About 50 shack dwellers from the Abahlali baseMjondolo shack dwellers’ movement blocked roads in the south of Durban on Friday morning with burning tyres, rocks and trees to protest Mayor Zandile Gumede ignoring their demands. A bus was also torched, according to police.
Abahlali’s Bheki Simelane told the African News Agency (ANA) that the protests were not formally organised, instead, they were a reaction by “unhappy members” who were angry that Gumede had not responded to a memorandum of demands delivered two weeks ago.
“On 26 June we marched, in our thousands, on the Mayor of the eThekwini Municipality and the KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance. The Mayor and the MEC refused to present themselves to the thousands of people who had marched on the City Hall,” said a formal statement from the group issued on Thursday.
Simelane said the mayor and MEC had seven days to respond to Abahlali’s list of demands. If a response was not received, protest action would continue, he said.
“More than seven days have passed and there has been no response to our demands. This is the politics of contempt. As a result we have taken to the streets, across the city, in defence of our dignity, our land, our homes, our right to the city and our future,” according to the statement.
This was the second day of protests by Abahlali settlements. On Thursday, members took to the streets in the eKuthuleni and Randless Road settlements where clashes took place with police. According to Abahlali leadership, 14 of its members were wounded in the city’s “brutal” response and had been hospitalised.
Abahlali has accused the City of being soft on corruption in housing allocation and of using its land invasion unit to “terrorise” shack dwellers during “brutal evictions”.
The list of demands submitted to Gumede included calls for electricity and other basic services for shack settlements while “decent housing” was awaited.
“For too long, we have been excluded from local job opportunities [which] are only awarded to volunteers of the ruling party and those close to councillors,” according to the demands.
Abahlali claims to be apolitical and says it has 35 000 members countrywide.
According to eThekwini Municipality, there are 569 informal settlements in the city, totalling an estimated 238 000 households.
Police told ANA on Friday morning that a case of malicious damage to property and public violence would be opened at Cato Manor, but that no injuries had been reported.