South Africa: Evictions mark first day of national lockdown

Even as police let loose with rubber bullets and beatings against shoppers yesterday in an effort to enforce the new national Covid-19 lockdown, in Durban they were turfing people into the street.

The eThekwini municipality evicted residents from the Ekuphumeleleni settlement near Shallcross in Ward 17 on Friday when, at 2pm, nine vehicles linked to Calvin Security arrived at the contested site, which was first established as a land occupation in October 2019, to tear down people’s homes. No court order was produced and residents say the evictions were illegal and criminal, as well as being in violation of rules governing the national state of disaster.

Eight shacks were torn down while 17 others were marked with an “X” and “ABM” indicating that Calvin Security are planning to come back to evict again. The building materials for the eight shacks that were destroyed were pulverised and left in small pieces. A number of people have been left with injuries.

The community in Ekuphumeleleni had occupied a number of vacant Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses following gross corruption in the allocation process. The community say they took the action after all other attempts to address blatant malpractice in the allocation process had failed. After the occupation however the municipality refused to allow services to be provided, so it was decided instead to self-organise connections to water and electricity. The Municipality had tried to evict the community but the movement was able to prevent the eviction.

Under the latest guidelines published on March 25th, the government notes that every person should be confined to their place of residence and that the State must identify and provide hygienic temporary space to self-isolate. for anyone who is homeless.

The eThekwini municipality however has defied the national call for social-distancing during the state of disaster issued by President Cyril Ramaphosa. They have also refused to follow recommendations by the Minister of Justice for a moratorium on all evictions, and ignored calls by the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing to ban evictions worldwide during the crisis.

In a statement, land housing campaign Abahlali baseMojondolo said:

“To our knowledge the eThekwini municipality has become the first state organ to break the law and all the precautionary measures that the President of the country has directed all of us to obey. The eThekwini Municipality is a gangster municipality that has no regard for the law and consistently engages in violent attacks against impoverished people.

“Last week similar unlawful evictions were carried out by eThekwini municipality in a number of settlements and people were injured. On Sunday Calvin Security were demolishing in Ekuphumeleleni. One of our members was hospitalised after this eviction when a Calvin Security employee hit him on the forehead with a spade.

“The government tells us that we must all stay inside our homes during this health crisis and yet, at the same time, they are demolishing the homes of impoverished people. This makes no sense.

“It is not possible for us to trust a municipality that destroys our homes during a crisis like this. We are left with no choice but to continue to resist oppression during this crisis. We will organise our resistance in the safest possible way, but we will resist. We are currently experimenting with holding meetings online via cellphone apps, and have already consulted our lawyers. Of course, people whose homes have been destroyed now have no other choice other than to reoccupy and to rebuild.

“[On Friday] a taxi driver who had loaded 16 people in his taxi was arrested. A butchery owner was also arrested for raising prices during the crisis. We call on the national government to act decisively against the recklessness and cruelty of the eThekwini Municipality. If the national government is serious about what they have said they must also arrest the municipal officials who gave the order for this eviction, and the head of Calvin Security.”