Abahlali baseMjondolo protesters marching to the Durban City Hall in this file picutre. Picture: Bongani Mbatha

Durban - The eThekwini Municipality plans to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with four shack dwellers associations in an effort to improve the lives of residents in informal settlements and find long-term solutions for them.

However, the plan has been slammed by the biggest shack dwellers association in the city, Abahlali baseMjondolo who have been excluded from the MoA signing.

Abahlali baseMjondolo claims to represent 40 000 shack dwellers living in eThekwini alone and say they have 39 branches in the city. 

"They are signing agreements with organisations that have no grass root representation. They do not live among those people and all they are good for is going overseas looking for money from funders. If you really want to change the lives of shack dwellers, how can you not include the biggest shack dweller movement?" Thapelo Mobapi, spokesman for Abahlali baseMjondolo said.

In a statement on Monday, the eThekwini Municipality said it would enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the four organisations of South African Shack Dwellers International Alliance (SASDI), "in an effort to create a platform for collaborative action towards improving the lives of residents in the informal settlements".

The four organisations are uTshani Fund, Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Informal Settlements Network (ISN) and the memorandum will be signed on Tuesday at City Hall.

"The collaboration between the parties will be implemented with a focus on establishing lasting solutions and best practices on programmes associated with Informal Settlements Upgrading with Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and eThekwini Municipality.  The MoA will provide a framework of cooperation and facilitate collaboration between the parties to ensure that all bodies have access to expertise and agreed resources in areas of common interest based on their organisation priorities and development plan," the statement said.

Mobapi said that the city was intent on "wiping out" Abahlali baseMjondolo and their members are subject to regular threats, intimidation and violence.

He said the "wave of repression" intensified this year by the "grossly undemocratic" comments by Mayor Zandile Gumede who accused Abahlali of being a "third force".

"They have been saying they are going to deal with us. Right now, the president of our movement, S'bu Zikode is gone underground because there are threats to his life from elements within the city. We have been warned that ANC councillors will deal with us, ward by ward," he said.

Mobapi said the reason why Abahlali had been sidelined by the city was that they refused to be silent on key issues.

"We are against corruption, we expose repression and we do not stand-by while our rights are trampled on. We refuse to be passive participants on issues of shack dwellers and the city does not like that," he said.

The eThekwini Municipality, including mayoral spokesman, Mthunzi Gumede had not responded to questions from the Daily News by the time of publishing.

Daily News