Category Archives: occupation

SACSIS: From Lusaka to Marikana

From Lusaka to Marikana

by Richard Pithouse

On Friday night Thembinkosi Qumbelo was gunned down in a local bar where he was watching a football game on television. It was a well organised hit on a man who had, for years, been at the centre of a local struggle around land and housing – the keenest point of conflict between citizens and the local state – in Cato Crest in Durban.

Qumbelo made a remarkably bold entrance onto the local political stage on Freedom Day in 2005. Thabo Mbeki was set to speak in the King's Park stadium and Qumbelo led hundreds of people out of the shacks in Cato Crest with the aim of blockading the freeway leading into town and preventing Mbeki's cavalcade from reaching the stadium. The police stopped them in Mayville, near the Tollgate Bridge. There were ten arrests and Qumbelo spent the best part of a year in Westville Prison where he said he was subject to serious assault.

After his release he claimed to be subject to death threats by the local ANC. His concerns for his safety were not exaggerated. In April 2006 two former SACP activists were assassinated in Umlazi after supporting an independent candidate against the ANC in the local government elections. But Qumbelo went straight back to organising and by 2007 his organisation, the South African Shack & Rural Dwellers' Organisation, was openly linked to the IFP. He later joined NADECO and then re-joined the IFP before joining the ANC in late 2011. At the time he told a local newspaper that “Anyone who is serious about being a politician should be with the ANC”.

Reports on Qumbelo's work in the ANC are mixed. Some people argue that he was brought into the party's networks of corruption and used to discipline people's aspirations and forms of engagement. Others argue that he became a voice for popular aspirations within the party. But it seems that Qumbelo's fate was sealed with the arrival of 'delivery' in Cato Crest.

Speedier and more efficient 'delivery' is often presented as both the only demand emerging from popular protest and the main challenge confronting government. In some respects concerns about the efficiency with which the state rolls out its programmes make perfect sense. Millions of people live in degrading and life threatening conditions and one study has found that the most common demands emerging from the on-going wave of popular protest are for urban land and housing. Yet parliament was recently informed that R886 million has remained unspent by the Department of Human Settlements.

In Durban, the City estimates that it is home to 410 000 people who are living in 150 000 shacks in 484 settlements while 11 000 families are what it calls the 'beneficiaries' of 'housing opportunities' in the form of transit camps – government built and managed shacks. Some officials in the City still talk of 'eradicating shacks' but one report puts the number of houses built by the City in the last financial year at 1 268.

While the City's housing programme is failing to meet even the most basic of its residents needs it is succeeding in making politically connected people into millionaires. It is also enabling the ruling party to extend the anti-democratic reach of the politics of patronage and clientalism. There are a lot of people in and around the ruling party who have a direct personal interest in maintaining the status quo.

But even when 'delivery' does arrive as planned it is frequently a tool for assuming control and effecting exclusion rather than meeting people's urgent needs. This is most obvious when it takes the form of forced removal to peripheral sites, often referred to as 'dumping grounds', or to transit camps which are often worse than self-built shacks and governed through local despotisms sustained by patronage mediated through the party. Another way in which 'delivery' can mean disaster is that when shacks are demolished shack owners are sometimes given houses, or a place in a transit camp, but tenants are usually left homeless. This has no basis in either policy or law but is useful for City officials wanting to reduce the scale of 'the backlog' by excluding tenants, often the poorest people, from the count.

This is exactly what happened in Cato Crest: 'delivery' meant mass eviction for tenants as their shacks were destroyed and they were, illegally, left homeless. Around two weeks ago people rendered homeless occupied vacant land in Sherwood, an adjoining suburb. They called their occupation Marikana. On Tuesday last week 18 partially built flats were also occupied.

The Municipality sent in the police but they, perhaps chastened by Marikana and the series of more recent scandals at police brutality, requested the politicians to negotiate a solution. The politicians appear to have done little other than to tell the occupiers that their occupation is illegal and to appeal for them to wait patiently for housing to be 'delivered' rather than taking matters into their own hands. This has not been well received.

On Tuesday last week a crowd, 500 strong and armed with pangas and spades attacked the home of Mzimuni Ngiba, the local ward councillor. The next day Ngiba and his family fled their home. The state routinely renders people homeless in the exalted name of 'delivery' and it’s becoming increasing common for grassroots activists to have to sleep outside of their homes for fear of assassination at the hands of local party structures. But, unsurprisingly, political violence, which has been a top down phenomenon for years, is now starting to move in the other direction too.

It seems that after the attack on the councillor's home the ANC asked Qumbelo to speak to the occupiers, call them to order and represent them in negotiations. He agreed, some say reluctantly, and it was reported that on Thursday he was called a traitor, stoned and attacked with sticks after he agreed to meet with police and officials to discuss the evictions and consequent occupation without a mandate from the occupiers. But it seems that he was caught between two imperatives. Later on the same day he was quoted as being highly critical of the evictions that led to the occupation. Also on the same day a member of Qumbelo's committee was shot in the arm. The following day Qumbelo was assassinated. A good number of people think that he was assassinated from above rather than below but at this point all kinds of sometimes-contradictory accounts are circulating. The only thing that is clear is that struggles around land and housing are becoming increasingly violent in Durban. Both the representation of popular aspirations with a mandate from below and attempts to contain these aspirations with a mandate from above are increasingly dangerous tasks. This is unlikely to change for as long as the City continues to treat the gathering intensity of the popular aspiration for urban land and housing as an essentially criminal matter rather than a question of justice.

On Saturday Mayor James Nxumalo addressed a hostile crowd at the Marikana Occupation. They were carrying sticks and other weapons and singing 'sohlala siyinyomfa', a declaration to remain out of order. Nxumalo told the occupiers that they were breaking the law and should “Just allow the process to take its legitimate course.” He said nothing about the illegality of the evictions that left them homeless in the first place, the reality that most people living in shacks just can't afford formal accommodation or that, if current realities continue, plenty of people are likely to die waiting for the process of 'delivery' to 'take its course'.

One of the occupiers, who asked to be known as James, came to Durban from Bizana in 1995. He stayed with his brother in the Lusaka settlement in Reservoir Hills where he found bits and pieces of work. In 2006 the settlement was 'eradicated' and, after sleeping rough for a while, he found a shack to rent in Cato Crest. Now he has been evicted again. This time he is determined to hold the land that has been occupied. The power of the political symbolism of the journey from Lusaka to Marikana is undeniable.

TRAs Occupied in Langa

8 July 2012
Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape – Emergency Press Statement

TRAs Occupied in Langa

After the rise-up of Abahlali at the KwaLanga TRA’s that took place on Friday, Abahlali were told that there will be a meeting between Abahlali, the HDA and the corrupt leadership to reconcile and to work out a fair way forward.

While Abahlali are waiting for that meeting to take place, they are seeing people that they don’t know being allocated to the empty TRAs. So today Abahlali had a meeting and they decided as collective that today they are going to occupy those empty TRAs cause they are now being allocated to people while the issue of the corrupt leadership that has been selling them has not been dealt with. At the same time people themselves need a place to stay and are still waiting for the promised meeting with the HDA. What does not makes sense is that the offices of HDA are closed today and new people are being moved in today. By the time we can engage with the HDA it will be too late. Its clear that this corrupt area committee is continuing to sell the TRAs while there are local people who don’t have a place to stay in the area.

Viva the spirit of AsiJiki! Phansi with Corrupt Committee! Viva Operation occupy TRA’s!

Cindy: 076 086 6690
Mthobeli: 071 351 8483

Occupy Umlazi!

Thursday, 05 July 2012
Combined Abahlali baseMjondolo & Unemployed People’s Movement Statement

Occupy Umlazi!

The meeting between senior ANC representatives and representatives from the shacks in Ward 88, Umlazi, was supposed to start at 3:00 p.m. It ended up starting at 5:00 p.m. None of the senior ANC people that were expected pitched up. Only the ANC regional representatives came.

The ANC said that they needed a tangible reasone why the community representatives needed to see MEC Willies Mchunu. This was so clumsy! What could be more tangible than the fact that people are currently in hospital due to police brutality and shootings. They could also not give any good reason why Nigel Gumede was not at the meeting. They did not do what they had promised to do.

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The New Age: Protests promised over arrest

Protests promised over arrest

Dudu Dube

The Democratic Left Front, Abahlali Basemjondolo and the Unemployed People’s Movement, have promised a massive protest outside the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court when activist Bheki Buthelezi appears today.

“We are planning to occupy the ward councillor’s office while we demand these charges be dropped,” said Abahlali’s Mnikelo Ndabankulu.

The three organisations spent Saturday protesting outside the Umlazi police station after Buthelezi was arrested for intimidation. The charge of intimidation was laid against him by ward councillor Nomzamo Mkhize, who he has been at loggerheads with about community development programmes.

Buthelezi is a community leader in Ward 88 at Umlazi, a community that has been pestering the local municipality, demanding they be allocated land to start gardens and other community development projects.

Two weeks ago Buthelezi led the Ward 88 residents through Umlazi’s streets in an illegal march against unemployment.

On Saturday afternoon, Buthelezi was granted R500 ba

Shallcross: The Tyres are Burning

Shallcross: The Tyres are Burning

Yesterday 120 families were violently evicted from incompletely built and then
abandoned RDP houses in Shallcross. They had occupied these houses after people
with papers to show that they had been given houses were left in shacks as
their houses were corruptly given to others who were paying for them. Eight of
the 120 families are AbM members.

Last night the evicted families reoccupied the houses. Now the police are back.
The tyres are burning. The media are urged to rush to the scene.


Lucia: 084 635 0293
Lungi: 078 622 6999

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