Durban authorities illegally evict shack dwellers with army and police despite Covid-19 lockdown

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Shack dweller family in Durban, South Africa. Photo: Abahlali baseMondjolo
5,430 people signed the petition calling for an immediate end to all evictions of shack dwellers in Durban, South Africa.

Durban authorities are continuing to evict shack dwellers despite a national Covid-19 lockdown issued by the South African government. The city government have used the police, the army and private security to carry out a series of violent and illegal evictions, leaving people injured and homeless.

The eThekwini Municipality, which governs Durban, started the first round of ‘unlawful’ evictions on 27 March, the first day of the national lockdown, employing private security firm Calvin Security. At least eight homes were demolished in this first wave, with one resident hospitalised, according to the movement of Shack Dwellers (Abahlali baseMondjolo).

The latest round of evictions occurred just yesterday. In this fourth wave of attacks, the municipality employed the police and the army, prompting Abahlali baseMondjolo to state that the eThekwini Municipality government is “using the lockdown to wage a war against our movement”.

The Women's League of Abahlali baseMondjolo said in a statement:

“It has been promised by national government that there will be no evictions during the lockdown. But by day five of the lockdown the eThekwini Municipality had already attacked us, violently, and unlawfully, three times. They destroyed our homes and left many people injured. It is very sad and unjustifiable what they are continuing to do to us as impoverished people. They are undermining us and rendering our rights useless even during this time of darkness, not only in our country but even globally. Is this happening because we are not counted as human?”

Ruth Ogier, Head of International Programmes at War on Want, said:

“These evictions are murderous. Communities living in informal settlements who have faced violent and illegal evictions for years are being targeted, leaving people injured and homeless when they are at their most vulnerable. The national government must step in to stop the evictions immediately.”

Update on 7 April 2020

There were even more evictions over the weekend. Our partners Abahlali baseMondjolo have described how residents were forced at gunpoint to delete evidence of the violent attacks. But the shack dwellers movement is fighting back, using media and the courts to challenge the actions of eThekwini Municipality. Their struggle for land, housing and dignity continues, and your solidarity is crucial.

5,430 people signed the petition calling for an immediate end to all evictions of shack dwellers in Durban. We have now submitted the petition to the South African President and UK Embassy. Thank you to those who took action in solidarity with Abahlali baseMondjolo.

7 April 2020

To the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa

Dear Mr President

Re: Stop eThekwini Municipality’s evictions of shack dwellers

I am writing on behalf of UK-based human rights charity, War on Want, to express our deep concern and worry for the citizens of eThekwini Municipality who are being violently evicted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 26 March you announced a 21-day lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and protect the citizens of South Africa. The Justice Minister Ronald Lamola also issued a directive under Regulation 10 of the Disaster Management Act, to halt all evictions until midnight on 16 April, or until the lockdown is lifted.

Yet at this time of national crisis we are appalled to learn that eThekwini Municipality is flouting the directives of your Government and instead of protecting citizens from the spread of Covid-19, it is violently evicting people living in Azania (Cato Manor) and Ekuphumeleleni (Mariannhill) resulting in increased numbers of hospitalisations and families being made homeless during the lockdown.

As news of the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of South Africa grows each day, the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against unarmed, men, women and children living in impoverished conditions is deeply shocking.

In three days 5,430 people have signed our petition in solidarity with shack dwellers and our partner Abahlali baseMjondolo asking for your immediate intervention to prevent eThekwini Municipality from launching any more evictions of people from Ekuphumeleleni, Azania and any other informal settlements.

We hope you will listen to the concerns of our members and address the urgent needs of vulnerable South Africans.

Yours sincerely

Asad Rehman
War on Want

CC: Minister of Justice & Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola
Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu
Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala
MEC KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements, Ms Peggy Nkonyeni,
High Commissioner for South Africa to UK, Ms H.E. N Tambo