Durban: 67 years after Apartheid evictions, ANC violently attacks Cato Manor occupation

Two people have been blinded this week in violent reprisals from State and local ANC-linked thugs as they try to push land occupiers out of Cato Manor in Durban, South Africa.

The relatively new occupation, organised with shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), has been shaken by the extreme violence, which saw Smiso Maphumulo shot in the eye on Tuesday and Noluthando Masikiza blinded on Thursday. In a statement, AbM said:

Their ‘crime’ is that they have been impoverished by a system of oppression and have occupied land in order to have a place to live. The government of this country has no regard for the poor. It treats our legitimate and urgent aspirations for justice as criminal and rules us with violence.

The municipality has been interdicted by the High Court in Durban to refrain from demolishing, destroying and burning people’s property in seven land occupations, including the new land occupation in Cato Manor. The court interdict further states that people whose homes were demolished are allowed to reconstruct. But because the ANC in the Province considers itself as law unto themselves they have continued with the evictions in violation of the court interdict.

Yesterday the Anti-Land Invasion Unit continued to demolish people’s homes. When the shacks were destroyed the materials were burnt. This was an unlawful and violent attack undertaken by a criminal state.

In Women’s Month the government of the ANC keeps emphasising their role in the fight for the rights of women. We ask which women are these when armed agents of the state can shoot at women who are poor and living under shameful conditions? The situation in Cato Manor is getting out of hand because the ANC does not want to respect the processes of the law and because it holds impoverished black people in such contempt that it does not recognise our humanity.

Today we had to go back to the High Court after being served with an application by the Province to continue to evict people in Cato Manor. They want to evict first and then get permission from the court later. That is how the brutal and criminal government in Kwazulu-Natal operates. The Province failed to win an interdict in court and both parties will have to return to court on 1 September. Until then the interdict protecting the occupiers continues to be in force.

We will continue to ensure that those who protected by the interim order are safe and have a shelter. Those who consider us as the third force must realise that that we are fighting for justice for the poor and the oppressed. If fighting for the poor means that we are identified as the third force then so be it. We cannot stop fighting for the poor because there we are called third force.

The struggle for land, housing and dignity continues.

The new round of evictions is the latest front in a wave of serious repression launched against shack dwellers in recent months, and in this case offers disturbing historic parallels — 67 years ago white supremacists under South Africa’s Apartheid government were doing exactly the same thing.

in 1958 Cato Manor was declared a “white zone” under the Group Areas Act, which “zoned” the country by race and barred black people from living in white areas. In Cato Manor, a majority black enclave in a mostly white area, racist nearby residents lobbied successfully for the area to be purged, sparking the Cato Manor riots in 1959-60.

The new “white zone” was never actually settled, and remained empty until the Act was abolished in 1986, when black people once again started to settle there — albeit with a lack of infrastructure due to ongoing racist government policies.

Now, 26 years on from the fall of Apartheid, black people are again being cleared out of the area with baton and bullet. This time however it’s under the aegis of the ANC itself, for the sake of capitalist concerns.


Pic: AbM