Maverick Citizen

Demolitions despite lockdown place residents at risk

By Zukiswa Pikoli 31 March 2020
Caption
File Photo: Abahlali baseMjondolo president S’bu Zikode during an interview at Foreman Road on May 30, 2018 in Durban, South Africa. Zikode, founder of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the national organization fighting for the rights of the landless in informal settlements is more determined than ever. He says the fight about Abahlali is not just about service delivery and land but it’s about building a society where there is equality, justice, respect and dignity. (Photo by Gallo Images / Jackie Clausen / Sunday Times)

On Friday, 27 March civil society organisation Abahlali base Mjondolo sent out a press release decrying evictions that took place on the first day of lockdown. They stated that evictions were happening despite the lockdown regulations announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola.

According to the statement “…nine motor vehicles labelled Calvin Security came to the Ekuphumeleleni settlement, which was first established as a land occupation in October 2019, to tear down people’s homes. No court order was produced and therefore the evictions were illegal and criminal. They were also in violation of the rules governing the national State of Disaster.

 “Eight shacks were torn down while 17 others were marked with an ‘X’ and ‘ABM’ indicating that Calvin Security are planning to come back to evict again. The building materials for the eight shacks that were destroyed were pulverised and left in small pieces. A number of people have been left with injuries.

The organisation said that it regarded this as an act of defiance against the president’s pronouncement, as well as going against the minister of Justice. Justice minister Ronald Lamola issued a directive under regulation 10 of the Disaster Management Act, to halt all evictions until midnight 16 April or whenever the lockdown ceases. 

Abahlali referred to the municipality as “a gangster municipality that has no regard for the law and consistently engages in violent attacks against impoverished people”.

On Sunday, 29 March they issued another statement that Calvin Security Services on instruction from Ethekwini Municipality had returned to demolish a further five houses.

They called on national government to take action against the municipal officials who instructed Calvin Security Services to carry out the evictions.

On 20 March, 27 social justice organisations wrote a letter to the presidency, social cluster ministers and the sheriff’s board to halt all evictions during the lockdown as this would exacerbate people’s exposure to the coronavirus. 

They said: “Evictions and displacement will place a greater number of vulnerable people at risk. One cannot practise physical distancing should you find yourself and your belongings on the side of the road or in an open space and exposed to the public with no means of protection.”

Speaking to Maverick Citizen on Monday, leader of Abahlali base Mjondolo, Sbu Zikode said “people are trying to rebuild their homes at the moment but it is difficult because the building materials have been damaged as a result of the demolition”. He said that should the Ethekwini Municipality and Calvin Security Services fail to respond they would file urgent court papers in the high court.

The statement also highlighted that although water tankers had been dispatched they were worried that some tanks had been placed right next to rotting piles of uncollected rubbish posing a health hazard. They also had not been told whether or not the water was safe to drink or was just for handwashing.

In response, Ethekwini municipality said that according to them the shacks that they had demolished were standing empty and that they regarded this as land invasion and not eviction. Residents of Ekuphumeleleni, however, dispute this, saying that there were indeed people living there who now find themselves without homes and are trying to rebuild.

Zikode said that they are currently discussing the municipality’s response with their attorneys in order to chart a way forward.

The organisation registered their commitment to working with “all social forces” including government and said that there needed to be consistent communication from both national and municipal government.

The organisation is emphatic, however, that they will continue to resist any attempts at unlawful removals. MC

 

Gallery

Maverick Citizen Analysis

Introducing ‘Our Struggle, Our Freedom, Our Constitution’

By Zukiswa Pikoli