“The comrades will keep rebuilding till the land is theirs”

On Thursday, police and the anti-land invasion unit demolished 70 houses at the Azania land occupation of the shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. The residents, who were left homeless, are fighting back by rebuilding

June 14, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
The 70 shacks were demolished while the activists were at a court hearing. Photo: Abahlali baseMjondolo

Heavily armed police personnel and the anti-land invasion unit attacked the Azania land occupation built by the shack dwellers’ movement near Durban on June 13. The police demolished 70 houses at the settlement in Cato Manor, seven kilometers from Durban’s city center. The structures left behind after the demolition, along with the possessions of the residents, were set on fire. The settlement had earlier been attacked on June 6.

This land was occupied by the shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM). Using material they gathered without any government help, AbM members had built 110 shacks on this land to house poor families who could not afford to buy or rent a house in urban areas. From the time of the occupation, the members and the houses they had built came under attack repeatedly.

Previously, on June 6, when the shack dwellers were out in the city centre for a political education meeting, the police, along with armed private security guards, had arrived at the settlement and demolished 60 homes, without a court order. The second attack took place even as the members were busy reconstructing the shacks.

At the time of Thursday’s attack, most of the members were in court to express solidarity with “comrades from another occupation, and the city seized the opportunity to attack”, AbM’s statement read.

The court was hearing the case of an AbM member from the eKenana land occupation who was arrested last year and is currently out on bail. He has been charged with public violence due to his involvement in a road blockade by shack dwellers against the illegal demolitions.

After the demolition carried out in the absence of the shack-dwellers, all the families staying in the 110 houses were rendered homeless. Members then quickly built a large makeshift structure where everyone spent the night.

“Right now, everybody is busy rebuilding. Some of them have gone out to look for the materials,” Mqapheli George Bonono, an elected member of AbM’s interim national council, told People’s Dispatch. “These are poor people. They have no money to go to a hardware shop and buy. So they search around factories to collect [mostly scrap materials] to rebuild their homes.”

AbM’s statement on the incident concludes by asserting, “The comrades will rebuild, and they will keep rebuilding until the land is theirs.”