Puntan’s Hill Shack Dwellers Blockade Umgeni Road

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
12 July 2012

Puntan's Hill Shack Dwellers Blockade Umgeni Road

At around 3 a.m. this morning angry residents of the Puntan's Hill shack settlement blocked Umgeni Road with tyres in protest at their dissatisfaction with Cllr. Bhekisani Ngcobo. When Ngcobo was mobilising for votes he promised them that as soon as he takes office as a councillor he would electrify their shacks. The shacks have never been electrified and last week someone was killed while trying to make a self-organised connection.

Ngcobo has not kept any of his promises. The community have tried several times to talk to him but he has neglected them and ignored their demand. Once more the poor have been used as ladders by politicians. This is why they decided to block the road this morning.

At about 4 a.m. this morning some white drunk guys who were driving a car with number plate NPN 21481 forcibly drove through the protesters. They knocked 3 protesters. One passed away in hospital and two others were badly injured.

Between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. around 60 police came with vans and big police trucks and commanded the protesters to disperse in 10 minutes. The people refused to disperse. The police then threw tear gases at the protesters and chased them into their homes. They then threw tears gas inside their homes far from where the blockade was taking place. A number of children were exposed to tear gas in their homes. The police also arrested 3 people in their homes. Some of the people that were attacked and arrested in their homes were not part of the protest.

The community is very angry. They are saying that they will continue to raise their voices against the government that has turned a blind eye on to them. They are well aware that when they raise their voices the government will send his police to scare them but they will stand firm.

The Puntan's Hill shack settlement has never been affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo. They chose to support Bhekisani Ngcobo in his campaign to become the first shack dweller to be the councillor of this ward. They have now lost faith in Ngcobo. They approached AbM for support after the police occupied their settlement and we are happy to support them in their struggle.

As AbM we want to say that it is time for the politicians and councillors to stop using the police as their shields when they fail to meet the needs of the people. The police should be there to safeguard the community and not to attack them when they raise their voices to the councillors.

The Zakheleni shack settlement in Umlazi has just recently suffered a similar attack from the police who shot at them with rubber bullets while they were protesting. The community there have now occupied the office of the Ward 88 Councillor, Nomzamo Mkhize.

As Abahlali we always warned the government that the anger of the people goes in many way. We have always tried to get the government to engage the poor seriously and respectfully. But they choose instead to ignore the poor and then, when we raise our voices, to repress us with their police and their thugs.

We therefore repeat our demand for Nigel Gumede to step down. He has failed to respond to the housing crisis in Durban and he has failed to engage poor people in Durban with respect. For as long as Gumede remains in his position protests will continue to be organised from shack settlements across the city.

In Umlazi the community occupation is ongoing. In Puntan's Hill the shack settlement is currently under police occupation. In 2012 the shacklands of Durban don't look that much different to how they looked in the apartheid era. The conditions are the same. The tear gas is the same. The road blockades and police violence are the same. The struggle to be recognised as human beings is the same.

The comrades in Puntan's Hill are nervous to put their names on press statements while their settlement is under police occupation. But for more information please contact:

Bandile Mdlalose: 071 424 2815
Mnikelo Ndabankulu: 081 309 5485
AbM office 031 304 6420