South Africa: Durban Shack Dwellers Dispute Legality of Repeated Demolitions

About 100 shack dwellers at Azanian Occupation in Cato Manor, Durban, are rebuilding their homes after demolitions carried out by the eThekwini Municipality Land Invasion Unit last week.

Nosipho Dlamini said her shack had been demolished three times. "But after every demolition, I try and re-gather material and rebuild my shack because I have nowhere else to go. I'm unemployed, I don't have money for rent," said Dlamini.

Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) Provincial Chairperson Mqapheli Bonono told GroundUp. the demolitions, last Thursday, were carried out by the Land Invasion Unit, the Metro Police, the Public Order Police and private security. He said there was at least one demolition "attack" a month.

Most of the occupiers were renting rooms in Chesterville, a township nearby and could no longer afford to pay rent. Many survive on their children's support grants.

"There have been repeated attacks on this occupation since February, when the land was first occupied. One person was recently discharged after being hospitalised for two months as a result of injuries sustained from the Land Invasion Unit during an eviction," said Bonono.

Linda Bhengu, who works as a gardener in a nearby suburb said he had come home to find his shack gone. "I found the spot where I had built my shack ... The zinc sheets were gathered near my spot ... Other shack dwellers gathered then there for me. My other belongings were lying all over the place and most of them were broken," said Bhengu.

When GroundUp visited the area, Bhengu was rebuilding his shack. His relatives had been able to rebuild their shacks a few hours after the demolition and he had been staying with them temporarily.

Bonono said demolitions were also carried out at Ridgeview informal settlement in Chesterville. "A number of comrades were shot with rubber bullets. More than 40 homes were demolished before the eviction was stopped by members who resisted," said Bonono.

He said the municipality did not have court orders, so AbM regard both evictions as illegal and criminal. "We have written the municipality a letter of demand that it stops demolishing shacks of our members," said Bonono.

Spokesperson eThekwini Municipality Msawakhe Mayisela said only unoccupied and half-built structures were demolished and therefore no court order was needed.

But the occupiers say some of them were around when the demolition teams stormed their homes and the shacks were occupied.

Mayisela said the land is owned by the municipality and earmarked for a housing project.

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