Abahlali calls on city to halt shack-dwellers' evictions

By Karen Singh Time of article published Mar 26, 2020

Share this article:

Durban - The shack dwellers’ movement has appealed to eThekwini Municipality to suspend all evictions carried out by the city’s land invasion unit as the country battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

S’bu Zikode, the leader of Abahlali baseMjondolo, accused the city of continuing to evict people violently and without a court order, which he deemed was unlawful.

In the middle of the global pandemic, said Zikode, the unit carried out evictions at Burnwood settlement in Clare Estate and Zamokuhle settlement in Shallcross. He said forced evictions also took place in the Mhlasini settlement in Verulam.

“The City of Durban, through their land invasion unit, continues to evict people unlawfully without having been to court and making these very vulnerable people even more vulnerable,” he said.

Zikode said the unit goes around to settlements harassing people. “Part of our demand is that there must be a moratorium on all evictions.”

He said he was concerned that they were scheduled to appear in the Durban High Court in April, which falls within the national lockdown period.

“The KwaDukuza Municipality has taken the informal settlement there to court, and we are meant to appear in Durban High court on April 2. Imagine how many people would have to get into a bus in order to go to court because they are forced to appear?”

Zikode said he appreciated that KwaDukuza was following the law.

Last week, the Social Justice Movement called for a moratorium on evictions in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, urging the government to instead attend to those who have nowhere else to go.

“Those facing evictions are particularly vulnerable to the health risks posed by Covid-19 where evictions would lead to homelessness,” said the movement.

The movement said that applied to both urban and rural areas where occupiers, informal settlement residents, farmworkers, farm dwellers, women and children were at risk.

“Various other cities and states around the world have passed moratoriums on evictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and protect vulnerable groups from contracting and transmitting the virus.”

Lawyer Leilani Farha, who is the UN’s special rapporteur on adequate housing, reminded governments that human rights were not suspended during a time of crisis.

Farha said a global policy to stay at home and wash hands to contain the spread of the virus should go hand in hand with a global ban on evictions.

“There must be no evictions of anyone. Everyone must be able to stay at home.”

Farha said this would also have to apply to evictions that were ordered prior to the pandemic.

“It extends not just to those living in the formal housing sector, it extends to those living in informal housing settlements, and it also extends to indigenous peoples living on their land.

“Simply put, a global ban on evictions will save lives,” she said.

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the land invasion unit does not expect any land invasions to occur during this time, as residents are expected to be in isolation.

“Please note that the unit does not conduct evictions, but demolishes all unoccupied structures that have been built illegally on municipal land," he said. 

The Mercury

Share this article: