eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer with Steve Middleton, the metro police head, next to one of the new Casspirs in Durban. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - Shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo say they are concerned that the eThekwini municipality has bought four Casspirs to assist in the fight against land invasions and protests, describing the acquisition of the vehicles as apartheid-era tactics.

Abahlali’s deputy secretary Noma Sizani said the four armoured vehicles were purchased when the relationship between the city and the organisation was at its lowest level. “The relationship is so bad to an extent that the municipality is destroying our homes almost every day. The municipality just does not like us,” she said.

Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer, who is responsible for protecting city assets including land, told Independent Media that the new vehicles were meant to protect metro police when they were attacked while executing their duties.

“This is to enable the city police to assist the South African Police Service in volatile and dangerous situations.

“The intention is not to deploy Casspirs against the community, but to keep our members safe.

“In the past, metro police officers had their vehicles stoned and also burnt and our members were injured,” she said.

The vehicles should not be linked to apartheid techniques to deal with people, she said.

“All other metro police have armoured vehicles and all we have done now is to line up our safety measures to make sure our members go into a situation safely,” said Peer.

The city had a good relationship with Abahlali, she said.

Abahlali, whose members are shack dwellers, has been linked to most land invasions and to violent service delivery protests in the city.

Sizani said land invasions and protests were as result of the municipality failing to entertain their demands for land to build homes.

“We need land to build our houses. Even if we find employment in the city we are nothing without land to build houses,” she said.

The municipality had built thousands of houses, such as the Cornubia Integrated Housing Project in northern Durban, but Sizani said most of beneficiaries were connected to the ANC.

Abahlali said Casspirs were a form of armoured vehicle that were developed for the apartheid military. “The decision to bring them back to use them against protesters and land occupations is disgraceful.”

The organisation said that instead of the ANC-run municipality building its forces it should have held discussions with land invaders.

“But, instead, they want to respond to our organisation against our systematic exclusion and impoverishment with military force using the same tools as the apartheid state.

“The ANC talks about land reform while violently attacking land occupations.

“They want to repress rather than engage the oppressed,” Abahlali said.

Political Bureau