Over a hundred homes have been destroyed as the South African police, along with personnel of the Anti-land invasion unit, attacked two settlements of shack dwellers on June 6 and 7.
In the course of these violent demolitions at the Azania Land occupation in Cato Manor and the Ridgeview settlement in the town of Chesterville, both in the municipality of Durban, the forces shot the shack dwellers with rubber bullets and injured several members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM).
AbM, which has been at the forefront of the struggle for decent housing for the urban poor of the country, has been occupying unused land in urban areas since its inception in 2005. On these occupied lands, using materials and muscle it can muster from among its own members, this movement builds shacks, childcare facilities and community halls. It also lays roads and connects the houses to electricity and water supply, without any assistance from the government.
The communities built to house the poor are frequently destroyed by the police and the anti-land invasion unit, who invade the occupation, bulldoze the houses and burn down the structures left behind after the demolition. The anti-land invasion unit was established in 2009 with the sole purpose of preventing occupations on unused lands.
The settlement in Cato Manor, which has been built on land occupied in February, has repeatedly come under attack. One of the Abahlali members who was injured in one such previous attacks on the Azania land occupation was recently discharged from hospital where he was being treated for his injuries.
However, as is the regular practice in Abahlali, the movement rebuilt these structures, which were demolished again on the morning of June 6, when its members were away in central Durban holding a political education meeting.
In presence of the ANC councillor of the ward, Mveli Mthembu, a combined force of Anti-land Invasion Unit, the Metro Police, the Public Order Police and private security guards attacked the community and razed down 60 homes. Unrelenting and undeterred by the “illegal” demolition, which had been carried out without a court order from the municipality, members worked through the night in the rain and rebuilt the structures.
The very next day, June 7, came another attack, this time on the Ridgeview settlement in the town of Chesterville, which the movement has held on to since 2006. Here, despite the many injuries caused by the firing of rubber bullets, members who were present in the settlement resisted and successfully managed to stop the demolition. However, by the time demolition was stopped, over forty homes were already razed down. The members will now be rebuilding these homes.
As in the case of the attack on Azania, there was no court order to demolish the Ridgeview settlement either. Sifiso Mngadi, the councillor of Ward 24 under which this settlement falls, is also from the ANC.