27 November 2012
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
New Branches & New Struggles in KwaNdengezi & Isipingo
On Sunday the 18th of November 120 people, mainly women, participated in the launch of the new Abahlali baseMjondolo(AbM) branch in KwaNdengezi. On Sunday the 25th of November we launched another new AbM branch in the Uganda settlement in Isipingo. We currently have 64 branches, 55 in KwaZulu-Natal and 9 in the Western Cape.
People started joining AbM in KwaNdengezi in early June. One of the community members had been following the Shallcross occupation and approached AbM for solidarity with their own struggle. The problem that the people are facing in KwaNdengezi is that there is a housing project there. No one in the community had been informed about this project. This is a rural area and people live in their own houses and not in shacks. They have an iNkosi and iziNduna. Land is allocated by the iziNduna and is not paid for. Some people have Right to Occupy papers and other people don’t have papers. But the right to occupy the land is recognised by all the neighbours and is therefore a real and strong right. After 1994 the land was taken over by the Municipality and the legal authority was shifted from the iNkosi to a councillor.
When this housing project started RDP houses were just built anywhere and without any discussion or consultation. Some people found that two or three houses were suddenly being built in their yards. Fences were just destroyed and houses were built on their gardens and even next to or over their family graves. There has been no respect for the dead and African people have a high respect for the dead. This is an insult to the people and to their culture. Also the houses are not being built for the people in the area. They are going to people unknown in the area and people strongly believe that the councillor is selling them as so often happens in Durban. When people complained about these houses being built in their yards and on their gardens and graves they were told that their houses were shacks and that therefore they have no ownership or say – no rights at all. However their houses are not shacks. They were built on properly allocated land and are solid structures having as many as five rooms in some cases.
There has been no consultation about any of this and the Community Liaison Officer has only been appointed because she is on the Branch Executive Committee of the local ANC. People are bought at night to the new homes and it is known that anyone who questions the project or the allocation of the houses risks being killed. Everyone knows that there is a very bad record of the eThekwini Municipality allowing councillors to do business with the city and it is rumoured in KwaNdengezi that the councillor has tenders related to this housing project and that he is selling the houses too. One thing that is for sure is that the councillor, Mduduzi Christian Ngcobo, has suddenly grown very rich.
On the 31st of August a protest was organised against Ngcobo, the councillor for Ward 12. The memorandum was received by Desmond Myeza, the manager in office of Logie Naidoo, the Speaker in the eThekwini Municipality. Naidoo was given seven days to respond but there was no response at all. The complete silence of the municipality on this matter has made people to believe that the rumours about corruption must be true.
By the middle of October the community was furious at the failure of the Speaker’s Office to reply to their memorandum and so they organised a road blockade on the 22nd of October. Ngcobo came to the blockade with the police. He was armed and he joined the police assault of the protestors. Thuli Ndlovu, who was then the interim chairperson of AbM in the area, was singled out for deliberate personal intimidation and assault.
That night Ngcobo arrived at Thuli’s home and started shouting threats and shooting a gun outside her house. She and her family did not sleep that night. The interim committee has opened a case of intimidation against Ngcobo with the local police. They know that of course that a case against a councillor will never be investigated but they wanted it to be on the record.
On the 23rd of October Thuli and other comrades from KwaNdengezi joined the Rural Network protest in Pietermaritzburg together with other comrades from our movement and the Unemployed People’s Movement.
Before the launch of the KwaNdengezi branch on the 18th of November there were several meetings. At the first meeting AbM was invited to present the movement and to explain ubuhlali. At the second meeting an interim committee was elected to work towards the launch – to explain the movement’s politics and to mobilise and recruit. The third meeting was supposed to be the launch. It was scheduled for ten. When the AbM leadership arrived the hall was still being used for a church service. But when the church service was over the councillor arrived at the hall in his Nevara 4X4, entered the hall with two people and sat in the front. Both of these people were from the BEC of the local ANC and one, Nonhlanhla, is also the Community Liaison Officer for the housing project in the area. The hall then filled up with people expecting to attend an AbM launch. However the councillor started addressing the people saying that they were here to talk about crime and to launch a Community Policing Forum (CPF). He was armed and was very intimidating and threatening. He had armed men moving in and out of the hall too.
However Mr.Mbanjwa, an AbM member from KwaNdengezi, bravely told the councillor that people had come to the hall for an AbM meeting. People started clapping. The councillor tried to ignore what was said but as people became more noisy he started talking about ‘strange faces’. He said that he had not been informed of a meeting in his area and that he has to be informed of all meetings in his area and that no meeting can go ahead without his permission. He also said that as AbM are poor it is clear that the movement is coming to the area to steal people’s houses and that the people of KwaNdengezi need to organise themselves against criminals that want to steal their homes. There were no police officers present and so this was clearly not a legitimate CPF meeting. Some people wondered if Ngcobo wasn’t trying to create his own militia to protect himself against the people that he is supposed to be representing.
Thuli approached the councillor saying that the people wanted to start their meeting. However he refused to stop talking or to allow the meeting to go ahead. As he was armed and threatening the AbM leadership left. This reminded the movement of what happened at eShowe.
Other attempts were made to hold AbM meetings in the community hall but Ngcobo, the councillor, would always lock the hall when he heard that AbM were coming. Meetings had to be held outside. The interim AbM committee in the area went to the Municipality to request access to the hall and were told that they had a right to use the hall. The officials said that it was a community hall and that they couldn’t be refused access and that they don’t need to pay to use the hall. They went to the police and reported that they were planning to use the hall and that the councillor had no right to deny them access.
However on the day of the launch the councillor locked the hall and refused AbM access. However the interim committee had organised a big tent and chairs in case they were denied access to the hall and the launch went ahead in the tent. All the while the councillor was driving around. He was accompanied by armed men. The police were with him too. But there were too many people and so he couldn’t break up the meeting.
The new AbM branch in KwaNdengezi has the following immediate aims:
1. To stop the project.
2. To force the City to be fully transparent on everything that they have already decided and done (budget, plans, project beneficiaries etc) and to renegotiate the project in a way that respects the rights of the people already living in the area.
3. To ensure that there is a credible investigation into all the allegations of corruption and intimidation against the councillor.
In order to achieve these goals they will continue with mobilisation and also look at getting a court interdict to stop the project.
Warlordism and violence have become the order of the day in Durban and in KwaZulu-Natal. We are wondering why people like Nigel Gumede are sitting back. Do they have something to hide? Are they also benefiting from this project?
Uganda in Isipingo
On Sunday, 25 November 2012 we launched another branch in Ward 89 at Uganda near Isipingo. The problems are the same. Here too when people are supposed to be enjoying and happy when a housing project comes they find that instead they are angry and disappointed. Here people were removed from their shacks and put into transit camps. This community was promised verbally that both those who still live in shacks and those who were relocated to transit camps were going to benefit in this housing project. However as the homes are finished people from outside the area are being put into these houses and the local residents remain in the transit camps. Once again there is no consultation or discussion and there is no allocation policy that is transparent. Twenty one families unknown to the community have been given these homes so far and it is strongly alleged in the community that these homes are being sold. All our efforts to report these injustices have fallen into deaf ears.
Abahlali in Uganda are making the same demands as Abahlali in KwaNdengezi - the project in their area must be stopped, everything made transparent and renegotiated on an open and democratic basis.
Thuli Ndlovu KwaNdengezi Abahlali Chairperson +27 73 5350219
Zwelethu Nomdidi Uganda Abahlali Chairperson +27 73 0260802
Sbu Zikode Former Abahlali Chairperson +27 83 5470474