will be told in shacks around the country and in newsrooms from Kampala to New York. There can be no more illusions about the nature of the future that is being built. The poor are expected to shut up as they are moved out of the city and away from any hope for their future. If they try to speak they will come under fire from the police. This is the truth.

For further information and comment please contact

Mnikelo Ndabankulu, 0735656241 – Witness to the initial arrest
Cindy Zikode, S’bu’s wife 0835470474
M’du Hlongwa, Abahlali General Secretary, 0723358966
Nonhlanhla Mzobe, Witness to the Kennedy Road police attack 0760884352
Zodwa Nsibande, Witness to the Kennedy Road police attack, 0834925442
Louisa Mota, Motala Heights Settlement, 0781760088
Fikile Nkosi, Pemary Ridge Settlement, 0842501446

Please note that this is not an official Abahlali press release. Abahlali press releases are prepared after carefully discussion by elected committees. This has been written in haste by one person.