Category Archives: media_update

200 Shacks Burnt in Christmas Day Fire Disaster in Foreman Road

Update, 17 February, 2008: Click here to see new video footage of the aftermath of the Foreman Road fire.

There has never been holiday in jondolos, while everyone celebrates Christmas. Abahlali in Foreman Road got up at 11:00pm when their homes were in flames. Most residents have not been around, some were out for Christmas while others went to farms for Christmas. More than two hundreds shacks were burnt down which amounts to about five hundreds people being left homeless including women and children. The fire Dept. came at least quicker than expected although it took them at least four hours before it was fully blown off. No injuries and deaths reported.

The movement is calling upon every contribution that could help in housing the houseless, they could not move any of their belongings. Foods, clothings, building materials etc will be appreciated. The sad part is for those who will be returning from homes this afternoon and after holidays without anything. Abahlali’s call for Land and Housing has been trying to address all these kinds of death threats and secure a clean, health and safe environment for all shack dwellers in the city.

For further enquries please contact Mr Mnikelo Ndabankulu the Deputy chairperson of the area and Abahlali P.R.O on 0735656241 or Mqapheli George on 078224544

S’bu Zikode

Update: It’s now apparent that just over 200 shacks burnt down and that around 500 people have been left homeless but this figure may well be higher as many people have returned to rural homes for the holidays. People are now rebuilding using the few salvaged pieces of corrugated iron that can be beaten flat. The neighbours in the big houses, with whom the Foreman Road settlement has an excellent relationship, have helped with some wood for rebuilding. This time the City’s Disaster Management Dept came through with some blankets and food. Cllr Yakoob Baig brought some biryani round – people refused to take it.

Cindezela lapha ukubona Isolezwe
Click here to see the article in the Daily News.

Threat to Torch Houses in Motala Farm
In Motala Farm a man claiming to be the cousin of Cllr Dimba has threatened to burn down the houses of James Pillay and Mallie Govender. Local landlord Ricky Govender had threatened to bulldoze their houses but they won a court order interdicting Govender from demolishing their houses or threatening them. Since them they have been continually threatened by relatives and associates of Govender and it now seems that he may have got the local councillor on his side. This would not be the first time. On Women’s Day last year Dimba personally threatened residents (who were opposing evictions demanded by Govender) with a drawn pistol and told them, in high apartheid style, to “go back to the farms where you come from” – those residents later won an interdict halting the City’s illegal evictions. The City then returned to continue evicting but finally left the residents in peace after the SAPS threatened City officials with arrest.

For further information on the situation in Motala Farm click here.

For the archive: Abahali Members Targeted at Work

Abahlali baseMjondolo
Press Release 16 October 2006

Rafael “Mazisi” Mhnana, a resident of the Jadhu Place settlement, Nonhlanhla Mzobe, a resident of the Kennedy Road settlement and Fazel Khan, a University of KwaZulu-Natal (UZKN) academic, have more in common than the red shirts they wear to demonstrate their abiding dedication to Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Durban-based shack dwellers movement struggling for democratic decision making and land and housing in the city. All three individuals have suffered at work as a direct consequence of their involvement with Abahlali.

Rafael “Mazisi” Mhnana, an Abahlali member, until recently worked at the King George hospital on a building project. He was told by the former head of the local Branch Executive Committee (BEC) of the ANC, generally known as Nicodemus, that he must choose between wearing the “red shirt,” which has come to be associated with Abahlali, and working on the building project at the hospital. As pressure and harassment mounted from co-workers associated with the BEC, Mr. Mhnana was forced to leave the project. Mr. Mhana’s employers promised that they would contact him for work on additional projects but because of his association with Abahlali, he has still not been called back to work. In this country we all have the right to freedom of expression and association. By trying to make access to employment dependent on obedience to local elites Nicodemus and the BEC are actively trying to undermine the democracy won by generations of struggles.

Nonhlanla Mzobe, an Umhlali from Kennedy Road, continues to hold her job as project manager at Durban Solid Waste (DSW), but it hangs in the balance. Coordinators are facing pressure from within the project and from Nicodemus and the local councilor Yakoob Baig, who together sent a letter to her boss calling for her dismissal from work because she was ‘not working hand in hand with the councilor’. The letter states that “We gave her a chance to change her ways, unfortunately she became worse than before by forming a march against Councilor (sic).” An attached article headed “He Will Not Rest Until His Mission is Accomplished to Destroy the Warde 25” (sic) says that S’bu Zikode, the elected president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, is “an evil spirit flying around to terminate the good”……This is propaganda of the most base kind. Community members have been told that Ms. Mzobe should be dismissed because ‘she’s working with the red shirts’ (Abahlali). Residents of Kennedy Road had previously been promised opportunities for employment and training by DSW but this has not materialized. Ms. Mzobe believes that it is unacceptable for people’s personal political choices to be misused to regulate access to employment. An Abahlali member commented that “Our comrades are being victimized because of associating themselves with Abahlali. If they were BEC members, they would not be criticized.”

Fazel Khan, a University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) sociologist, became the focus of recent national media attention when the university made charges against him after he spoke to the media concerning an article which appeared in the UKZNdaba. Khan was airbrushed from a photograph and omitted from the article, “Local Film” detailing the movie Breyani and the Councillor, a film about the Abahlali movement co-directed by Mr. Khan. Many, including Mr. Khan’s union the Combined Staff Association (COMSA), have suggested that the well known managerial opposition to Mr. Khan’s political activism was the root cause of the editorial decision to omit Mr. Khan from the newsletter. Mr. Khan took an active role in the strike by university workers and academics employees this February and has also offered public support to the Abahlali struggles with the city council over evictions and housing. This has included support for shack dwellers’ living on the campus of UKZN. In December last year The Mercury reported that the University vice-chancellor had told Khan that mayor Obed Mlaba had instructed him to act against academics working with Abahlali and that he planned to charge Mr. Khan with ‘incitement’. More recently City Manager Mike Sutcliffe has boasted that ‘problematic academics’ at UKZN will ‘be dealt with’. Mr. Khan is being charged with three counts of speaking to the media. The Freedom of Expression Institute’s Ne’eem Jeenah has sent a letter of concern to the vice-chancellor of the university, writing “We believe that free expression and academic freedom are in severe decline at your university.” The Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa is also preparing a statement.

S’bu Zikode made the following comment:

“We cannot afford to train as academics or to send out children to train as academics. Therefore we rely on others to bring back the fruits of this knowledge to the poor. For Khan, one of very, very few academics who puts his learning with the people, to be treated like this is unacceptable. The social work that Khan is doing is what we expect of any academic regardless of his position. What Khan is doing is what we expect from all academics – including Makgoba. The universities must work to build more Khans. If they try to destroy the Khans then the university will just be about individuals getting good jobs for themselves – it will not be about the society anymore. Therefore if we do not stand strong against this action by the university the university as a social project will come to non-existence, and the fruits of academic learning will be lost to the poor. It is of no point in sending a student to university if they will be banned from coming back to the communities and humbly working with the poor as Khan has done.”

Along with the threats made to Bahlali at work there has also, of course, been the recent severe police harassment of Abahlali President and Vice President, S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu which has caused a national scandal. After being instructed to cease speaking to the media by an official in the office of the MEC for Housing Mr. Zikode and Mr. Zungu were stopped by the police on the way to a radio interview, subjected to a torrent of racialised abuse and then severely assaulted. They now find themselves, bizarrely, facing charges of ‘assaulting a police officer’. Moreover various Bahlali, as well as the movement as a whole, are increasingly being defamed in the media by Municipal and Provincial officials. These defamatory attacks are rapidly taking on an ever more hysterical and ludicrous tone.

However the Abahlali struggle for land and housing continues unabated. The movement continues to grow and now includes 34 settlements. Abahlali is currently waiting for a response from the Municipality concerning their request for concrete detail of the city’s plans for shackdwellers, a request made in accordance to the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

Abahlali stands in solidarity with all Bahlali unfairly and illegally targeted for their association with Abahlali baseMjondolo. Discussions about how to best support Abahlali members and supporters discriminated against in the workplace are ongoing and the movement will use legal and mass action where ever appropriate. On Saturday 14 October we held a camp, an all night meeting, attended by members from across Durban, Pinetown and also from ‘Martizburg at which these issues were central to our discussions.

Fazel Khan’s disciplinary hearing has been set for 18 October. This is the same date as the next court appearance for S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu. Abahlali will be at the court to support Zikode and Zungu and will also be at the University to support Khan.

An injury to one is an injury to all.
We stand together and we stand firm.
We will defend our right to disagree with the powerful.

For further information and comment please contact:

S’bu Zikode (Abahlali baseMjondolo President)
Vice President Philani Zungu (Abahlali baseMjondolo Vice President)
M’du Hlongwa, (Abahlali baseMjondolo General Secretary), 0723358966
Rafael “Mazisi” Mhnana 0837439033
Nonhlanhla Mzobe 0760884352