Human Rights Day protesters demand better housing

Activist calls for investigation into EThekwini Municipality officials, while in Cape Town Reclaim the City occupied a golf course

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Photo of protest
Thousands of people protested at Durban City Hall on Human Rights Day about housing problems. Photo: Musa Binda

Activists gathered in Durban’s Botha Park on Thursday, Human Rights Day. They marched to City Hall where they handed over a memorandum highlighting many concerns, including their poor living conditions, the murders of activists, and state corruption.

At its peak the protest had about 2,500 people. They came from across the city, but especially from the hostels: Glebelands, Teheis, Seventeen, Wema, Kwamashu and Dalton.

The organisations involved included Abahlali BaseMjondolo, Ubunye Bama Hostela, Right2Know, Market Users Committee, Active Citizens Movement, Poor Flat Dwellers Association, African Solidarity Network, Congolese Solidarity Campaign and South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.

Chairperson of Ubunye Bama Hostela in Glebelands, Mthembiseni Thusi, expressed frustration. “It’s not the first time we’re at City Hall to table our demands only for them to be ignored. We are human beings and we are tired of being fooled. Do not blame us when we do something that is against your bylaws because those bylaws are yours not ours. We are tired of your lies that you keep feeding us.”

As an example, Thusi claimed that the municipality promised that it was going to provide new houses at a hostel in Umlazi more than ten years ago. These have not been delivered, he said.

“In Glebelands Hostel, roofs of several blocks were damaged by heavy storms in 2017. Officials came and promised that they were going to fix it immediately. But they only did it recently now that we are having elections. All along they have been claiming that there is no money to fix our roofs. We ask ourselves where did they get the money to fix them all of a sudden?”

Thusi said the protesters were worried about the ongoing killings in Glebelands that have left children orphaned. He said it is strange that there have been so few convictions when so many residents have been killed since 2014 in the hostel.

President of Abahlali BaseMjondolo, Sbu Zikode, said government has been disrespecting the rights of people “whether you are a fisherman or street vendor”.

“We are here today to send a strong message that we cannot afford anybody at any stage to undermine our human rights,” said Zikode.

He accused police of killing members of Abahlali baseMjondolo.

He also expressed frustration with police seizing the goods of street vendors. “They are failing to issue selling permits. You find a street vendor who has been waiting for over 15 years for the municipality to give her a permit yet the police come and take away her stuff. This can never be right and we are going to fight it.”

He called on the leaders of the movements to unite and fight what he called the brutality of officials.

“The killing of poor people must come to an end, the demolishing of their shacks must come to an end. Investigations into the municipality’s officials should start immediately, so that if this municipality is a hive of housing officials who hire hitmen to kill poor people, justice should take its course upon them,” said Zikode.

An EThekwini Municipality official, Skhumbuzo Ndaba, accepted the memo. He promised to make sure that Mayor Zandile Gumede and Premier Willies Mchunu received it. He said he would emphasise to them that the protesters wanted answers within seven days.

Cape Town housing activists occupy golf course

Meanwhile in Cape Town, hundreds of members of Reclaim the City occupied the Rondebosch Golf Course at about 10am on Human Rights Day.

A statement by the group said they were protesting the City of Cape Town’s failure to redistribute public land for affordable housing. They held a “sod turning” ceremony, and demanded that Deputy-Mayor Ian Neilson address them.

“We are reclaiming Rondebosch Golf Course for affordable Housing,” said the group. Earlier this week activists published a report that advocated using golf courses for affordable housing.

Neilson did not come to the golf course and by about 1pm the protesters dispersed.

TOPICS:  Housing

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