Cato Crest residents battle continuous demolitions

“All of my son’s school books have been burnt, books that I had bought with my last cents. What will I tell him? Where will he even sleep?”

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Phot of man watching home burning
Yongama Myeni, 27, watches his home smoulder. He says he’s lost all clothing, furniture and food after the Anti-Land Invasion Unit burnt down his home. Photo: Nomfundo Xolo

More than 30 families sit destitute. People are crying. About 20 Anti-Land Invasion Unit officers as well as metro police have been burning and demolishing their shacks in Ekhanana, Cato Crest.

Friday’s eviction is the third in January. The shack dwellers movement, Abahlali Basemjondolo, believes the evictions are illegal following a court agreement with the eThekwini Municipality last year. GroundUp was not able to get comment from the municipality by the time of publication.

Abahlali Basejondolo’s Mqapheli Bonono said: “On 27 December 2018 we approached the High Court for an urgent interdict against the repeated attacks on the eKhanana occupation. The municipality was allowed time to prepare responses on the case. The court ordered that no evictions should take place until the matter had been resolved. These evictions were therefore in violation of both the law and the specific instruction of the court.”

Evictions took place on Monday and again on Thursday. But soon after the land invasion unit left on Thursday, residents quickly rebuilt their homes only to watch them destroyed once again on Friday morning. Evicted families, many with children, said Friday’s eviction had been the worst.

“It’s been painful before but today it’s unbearable. We have children who will come back to ashes. Just yesterday we were picking up the pieces of what the security officers destroyed but today everything is gone. All of my son’s school books have been burnt, books that I had bought with my last cents. What will I tell him? Where will he even sleep?” asked an emotional father, Yongama Myeni.

Myeni lives with his six-year-old son who started grade one on Monday. He says he had decided to look after his son so he could attend a better school. For nearly an hour, he has been sitting next to his burnt out shack, watching his son’s books as they turn to dust.

Since August 2018 the residents of the newly erected informal settlement of Ekhenana have been in an ongoing battle with the eThekwini Municipality. Many of the residents say they were evicted from an informal settlement in Cato Crest, where they had been renting shacks, in order to make way for a new road.

Another resident who lost his home, Wiseman Buthelezi, says some members of the community have been living outside since Wednesday because building material has been completely destroyed. He says residents fear evictions every day:

“We have nothing left, just the clothes on our backs and the rage that keeps us going. We have begun the fight for this land, and we still stand by our words. We are not going anywhere. When they burnt the shacks today they were also burning up our anger. We will not let them treat us like animals in the jungle. This is our own revolution and if they come at us again, we will be ready,” he said.

Nhlanhlenhle Shandu said: “I was cooking when I first heard the noise. When I went to look outside there were already three security men and a woman approaching my house. I quickly collected my ID, passport, and Abahlali Basemjondolo membership card, grabbed my son and took my food outside. When they arrived, they began swearing at me asking why I am living in a forest with a child, another officer threatened to hit me with an axe. That is when I ran with my son on my back and took him to the neighbour to hide.”

TOPICS:  Housing

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