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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement


Back to the Durban High Court

Following several brutal and unlawful evictions at a gun point by the eThekwini Municipal Land Invasion Unit in Cato Crest (Marikana land occupation) and Lamontville (Sisonke Village) Abahlali baseMjondolo won several court interdicts against the Municipality. Each and every time we secured an interdict, or an undertaking from the Municipality to cease its illegal behaviour, the interdicts and undertakings were ignored and the Municipality continued with their violent and unlawful evictions. It is clear that the eThekwini Municipality considers itself to be above the law and impoverished black people to be beneath the law.

In these evictions several comrades were violently attacked before being unlawful evicted. One of them was Nkosinathi Mngomezulu who was shot by the Commander of the Land Invasion Unit with live ammunition and spent more than a month in hospital. Although there were many witnesses to this shooting, and although statements were issued stating clearly who was responsible for this shooting, there was never any arrest. The law does not apply to the authorities of the eThekwini municipality. At the same time we can be beaten, shot and have our homes destroyed with impunity.

Cato Crest is the same community that lost the lives of Nqobile Nzuza, Nkululeko Gwala and Thembinkosi Qumbela who were shot dead by the police and the izinkabi zosopolitiki (politicians’ hit men). In Cato Crest alone residents were evicted more than 12 times, while in Sisonke they were evicted more than 24 times. These evictions were not just unlawful but also criminal and immoral. In each eviction the residents resisted and rebuilt. The fact that the comrades are still occupying the land is due to their own inkani (forceful determination), and not the law.

These evictions show how cruel our state departments are towards the poor. When evictions are carried out peoples’ homes are demolished and their possessions are broken and scattered in the mud. The perpetrators are members of the SAPS, the City Police, private security companies and sometimes also structures of the ruling party. People, including the elderly and children become the first victims when they lose every little thing at the hands of those who are supposed to be their protectors.

The government tried to justify these evictions, especially in the media, by reference to a blanket interdict granted by Judge Koen on 2013 March 28 which interdicted anyone from occupying one thousand five hundred and sixty eight properties owned by the state. The interdict was obtained by the MEC for Human Settlement and Public Works in KwaZulu-Natal and was in obvious violation of the both the law and the Constitution. Court orders cannot be granted to enable the state to act above the law and the Constitution.

We could not continue with the situation where the Municipality, the police and the politicians And the ruling part remain above the law and we can be evicted, beaten, shot and murdered with impunity.  In February 2014 Abahlali baseMjondolo joined the appellant Sisonke (Zulu and 389 others) in the Constitutional Court. The court found that the MEC’s blanket interdict was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid. However the Constitutional Court only ruled on the legality of the blanket interdict referred the matter back to the Durban High Court to rule on the legality of the evictions that had been justified in terms of this court order. This Thursday, 21 May and Friday, 22 May Abahlali will be going to the Durban High Court in our numbers to support our legal team from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa.

We also wish to state our serious concern about Operation Fiela. This is an armed attack on the poor by the state that is mainly targeting people born in other countries. However we have noted that the state has also repeatedly said that the ‘crimes’ that will be targeted include what they call ‘land invasions’ and we call ‘land occupations’. We are asking ourselves if we will have to face the army next. In Johannesburg Operation Fiela resulted in an armed state attack on the Thembelihle settlement in Lenasia, a settlement with a long history of struggle. In KwaZulu-Natal the provincial government is trying to set up it’s a privatised armed anti-land invasion unit. We have won many victories in court (using the law) and on the ground (using our own inkani) in the struggle to ensure that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. But it is clear that the state is determined to regain its control over the allocation of land by means of organised state violence – the police, the army, private security companies , local party structures and anti-land invasion units.

The land question is a matter of justice but the state seems determined to try and make it appear as a matter of criminality. The Freedom Charter says, ‘’our people have been robbed of their birth right to land, liberty and peace’’. It goes on also to confirm that, ‘’All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose”. The land question should be resolved by peaceful negotiations, negotiations that start from the position that the social value of land must come before its commercial value. However the state seems determined to suppress the land question via the use of violence perpetrated against the poor. The state seems determined to place itself above the law and poor black people beneath the law. It seems determined to criminalize and militarize a question of basic justice