Category Archives: BBC

Popular Opposition to Xenophobia in Ramaphosa

South Africans in rare anti-xenophobia march

South Africa was hit by a wave of deadly xenophobic violence in 2008

A crowd marched through an informal settlement in Johannesburg chanting: “We want the Somalis to stay.”

The march was intended to counter a protest by local businessmen demanding the closure of foreign-owned shops.

“I’ll never allow foreigners to take bread from my mouth,” a South African businessman told the BBC.

‘Greedy and jealous’

He said that South Africans fought for democracy, and it would be a “criminal offence” to allow foreigners to dominate trade.

“I’m a businessman who wants to make a profit,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

But the anti-xenophobia campaigners, who were all mostly women, rallied to the defence of the Somali and Pakistani shop owners in the Ramaphosa informal settlement, which witnessed some of the worst violence during anti-foreigner riots in 2008.

“They are the only shops from where we can buy things cheaply,” one of the marchers said, adding that local businessmen were “greedy and jealous”.

The BBC’s Nomsa Maseko in Johannesburg says that as the rival groups demonstrated, the Somalis and Pakistanis locked their shops and stayed indoors while armed police patrolled the area.

“The police are giving us protection,” a Somali businessman said.

“They told me to close my shop for own protection,” he said.

At least 62 people died in attacks on foreigners that swept the country three years ago.

Xenophobia meets its match
Women stand up for hounded foreign shop owners

Jun 2, 2011 12:21 AM | By AMUKELANI CHAUKE

What started out as a drive to evict Somali and Pakistani businessmen from a township notorious for xenophobia has backfired spectacularly.

Women residents from the Ramaphosa informal settlement east of Johannesburg have stood up to spaza shop owners who tried to order their foreign competitors out of the area.

In the early hours of yesterday, the shopkeepers, members of the Greater Gauteng Business Forum, had driven around the settlement inviting residents to join them in taking action against “Somali and Kulas [Pakistani]” businessmen.

Forum members complain that the foreign nationals are in South Africa illegally, do not pay taxes and sell expired goods at low prices.

Forum members marched down the main streets of Ramaphosa, ordering the foreigners to shut shop and leave. This despite a High Court order handed down last week prohibiting the intimidation of foreign nationals, and an instruction from the Reiger Park Police Station commander to stop their “illegal march”.

They chased away one Somali man and forced another to close his store. But at one of the main Somali-owned shops, they met with resistance: a large group of women, some carrying babies, demanded that their bosses be left alone.

Cynthia Mtikiki, who works in one of the shops, said their livelihoods would be in danger should the foreigners be chased away.

She shouted: “They give us jobs, but you are denying us this opportunity. If you want them to leave, then you must give us jobs. What will our children eat? Where will I get money to send them to school?”

Vinoliah Maluma, who works for a Somali businessmen, said the forum’s actions were prompted by nothing but “greed and jealousy”.

“The same guys who want our bosses to leave treat us badly, and they pay us R800 a month.

“But the Somalis pay us R2000 and they don’t bring their own people, they employ locals.”

Lucia Khumalo, a pensioner, said the Somali and Pakistani businessmen treated customers better.

“Even when [I am] short of R1, they give me the bread and tell me I can pay next time,” she said.

“When it is the middle of the month, they give me groceries and tell me I can pay them when I get my pension. They don’t even take my number or address, that is how much they trust us,” she said.

The Somali business owners said that despite the court order and the heavy police presence in the neighbourhood, they lived in fear.

Mohamed Antar said: “If the government is allowing us to do business and the residents are supporting us then these people [the forum] are just jealous.”

Since March, the forum has chased foreign businessmen from Ramaphosa and other areas, including Katlehong, Thokoza and Soweto.

More than 80 of its members have been arrested on charges of intimidation and holding an illegal public gathering.

Forum spokesman Johannes Ramaropene earlier told the crowd they wanted the businessmen to leave the area without violence, failing which “blood will be spilt”.

BBC: Cape Town squatters battle plans for Muslim hotel

Cape Town squatters battle plans for Muslim hotel

The BBC’s Mohammed Allie reports on a historic disused quarry, the last piece of vacant urban space on the edge of Cape Town’s central business district, which has become the subject of a dispute between 150 squatters who live there and one of South Africa’s oldest mosques that wants to build a Muslim-friendly hotel on the land.

Nestled in the quarry above Cape Town, the informal settlement known as the Kraal has sweeping views of South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain and the city’s trendy Waterfront and harbour areas.

The area, first occupied by squatters in the early 1980s, has grown to accommodate 24 shacks housing 150 people, including many children.
Continue reading the main story

In recent months, several newcomers have erected plastic and corrugated iron dwellings in a narrow slit of ground about 100m away from the main camp.

The mosque authorities, led by Imam Moutie Saban, have complained about rising crime in the area. Tourists have been robbed and cars and houses broken into.

The mosque’s sound system has been stolen and toilet facilities smeared with faeces.

The city’s law enforcement authorities say the Kraal has been used as a hideout by criminals escaping police.

“Yes, we have had a criminal element and drug dealers but they have been arrested and are now in prison,” says Kraal community leader Kenny Prins.

Imam Saban wants the area upgraded and has applied to the city council, which owns the land, to build a no-alcohol hotel, along with a business centre and a heritage centre on ground, which adjoins the back part of the historic Jameah mosque.

Kenny Prins Community leader Kenny Prins says squatter residents must be given proper housing

The mosque, which was built in 1790 on land provided by the British colonial authorities, was the first to perform Friday congregational prayers in South Africa.

The mosque has already bought the house next door and wants to extend prayer facilities and the toilet block to accommodate the increasing number of worshippers.

Belinda Walker, city councillor for the area, confirmed receiving an unsolicited application to develop the land from Imam Saban and his son Wafeeq.

“Last year Imam Saban and his son came to see me about their proposal to extend the mosque. They proposed a development on the site of the quarry which would cross-subsidise their upgrade because of the high cost of the renovation.
Continue reading the main story

“They said funding was available to build a Muslim-friendly hotel which would serve no alcohol and would meet the dietary needs of Muslim visitors. It would also allow for a separate swimming pool for females,” says Ms Walker.

But the proposal has infuriated the Kraal community, as well as local residents represented by the Bo Kaap Civic Association.

“It’s against the scripture of all religions to evict poor people from their homes, so we need to ensure the residents of the Kraal have access to decent housing before moving them from the site,” says Osman Shabodien, chair of the association.

“The area has huge historical and heritage significance, so whatever we eventually decide to do, it will have to be carefully planned and we need to consult with the surrounding community.

“Any development has to benefit the entire community and not just a few individuals,” says Mr Shabodien.

Solid rock

Mr Prins says residents of the informal settlement need to be given proper housing before there can be any thought of developing the land.

Many of the Kraal residents grew up in the area and will not accept being moved to the council’s Blikkiesdorp resettlement camp, some 28km (18 miles) away.
Jameah mosque Mosque authorities have complained about rising crime in the area

“Our children attend school in the area, so you can’t just uproot them,” says Mr Prins.

Kraal resident Mareldia Abrahams, a 54-year-old mother of four, says she would be prepared to move should the council provide her with a formal house.

“I have been on the council’s waiting list for 17 years but to this day I’m still waiting for my house,” says Ms Abrahams.

According to Ms Walker, there are no immediate plans for the land as a long consultation process still has to be followed.

“We are currently busy with a heritage study which will inform us what sort of development is suitable for the ground. We then need to advertise the development proposals for public comment so the entire process will take at least a year,” she says.

Ms Walker ruled out providing formal housing on the land for Kraal residents.

“The area is situated on solid rock, which means it will be difficult and very expensive to lay underground sewerage and water connection pipes for council-subsidised housing. There are also up to 250 informal settlements in Cape Town that need our attention,” she says.

BBC: South Africans fight eviction for World Cup car park

by Mohammed Allie BBC News, Cape Town

For six families living in derelict changing rooms next to one of South Africa’s official training venues in Cape Town, the prospect of the football World Cup has turned from a dream to a nightmare.

The families who comprise 24 people, half of them children, are facing eviction to make space for the parking area next to the Athlone Stadium which has been upgraded to the tune of 406m rand ($53m, £36m) to bring it up to Fifa standards.

The upgrade includes a brand new pitch, three new grandstands, VIP suites and improved player facilities.

The tenacity of the families, who have mounted a legal challenge with the help of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, has bought them time as Cape Town’s City Council has been ordered by a local magistrate’s court to find suitable alternative accommodation before the changing room can be demolished.

Some of the families have been living in the changing rooms for as long as 11 years, as the city’s acute housing shortage, which is said to number 410,000 units, has driven desperate people to live rough in the poorer parts of Cape Town.

Football blackout

Following the closure of an AstroTurf hockey complex and the subsequent departure of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who used the changing rooms, the current occupants divided the facility into six tiny cement-floored rooms, one for each family.

They all share two toilets and two taps. They have had no electricity since the council cut off the power two years ago.

One of the changing room residents Lewellyn Wilters said he “cried with joy” when he first heard six years ago that South Africa would host the World Cup.

“I was overjoyed when I heard that Athlone would be upgraded. I thought it would bring good things for all of us in this area, which is desperately in need of development,” he said.

“Now I’m crying again. I’m going to lose my home because of the World Cup, and what makes it worse is that we are being told that we must move for a parking lot.”

The car park is now being built around them.

“We don’t want the World Cup because these people [Fifa] come with their own rules and in the end it’s the locals that suffer,” Mr Wilters said.

“We don’t even have electricity in here, so we won’t be able to watch the games on television.

“What’s the use of supporting Bafana [the South African team] when we can’t watch them.”

As a football-lover Mr Wilters is, however, still hoping that Brazil will train in Cape Town during the course of the month-long tournament, and is prepared to pay to watch them practise.

“Then I would say ‘thank you’ the World Cup did something for us. But at the back of my mind the eviction is still in my mind because I could be out on the street when it’s all over.”

But Blamo Brooks, the council’s area manager for sport and recreation, is unrepentant about the planned eviction, saying the facility is not fit for human habitation.

“This venue was built as a changing] room to serve hockey and soccer players,” he said.

“The living space is not properly partitioned to allow for household occupancy. The ablution facilities, the water and electricity provision is not suitable for occupancy.

“It certainly is not suitable to house six families – it’s an undesirable situation for people to live under such conditions.”

Next to the changing room, a semi-detached cottage which was built in the 1930s to house army officers, has already been demolished.

Architectural heritage

Yaseen Watson, 70, who lived in one of the cottages, was more fortunate than the six families since he was offered alternative accommodation across the road.

However, he regrets that the home in which he lived since 1966 was demolished to make way for the parking area.

“It was very sad, from the day the council came to me and said they wanted to move me to make way for a parking area.

“After all, 43 years is a long time. It was very hard for me, the house has so many memories – all 10 of my children were born and grew up there.”

Ashraf Cassiem, co-ordinator for the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town, believes the council should have restored the house given its age because it was part of the area’s heritage, rather than knocking it down.

Mr Brooks disagrees, saying: “The community has not been impoverished by the demolition of the two cottages and neither have the occupants been disadvantaged. On the contrary, they are better off as they are now living in two separate cottages which are bigger than the ones they lived in before.”

Meanwhile, the council has unveiled an extensive plan to get homeless people off the street leading up to the World Cup and Cape Town’s notoriously harsh winter season.

Working closely with NGOs, the city plans to accommodate and employ hundreds of homeless men, women and children, as well as reunite them with their families.

Armed with more than 1,000 disposable razors, 6,000 bars of soap, 6,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 tubes of toothpaste and 1,000 blankets, the city is also hoping to ensure the people are clean and well-groomed for the duration of the programme.

It will also create 600 temporary jobs to assist vulnerable people with the reintegration process, paying them 40 rand ($5.20, £3.60) a shift.

BBC: South Africa World Cup ‘just for the rich’

South Africa World Cup ‘just for the rich’

By Pumza Fihlani
BBC News, Durban

With a futuristic design, sky car and marble finish, the Moses Mabhida stadium has become one of Durban’s leading tourist attractions ahead of the World Cup in South Africa.

The new $450,000 (£300,000) arena was named after an anti-apartheid activist and hero of the black working class but some South Africans say his memory is being trampled on by people who are using the stadium to harass the poor.

“They should have called this stadium PW Botha – an oppressor – not Moses Mabhida, our father. It just makes a mockery of what he represented,” says Johannes Mzimela, who sells ice-cream for a living.

Mr Mzimela is upset at what he calls “hostile raids” by Durban’s municipal police, against traders found operating near the stadium or any of the sites earmarked for the World Cup.

Regulations imposed by football’s world governing body Fifa on host countries stipulate that no-one but its commercial partners be allowed trade or promote their products in the immediate vicinity of all World Cup sites.

Clement Zulu, who has been selling ice-cream for the past 25 years, accuses the Durban municipal police and the Moses Mabhida management of promoting inequalities between the “haves and the have-nots”.

“Big businesses who don’t even need the money like we do are the ones who will be able to sell here – they can afford to pay whatever is necessary for a permit,” he says.

‘Poor get poorer’

Anyone who is not a commercial partner has to apply to the host city’s municipal office for an “events permit”.

The penalties for transgressors will be a spell in jail or a fine based on the company’s profit.

Host cities, Fifa and the local organisers are obliged to create commercial restriction zones around stadiums and areas of importance during the tournament.

The stadium managers declined to comment on the street vendors’ comments but Fifa argues that they must protect the official sponsors from “ambush marketing” by those who would want to profit from the event without having contributed financially.

But many traders say they do not even know how to go about applying for the permits.

“We are being made to jump through hundreds of hoops so we can do for a month what we have been doing here for years – and that’s selling at the stadium,” says Nhanhla Mkhize, an ice-cream seller.

He says all hopes that the World Cup would improve his life have been dashed.

“Now I know it is just a reminder that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer,” says the man from Ulamzi township in Durban.


Billions of dollars have been spent on revamping South Africa’s airports, hotels and building brand new football stadia in some of the nine host cities – all to accommodate about 450,000 international fans expected to touch down in less than one month.

South Africa is hoping to make most of the money back during the World Cup but the street vendors say they now know they won’t see a cent of those profits.

Jabulane Ngubane, also a street vendor, says the World Cup is threatening his family’s livelihood.

“The police chase us away from the stadium like we are criminals,” says Mr Ngubane, who sells cold drinks and crisps.

“If this is the wrong way of living, then they must show us the right way because when I look for a job I can’t get one and when I sell in the streets my trolley gets confiscated.”

He is from Pietermaritzburg and works in Durban, about 43 miles away, travelling home once a week to visit his family.

Mr Ngubane supports 13 children from his street vending.

Before the police crackdown, Mr Ngubane said he easily made around 400 rand ($54; £35) a day, and was able to send at least 1,200 rand ($161; £105) to his family at the end of the week.

When the goods are confiscated, the vendors are fined anything from 100 rand ($9, £13) to 300 rand ($40, £26), which in many cases is an entire day’s wage.

Perishable goods such as ice-cream are often damaged either during the raid or in storage.

As a result, Mr Ngubane says he was begun to resent the tournament.

“I want nothing to do with the World Cup; it has caused me too much pain already,” he says.

“I’ll be happy when this whole thing is over, maybe the police will leave us alone so we can earn a living for our children”.

Media Reports on the Slums Act Case in the Constitutional Court

Anti-Eviction Campaign, Abahlali baseMjondolo and Landless People's Movement banners outside the Constitutional Court

Update:Click here for the report in the Mail & Guardian, here for the report at One.World, , here for the editorial in the Witness and here for some video footage of the court hearing.

The Star
Slum bill draws vocal protest from three provinces

May 15, 2009 Edition 4

Bonile Ngqiyaza

A provincial law that apparently seeks to eliminate slums in KwaZulu-Natal has got even far-flung parts of the country in a huff.

The bill with a burdensome title – the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act – has not even been implemented yet, but already between 300 and 500 activists from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have been in the Constitutional Court in Braamfontein, Joburg, to demonstrate their opposition.

Clad in red T-shirts, the activists expressed their dissatisfaction, mostly by singing protest songs outside the Constitutional Court.

There were also church leaders from different denominations who attended the hearing to show support for those who might be affected by the intended act's provisions.

The Land Affairs Department has joined KwaZulu-Natal MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu as respondents in the case.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers' movement – whose membership includes more than 20 000 residents of informal settlements in the Durban area alone – has been spearheading the attack on the bill, which is intended as a model for all provinces.

Advocate Wim Trengove, for Abahlali baseMjondolo, argued that the law seemed to be in conflict with the National Housing Act and national housing policy, as well as with certain provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke remarked that while the act's aims were to improve the living conditions of communities, it carried no detailed plans to ensure that this happened.

Also, the phrase dealing with improving the living conditions of communities came only at the end.

Lawyers for the government responded that the act had not yet been implemented and it was therefore premature to challenge it.


South Africa shanty town bill row

An estimated one in 10 South Africans live in informal settlements

The South African government is being taken to court over plans to abolish shanty towns in the city of Durban.

Community organisations representing Durban shack dwellers say the bill is unconstitutional because it seeks to re-locate residents against their will.

They say many have schooling and work nearby and the move could mean families being separated.

It has been estimated that almost 10% of South Africans still live in such settlements.

They were first set up on the outskirts of major towns and cities during white minority rule.

The shack dwellers' movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, tried unsuccessfully to get certain provisions of the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act declared unlawful in a lower court.

'Within the law'

The movement is now bringing its case to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.

The campaigners warn that if the act is introduced in KwaZulu-Natal, it will be brought in to other provinces.

It says a few informal settlements have already been demolished in Western Cape province.

The respondents, led by the Department of Land Affairs, are adamant they are acting within the constitution.

Community leader Zweli Nzimande told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "This is not a good act at all. It's taking people far away from where they are staying, to the places where they don't want to go.

"This act is saying people must leave where they used to stay.

"Now they must go 10km (six miles) away from the city, so we are complaining. We are schooling, our parents are working nearby so they can't afford to go somewhere far away."

The BBC's Mpho Lakje in Johannesburg says that when the African National Congress came to power 15 years ago it promised free quality housing for all.

So far the governing party has provided housing for nearly three million people and President Jacob Zuma has promised his new administration will speed up the roll out of state-subsidised housing

The Citizen,1,22

Published: 14/05/2009 17:30:43

KZN GOVT defends “Slums Act”

JOHANNESBURG – The KwaZulu-Natal government defended its controversial “Slums Act” in the Constitutional Court on Thursday saying there were at least 200,000 people living in degrading conditions in the province.

“There are people living next to the railway lines in Umlazi in circumstances which are degrading,” said the province’s housing department senior counsel Jeremy Gauntlett.

“The state has to deal with the problem,”said Gauntlett.

“And that means you start treading on various bunions.”

At issue is the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act which the lobby group Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement feels is unfair.

The Act aims to eliminate slums, prevent new slums from developing and control and upgrade existing slums.

But the lobby group, which says it represents about 20,000 shack dwellers, feels the act is being used to harass them.

One of their grievances, they argue, is that a section of the Act allowing an MEC to institute eviction proceedings is unconstitutional.

One of the reasons this is unconstitutional is that it strips a local municipality of its own powers, and does not leave room for a land or property owner to take action.

It also forces a land owner or a municipality to carry out an order from the housing MEC to begin eviction proceedings.

Earlier the court heard that many landowners permitted the occupation by shack dwellers for money and out of “greed”.

The judges were also told that a slum was not limited to an informal settlement with poor conditions, but could also be a city building which had been neglected.

Gauntlett said there were remedies for owners or residents facing eviction proceedings.

The owners or occupiers could “attack” notices of eviction in court.

The MEC could use the power “gingerly” and first order a municipality to help rectify the conditions that led to the area becoming a slum, or as a neighbouring municipality to help with, for example, the provision of sanitation.

Gauntlett said that the law was still new and “we must wait to see what the MEC does with this power”, suggesting that the case might be premature as the challenge was not related to a specific eviction attempt.

Much of the court’s argument turned on an English court finding known as “Pye” which set an international precedent in statutory processes that must be followed if there was an eviction dispute between a land owner and person using the land.

Rishi Seegobin,lawyer for the province’s housing department said that the poor were sadly victims of unscrupulous landlords,and that he could find nothing “offensive” in the Act.

He echoed Gauntlett, saying Thursday’s challenge was “abstract” as the Act had not been used yet and did not have regulations yet.

In his reply, Trengove said that not all people letting out shacks were greedy. Many did it for “a few rands” and catered to a need for housing.

– Sapa

The Citizen,1,22

Published: 5/14/2009 21:15:22
Protest against new slums law


JOHANNESBURG – About 1 000 members from various non-governmental
organisations travelled from across the country to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg to protest against the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act.

General secretary of the Rural Network in KZN, Mbhekiseni Mavuso, said his organisation was pledging its support to Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM), which has applied to have the Act declared unlawful under the Constitution.

Their support came because members suffered similar experiences as ABM members, who claimed they were being brutalised and harassed by police.

The Act “is portrayed as preventing the re-emergence of slums. But it is a reinforcement of apartheid laws,” said Mavuso.

ABM says areas replacing “slums” are called transit camps in
KwaZulu-Natal, temporary relocation areas (TRAs) in Cape Town and decent camps in Gauteng.

But “they are nothing but a way for the government to evict the poor, to force people out of the cities, in the name of providing so- called ‘housing opportunities’. ”

On Wednesday Western Cape police were allegedly intimidating backyard dwellers during a clean-up campaign at Macassar village.

ABM Western Cape chairman Mzonke Poni, claimed there was a heavy police presence and people were being intimidated.

This came as backyard dwellers were trying to clean vacant land to show the local and provincial government that there was sufficient land to build houses for people of Macassar at Macassar.

Business Day

Shack dwellers contest slums law in court

Legal Affairs Correspondent

THE KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act was a measure to eliminate the poor conditions in which 200000 families in the province found themselves living, the Constitutional Court heard yesterday.

“National and provincial government have been slow in dealing with the situation. Only last week, 12 people died in fires in Kennedy Road informal settlement. Slums should not be prettified and people should not be exposed to these conditions. We are not apologetic about that,” Jeremy Gauntlett SC told the court.

Gauntlett, representing the provincial government, said apart from the KwaZulu-Natal families living in slums, 2-million other families in SA lived in slums.

The province was opposing an application by Abahlali Basemjondolo, an organisation of shack residents from KwaZulu-Natal, which wanted section 16 of the act declared unconstitutional.

The residents feared the section undermined national legislation such as the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) and the Housing Act, which gave protection for those whose rights to land were insecure.

The section states, “An owner or person in charge of land or a building, which … is already occupied by unlawful occupiers must, within the period determined by the (MEC) by notice in the Gazette, in a manner provided for in section 4 or 5 of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, institute proceedings for the eviction of the unlawful occupiers.”

Wim Trengove SC for the residents, told the court that the section was in conflict with the PIE Act, which discouraged the bringing of eviction proceedings.

Gauntlett said the act aimed to eliminate slums, prevent the re-emergence of slums and improve the living conditions of the communities in the province. Gauntlett said several duties were imposed on the MEC before he could order the institution of eviction proceedings.

He said the act stated that each municipality must first prepare and submit to the MEC a status report detailing the number of existing slums within its area of jurisdiction, and whether land may be made available by the municipality to the unlawful occupiers.

Gauntlett said the act also provided for the establishment of transit areas to be used for temporary accommodation of people who had been evicted from a slum, pending the acquisition of land or buildings for their permanent accommodation.

“This has been missing in legislation in our country. The establishment of transit areas is very progressive,” Gauntlett said.

The court reserved judgment.

East Coast Radio

Concourt hears ‘Slums Act’ challenge

A group from the Abahlali base Mjondolo Movement could be heard chanting outside the Constitutional Court today as inside senior council Wim Trengove argued on their behalf against the “Slums Act”.

Administration worker Jeffrey Magamu had to silence the demonstrating crowd of around 60 people who were singing, chanting and blowing vuvuzelas outside the court.

He asked them to stop singing and fold their banners before allowing them to sit in the court’s foyer where they could watched court proceeding on a TV screen.”Now all is orderly,” he told Sapa.

Only 50 of the protesters were allowed in court.

The group, which works towards improving the living conditions of shack dwellers, had tried unsuccessfully to get certain provisions of the “Slums Act” declared unconstitutional in a lower court, so decided to approach the Constitutional Court.

Trengove explained that the definition of a slum is not confined to conditions in certain informal settlements but can also be inner city buildings that have been allowed to degenerate.

The act would also apply to people who live in rooms in people’s
backyards which have not been sanctioned by municipal authorities.

The court heard that there were “tensions” in law over the rights of owners to let people live on their property, and governmental obligations to evict people from properties that did not comply with building or other municipal regulations, or to make way for upgrades to informal settlements.

The KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act was passed in 2007 by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and the lobby group see it as an “attack on the poor”.

It aims to eliminate slums, prevent new slums from developing and control and upgrade existing slums.

The departments of housing and land affairs are part of the court hearing in Johannesburg.

(Source: Sapa; Photo:

The Times

May 14, 2009

Breaking no new ground

State’s callous slum evictions face constitutional test today, writes Richard Pithouse

TODAY the Constitutional Court will hear the attempt by the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo to have the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act declared unlawful.

Other provinces have been mandated to develop similar legislation and the decision of the court might have a significant impact on the future of our cities.

Thabo Mbeki’s government built a lot of houses. But this does not mean that we have been building democratic and inclusive cities — the apartheid state also built a lot of houses.

In fact, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mbeki’s housing minister, left the state’s housing programme in a catastrophic mess. The “breaking new ground” policy, officially adopted in 2004, recommends democratic engagement with communities with a view to upgrading settlements where they are. It has never been implemented.

The Constitution protects unlawful occupiers of land against summary eviction but the state is the primary perpetrator of systematically unlawful evictions. The state’s actions are, in strict legal terms, routinely criminal.

Both policy and law have been ignored in favour of an increasingly authoritarian discourse around eliminating or eradicating slums. This has led to a deliberate reduction in the provision of basic services to shack settlements and forced removals to out-of-town housing developments and prison-like “transit camps”.

One of the many pernicious consequences of the slum-clearance discourse is that the government ends up measuring its progress on the resolution of the urban crisis in two ways . The first is the reduction in the number of shacks. So, if only half the residents of a settlement are accommodated in a new housing development and the rest are left homeless when their settlement is razed, the state will measure that as progress.

The other way in which progress is measured is by the number of people moved into state-controlled spaces.

And, in a perverse Orwellian move, some municipalities are compounding the damage and turning the urban question into a numbers game by calling the new and deservedly notorious transit camps, or even tents, “housing opportunities”.

So, even when people are forced out of shacks and into transit camps at gunpoint, the statistics show that they have “accessed a housing opportunity”.

It is no surprise that shack dwellers across the country, some organised into movements and others acting independently, have been blocking roads, marching on councillors’ homes and, on the rare occasions when they can access the judicial system, taking the government to court. Entirely legal forms of protest have often been responded to with unlawful state repression.

The Slums Act, passed into law in 2007, is an attempt to give legal sanction to the turn to an outright authoritarian and anti-poor response to the crisis of our cities. It has direct connections to similar colonial and apartheid legislation, such as the 1951 Prevention of Squatting Act. It compels municipalities and private land owners to evict, gives legal sanction to the notorious transit camps and criminalises shack dwellers’ movements.

People have been beaten, shot at with rubber bullets and arrested while protesting against it.

There are currently no grounds for optimism that Zuma’s government will seek a more just and democratic resolution of the urban crisis than that imagined by Mbeki. On the contrary, the ANC’s Polokwane resolutions endorse the extension of the Slums Act to other provinces.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The state could, along with meaningful and pro-poor rural land reform, actively support the efforts of poor people to hold their ground in our cities. It could, for instance, attempt to implement the breaking new ground policy. Or it could take a larger step forward and, following examples in Brazil and the Philippines, implement measures to put the social value of urban land before its commercial value.

Grass-roots activists will be making their way to the Constitutional Court for the hearing today from shack settlements around Johannesburg, and from Durban and Cape Town. We will have to wait to see how the court decides to measure their humanity. We will also have to wait to see how it decides to weigh that humanity against the demand for legislation
that can only, when it comes down to the practicalities of sending out the men with guns to banish the poor from our cities, be a bloody business. — Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University © SACSIS