The shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, as well as 52 former residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Clare Estate, are suing the police and the eThekwini municipality for more than R5 million in damages.
Their claim – which was filed in the Durban High Court earlier this week against Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega and the municipality – is for the alleged failure of the defendants to protect the residents during an attack by an armed gang three years ago.
Teboho Mosikili, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA attorney who is representing the plaintiffs, said the summons and claim were filed on Wednesday, and that they were awaiting a response from the police and the municipality on whether or not they intended opposing the matter. He said a court date still had to be set.
Abahlali was based at the informal settlement in Kennedy Road until the weekend of September 26, 2009. Many of the 52 residents owned two- or three-bedroomed shacks in the settlement, and lived there with their families.
Many were unemployed, or worked as construction workers or security guards, and were also members of the movement’s safety and security committee.
According to the particulars of their claim, on September 26-28, 2009, an armed gang gathered at the informal settlement. The gang was aggressive, carrying weapons such as pangas, knobkieries, sticks and knives, Mosikili said in court papers.
The gang chanted “Down with Abahlali”, “Kill Abahlali”, “Down with the Safety and Security Committee”, and “Kill the Pondos”, he said.
During this period, the gang sought out the 52 residents because of their membership of Abahlali and its committees, including the Safety and Security Committee and the Kennedy Road Development Committee and/or because of their Xhosa ethnicity, he said.
“The gang attacked, threatened and intimidated” the 52 residents and their families, the court papers read.
Mosikili said that as a result of the gang’s actions, the residents and their families feared for their lives and fled their homes, which were destroyed and ransacked, leaving them homeless and destitute.
According to their claim, the SAPS and metro police failed to
take the following necessary action:
* Respond to their numerous calls for help.
* Take reasonable steps to protect them from being attacked, threatened, intimidated and chased out of their homes.
* Take steps to prevent the movement’s offices and residents’ homes from being destroyed and ransacked.
* Apprehend the gang members.
“As a result of their failure, they [the residents] suffered loss of their property, financially, as well as pain and suffering,” said Mosikili.
“They incurred more financial loss because of medical treatment required because of the attacks.”
The details of their individual claims were listed, and ranged from loss of property and costs of finding alternative accommodation to pain, suffering and emotional shock. The amounts varied from R100 000 to R168 000 for each of the residents.
The police and the municipality have 20 days to file notice of their intention to oppose the matter.