South Africa: Shack dwellers besiege police station after cops kill baby in assault on settlement

A furious, mourning community marched on Sydenham police station in Durban today after a police assault on the city’s Foreman Road shack settlement led to the death of two-week-old baby Jayden Khoza.

Shack dwellers crossed the short distance to the suburban station, sited next to a school, with the body of the baby who was present along with many other children when police started firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the settlement, filling people’s homes with gas. Many have been injured and there was one arrest.

Grassroots land and housing rights campaign Abahali baseMjondolo said today that the attack was in reprisal for road blockades which took place last Tuesday and again at 5am this morning in protest at police brutality and the indifference of local authorities, which have for years campaigned to push them out of the city proper. AbM reported:

The police responded to the protest by attacking the settlement as a whole with fists, batons, rubber bullets and tear gas. Many shacks filled up with teargas. Children started crying, coughing and vomiting. Residents told the police that they were putting the children in grave danger. However the police continued the attack.

These road blockades, and this police attack, do not come out of nowhere. Comrades in Foreman Road have been organising and protesting for land and housing, and in defence of their human dignity since 2005. They have suffered a number of serious police attacks over the years.

The new administration that came to power after the local government elections in August 2016 promised to break with this history of repression and begin negotiations with our movement. The new mayor even made public apologies for the repression in the past, which had included assassinations. Meetings were held with us and several promises were also made in the media to commit the city to work and engage meaningfully with our movement. We knew we had no reason to trust her, or any politician, but we thought it was fair to give her a chance especially as our first woman mayor and as someone who participated in shack dwellers’ struggles in the 1980s.

All kinds of promises were made. She promised to give 10 000 elderly people blankets for winter but when there were no blankets given, and a protest, only 250 were given. She promised to facilitate the healing of families who were tortured, repressed, driven from their homes, evicted and even had family members killed during the previous administration. She also promised that her administration will come up with a clear and clean program of action that will see Abahlali baseMjondolo, and all organised impoverished communities, participating in the running of the city. The mayor has failed to fulfill all of her promises and now she does not even have time to answer calls. She has proven to be be just another politician. We are back to the politic of lies and police. We are back to the demand for dignity being met with violence and death.

The Foreman Road Abahlali branch organised a road blockade on Tuesday because their urgent demands had been ignored. They delivered a memorandum of demands. The City was given at least three days to respond.  As usual the community was ignored. If you are black and impoverished you count for nothing in this country unless there is no election coming in which case people will lie to you and give you food to get your vote. This morning at around 5am another road blockade was conducted to force the city to engage meaningfully with peoples’ demands. Instead the police were sent to create violence and enforce repression. Suddenly we do not have leaders who have been voted to run the city, we have police to protect the politicians and ensure that repression can be used to defend oppression.

We demand that the mayor and her administration must stop to run our city with lies. The mayor has lied to us for too far enough to be allowed to continue. It is our duty to help her stop lying to the eThekwini residents. Our country cannot be ruled by leaders of low morals who think that lies can be the order of the day.

The road blockade is the new legitimate language that the politicians have endorsed as new tool for oppressed people to be heard.

We refuse to accept that our oppression is normal, that it is something to be lived and suffered in silence. We demand that our lives must count that same as all other human lives. We demand that the life of Jayden Khoza must count the same as that of every other human being.

  1. We demand to be treated and engaged with respect and dignity
  2. We demand collective land title in all land occupations and decent democratically planned and developed housing for all.
  3. We demand electricity as human beings
  4. We demand jobs that are not only given to ANC volunteers while the rest of us left to rot.
  5. We demand an end to repression and justice for Jayden Khoza.

AbM is updating at its facebook page.