Posts tagged ‘shack dwellers movement’

Occupy COP17 Activists Stage Protest at South African Embassy in London

UN Climate Conference Leaves People Homeless Amit Torrential Deadly Storms

In solidarity with the 31 families from Durban who were unlawfully evicted for the UN’s COP17 Climate Change Conference, activists from the Occupy COP17 movement will stage a colourful protest at the South African Embassy in London, England. At 3:30pm on Thursday 5 January, they will gather with giant cardboard cut-outs of the community members in an international solidarity action that aims to draw local and international attention to put pressure local Councillor Lucky Mdlalose to provide immediate housing for these 31 families.

Just days before the international summit last November, residents of KwaMashu Above (an area north of Durban) had their houses destroyed and all their possessions and food stolen from them in an unlawful eviction. There were told by local officials that they were making the place look untidy for visiting dignitaries and so were being moved on. The next night, as members of this community crouched in the rain under plastic bags in the spaces where their houses used to stand, Mwempi Caka caught a chill and died soon after. To this day, this community of grandmothers, mothers, babies and sons sleep each night on the floors of the kind neighbours that surround the empty land where their own houses once stood. Weeks later, this community is still without shelter and is being ignored by their local government.

“The municipality said we were messing up the community and they didn’t want the people coming to Durban for the United Nations conference to see us,” said Jabulile Mdlalose, 36, who is now one of the displaced. “They are ashamed of us. We have nowhere to go in our own country.”

Article 26, Section 3 of the South African Constitution States: “No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.” The PIE act was also violated: “whether people have been living lawfully or unlawfully they cannot be evicted without there being alternative accommodation.”

This creative action is part of an ongoing international campaign, that began in Durban, in support of the community from KwaMashu Above.

On Friday, there will be an international “Call-In”, with people from all over the world calling the office of Councillor Lucky Mdlalose’s to put further pressure on him for immediate action. Please join us this Friday by calling Councillor Lucky Mdlalose at +27 822565398 to demand that he respect the constitutional rights of these families and provide them with immediate housing.


No Christmas in KwaMashu Above

If you don’t have a chimney Santa Claus can’t slip down it. If you don’t have a table you can’t lay it out with food. If you don’t have a door you cannot hang a wreath, or open it to your family. Christmas was stolen in KwaMashu Above. Weeks ago, the police came and smashed up their only houses, kicked their only doors to pieces and stole all their food. Their legacy remains as a pile of rubble on the sunny hillside where once a community was building a most meager life.

They cried to me last week: “Christmas is coming and we have no where to go.” They sleep packed together on kind neighbor’s floors.

There will be no presents opened, for there is not even a space in which to open them. No rooms for them to wrap them in, no kitchen for them to laugh in as they stir their rice. All that remains now are the shattered rooftiles that each week break into smaller pieces, the black circles where their hearths used to be, and hope.

I am no longer with the occupiers in KwaMashu Above. I will not come on a sleigh with a magic sack and pull toys for all the children who are so good they don’t cry when there is no food. I have no gift for them but hope. Two weeks ago 40 community members from KwaMashu Above joined OccupyCOP17 outside the failing UN COP17 Climate Conference that was the pretext for their evictions. They shared their story. In the yellow light of a street-lamp, the young boys acted out the sincerity of their struggle. We watched in Zulu as they were beaten, their homes destroyed, and they were forced to leave with nothing. The only words we understood were “COP17”.

We did not give them homes on that night, but they told us we gave them hope. No one, no one, had reached out to them since they lost everything. Our message was simple: you are not alone – there are occupations all over the world that stand with you. On this Christmas, that is the gift we can give to them: solidarity. That they might know they are not alone in the darkness of the shortest night of the year. That we are there with them in KwaMashu Above, edging justice towards the light – and that we will not rest until Boese has a pot to stir again, and Kia has a bed to sleep in.

When Pandora’s box was opened, and everything escaped into this wild world – the thing that remained was hope. As they sit in the rubble that once their dreams inhabited, they do not sit alone – their hopes sing with ours and strengthen both. The loss of justice is everyone’s loss, wherever it might be. No one is free until everyone is free.

Keep following OccupyCOP17 for updates on the ongoing legal process, and how you can help KwaMashu Above get their houses back.


Day of local action

Today at Speakers Corner we will be joining with and supporting local actions.

12:00 we will join with the Right2Know Campaign (R2K) who are fighting against the South African Protection of Information Bill, also know as the Secrecy Bill.

The Bill will threaten hard-won constitutional rights including access to information and freedom of expression.

 R2K believes a responsive and accountable democracy able to meet the basic needs of our people is built on transparency and the free flow of information. The R2K campaign statement – “Let the truth be told. Stop the Secrecy Bill!” – demands that the Bill be drastically rewritten to bring it in line with constitutional values, or thrown out.

R2K have been campaigning around COP17 and have an impressive set of demands:

  • Make the UN COP17 negotiations transparent: stop closed ‘green room’ negotiations that exclude the media and civil society.
  • Release the full text of the contracts Eskom has signed with major smelters such as BHP Billiton, Mozal & Anglo (Skorpion). These three smelters use almost as much electricity as 4 million households! Eskom are selling these smelters cheap electricity, and ordinary South Africans are subsidising the cost!
  • Release the full text of the loan agreement signed between the SA Government and the World Bank to fund the building of two of world’s largest coal-fired power stations in the world – including the full cost of the loan (including interest calculations).
  • Publish details of donations to all political parties from mining and energy companies, which profit massively from South Africa’s carbon intensive energy plans.
  • Publish the energy consumption projections given to government by SA’s Energy Intensive Users Group (a handful of large corporations that use over 40 percent of SA’s energy). These secret projections were used to develop the IRP 2010 Demand Forecast Revision – the basis of South Africa’s carbon heavy energy plan
  • Publish the research that government used to include a forecast of 4.5 percent annual GDP growth rate in the IRP (Integrated Resource Plan). This projected economic growth would require SA to generate 10 Terawatt Hours of energy a year to meet South Africa’s needs. In the period of economic growth from 1994 to 2005 real demand did not exceed 5 Terawatt Hours a year. What information is the government using to plan on a 100 percent growth in energy use in 20 years
  • The petro-chemical industry is withholding information from communities and even from government with regard to “risk assessment” (i.e. the health and safety of the surrounding communities). All “risk assessments” must be made public! In particular Shell, BP, and Engen refineries must release health and environmental information denied to the communities of Durban
  • Release Eskom’s evacuation plan for the Koeberg nuclear plant in Cape Town.

13:00 we will have a general assembly and continue to work on plans for an all-night vigil at speakers corner on Friday night. All are welcome, we are united, one struggle, one fight!

14:00 A bus will be going to KwaMashu to learn about and support the struggle of those fighting against eviction from their dwellings and where the latest evictions were to clear people away ahead of COP17.

Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers) Movement have been fighting against these evictions and have recently started Occupy KwaMashu, Hilary and Pinetown.

Occupy Hillary

Four weeks ago 77 people were evicted from the Valley View flats in Hillary. These flats are owned by SOHCO which is a social housing company. Social housing was set up to cover those who don’t qualify for RDP houses but are too poor to qualify for bonds. It is called a ‘public private partnership’. But the private side of this arrangement has taken over the public side. Tenants are being exploited by paying rentals that will, over their lives, be worth much more than the value of the flats and those that are falling behind are being evicted. They remain unable to get RDP houses and unable to get housing through the market and are therefore being excluded from access to housing. Social housing is therefore failing and it will continue to fail until the alliance between the government and private investors looking to make private profit is abandoned and replaced with an alliance between the government and co-operatives of people needing housing.

Last night 50 of the evicted people returned to the flats to occupy them. The police succeeded in forcing them out again. Tonight they have returned to reoccupy the flats. If they are evicted again they will return tomorrow night.

Contact Details for the Hillary Occupation:

S’fiso: 079 818 1987
Nomfundo: 082 541 0855

Occupy KwaMashu

The KwaMashu comrades were first evicted from eBhandeni, which was in Siyanda in KwaMashu in 2009. They were evicted by Nandi Mandela as a road was being built. It was said that the road was important for the 2010 World Cup and that the poor people would have to make way. They were never given alternative accommodation as demanded by the law and were just left homeless.

They have tried several times to engage with the councilor, Mr Lucky Mdlalose who has neglected them. After a long time of failing to get any help from the councilor they decided to occupy the vacant land which is next to the school called Thobile Primary School. On Wednesday last week the shacks that they had built on the land were demolished by people from the Municipality. The cars that there were driving had these number plates: NDM 6902, NDM 6903 and NDM 6999. The comrades were brave and they rebuilt their shacks the next day.

On Friday the municipality came with cars that had these number plates: NDM 6963 and NDM 6903. They demolished the shacks again and this time they also stole the people’s building material. The community went to the police station to open a case of theft. The police refused to open a case but one police officer did call the councilor who responded by saying that as there is COP 17 coming the councilors have been given a mandate to make sure that no one is dirtying the community and that they must take care of the animals and nature. Later there was a debate on Vibe FM between the councilor and Bandile Mdlalose, the AbM Secretary General. During that debate the councilor said that he would make arrangements for alternative accommodation but he has not contacted them. Around thirty people have now decided that on Monday morning they are going to occupy the KwaMashu community hall with their children as there were all made homeless by Nandi Mandela and then again by the Municipality and the Councilor is doing nothing to protect them. The occupation will start at around 7 a.m. Tomorrow.

Contact details for the KwaMashu Occupation:

Jabulile : 074 542 5939
Mama Mdlalose 073 501 4200

Occupy Pinetown

The eMmaus land occupation, in Pinetown, was founded in September 2010. These people had previously been evicted by the Mahogany Ridge 2 Property Owners’ Association and before that by the Roman Catholic Church after it sold its land to industry. They had been left homeless after these evictions and needed a place to stay. Since then they have suffered more demolition and theft of their building material. The Mahogany Ridge 2 Property Owners’ Association has also put an electric fence around the occupation which is very dangerous for children. The land owners are currently trying to get the people evicted through the courts. AbM is fighting the case in the courts and on the 19th of October 2011 the movement organised a mass march on the landlords in defense of the land occupation.

Contact details for the Pinetown Occupation:

Khanyi Dlamuka, eMmaus AbM Coordinator: 071 218 3007

It is clear that to many people in government, and to many rich people, the poor remain dirt, something to swept out of the cities. If housing is to be given to us it is housing that is unfit for human beings and that will hide us away in rural human dumping grounds. In Durban our attempts to organise and struggle for land and housing have been met with serious and violent repression from the state and the ruling party. Neither the economic system nor the political system are working for the poor and therefore we will continue to struggle for justice. We invite all the comrades who are in Durban for the COP 17 meeting to come and show their solidarity for the occupations in Hillary, KwaMashu and eMmaus and for our struggle for the right to organise for land and housing and to be able to engage the state meaningfully.

For further comment contact Abahlali baseMjondolo at: 031 304 6420.