Durban - Just two days before Christmas, eThekwini has destroyed shacks at Cato Crest’s Marikana informal settlement, leaving at least 40 families struggling for shelter and fearing more evictions on Tuesday.
Among those from the 40 shacks were a family with a 2-week-old baby and a mother who feared for the safety of her young daughter as they slept in the bush on Monday night.
Shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo has accused the municipality of being in contempt of a court order for the eighth time this year, and of planning the evictions to coincide with the Christmas period, when access to courts was more difficult.
Mayor James Nxumalo has hit back at Abahlali, saying it had built more illegal shacks in the past few days and was compounding the housing backlog.
Nxumalo denied the city had made promises to Kennedy Road residents, over and above the existing housing plans. The city built an average of 15 000 houses a year and there were 410 000 people waiting for homes, Nxumalo said.
“It is not fair for Abahlali to say that we are not complying with a court order. These are new shacks and the municipality will (deal with them). The long-standing shacks have been marked,” Nxumalo said.
“If we allow people to build new shacks it will create further backlogs and pose a challenge to our budget.”
Abahlali spokesman, S’bu Zikode, said more than 40 shacks had been destroyed.
In August, Abahlali and 30 Cato Crest residents were granted an interdict preventing further demolitions.
Abahlali returned to court in September after the municipality continued evictions. It secured an order restraining the municipality from demolishing the applicants’ shacks and also preventing them from being evicted.
Abahlali have since been in and out of court to secure a contempt of court order against the municipality for allegedly ignoring this order.
The municipality has always maintained that it was not in breach of this order – it only demolished newly-built shacks and not those that were identified and marked by the municipality. A court date is yet to be set for argument to be heard in this matter.
There have been numerous service delivery protests in the area, which a Durban magistrate recently described as being “total anarchy”.
Roads were blocked using branches and burning tyres.
Magistrate Vanitha Armu made the comment during the bail application by Abahlali general secretary, Bandile Mdlalose, arrested and charged with public violence.
This year three people have been killed in Cato Crest.
Zikode said this year more than 3 000 people had been evicted from Cato Crest.
He claimed Nxumalo had promised houses to the residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement more than a year ago, but failed to deliver.
“Just when Mandela has passed on, the ANC is turning this country against Mandela’s wishes.
“They are not even ashamed of the lives the poor people are living, how we are staying or the fact that the residents of Cato Crest will spend Christmas on the street,” Abahlali said in a statement.
ANC regional chairman, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, supported the municipality’s actions.
“We can’t have people jumping the queue for homes and people will be evicted if they come in and invade land. We have statistics to keep track of people needing homes.”
The DA’s eThekwini caucus leader, Zwakele Mncwango, said that while the party understood that people should not invade private land, the challenge was that there was no delivery of houses.
“Just before the elections, the ANC promised homes to the poor but at the beginning of the year when housing budgets are being discussed, the city can’t even build 5 000 houses.
“This is a problem. You get to a point where you understand Abahlali’s reaction,” Mncwango said.
The solution, he suggested, was for the city to focus on the poor and prioritise homes for individuals. He said there should be a housing waiting list so that the city could keep track of the number of homes needed.