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South Africa: Land Occupations are Urban Land Reform from Below

Abahlali are pleased to announce that there has been remarkable progress in the eNkanini settlement in Cato Manor over the past two weeks. The MEC for Human Settlement and Public Works in KwaZulu-Natal Mr. Ravi Pillay has intervened in the brutal evictions and violation of a court interdict by eThekwini Land Invasion Unit.

Submitted to Enough is Enough. Press release by Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of  these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Land Occupations are Urban Land Reform from Below but Sale of Land is Criminal

Abahlali are pleased to announce that there has been remarkable progress in the eNkanini settlement in Cato Manor over the past two weeks. The MEC for Human Settlement and Public Works in KwaZulu-Natal Mr. Ravi Pillay has intervened in the brutal evictions and violation of a court interdict by eThekwini Land Invasion Unit. 

After several discussions with the Provincial government Abahlali has reached an agreement with the Province that violence cannot build our city, our province and our country. What has in fact been lacking is proper leadership on the side of the eThekwini Municipality. They believe in violence and disregard of the rule of law. As a result many activists have been injured, tortured, arrested and even killed despite the court interdict protecting 241 families that our movement has secured from the Durban High Court.

We have reached an agreement that the evictions in the eNkanini Land Occupation will be stopped. We have both negotiated in good faith to an extent that we began a registration process of all residents of eNkanini and that process has been concluded. We were very happy with this process because all families participated and no one was left out. We have also agreed that interim services such as water and sanitation will soon be installed in this settlement.

A Mr. Zondi has been caught by police selling piece of land in and around Cato Manor. We have heard that he has claimed to be part of Abahlali baseMjondolo. We do know Zondi. He approached us for assistance some time ago when the Land Invasion Unit was illegally destroying homes in Cato Manor. However we were later told that he had left back to his rural home in Msinga and that he had a house in Bonela. He has not been to any of our meetings since and we have had no further contact with him. He is not a resident of the eNkanini Land Occupation. His name does not appear on the list of people cited in the court order.

Our chairperson in eNkanini remembers that on the day that he was shot by the Land Invasion Unit, 17 April 2017, Zondi was holding a meeting elsewhere in Cato Manor and asking people to pay R200 to get the support of the movement. Zondi also told people that he has a relative in the Municipality that would ensure that people got help in exchange for a bribe. We have since heard of Zondi running meetings in different settlements claiming to be part of Abahlali and charging people money for pieces of land. We have made it clear to our members that he does not represent our movement and that he is engaging in dishonest and corrupt activities.

From the outset our movement has been militantly opposed to corruption. That includes all forms of corruption from above, such as the selling of government houses, something that has been rampant in Cato Manor. But it also includes corruption from below, such as selling access to land.

We do not believe that land should be bought and sold and we hold firm to our position that the social value of land must come before its commercial value. It is especially outrageous when people try to exploit the desperation of impoverished people by selling land to them. Our ongoing membership audit is not complete but, so far, it shows that we have currently have 44 294 members in good standing in 47 branches in good standing. All of our members and branches are made aware of our political positions when branches are launched, when we hold political education meetings and in branch meetings, assemblies, camps etc. Those positions include a clear rejection of the commodification of land and a clear rejection of all forms of corruption.

We have a democratically elected and legitimate branch of our movement in good standing in eNkanini and Zondi is not part of it. He has no claim to represent our movement and we reject his actions as firmly as those of the Municipal and party officials engaged in corruption. We welcome his arrest and hope that there will also be an effective prosecution and a conviction.

This is not the first time that individuals have falsely claimed to represent our movement. As we have noted before there have been cases in which NGOs have employed people and sent them to all kinds of meetings, including international meetings, while claiming that they are members of our movement whereas in fact they have never held membership in our movement.

We are also happy to hear that a police investigation may lead to the arrests of more people involved in this act of corruption. We remain committed to the principle that the social value of land must come before its commercial value. Occupation, which is expropriation from below, is the organised decommodification of land. Corruption that results in the selling of land and housing, whether from above or below, is the informal recommodification of land.

Land & Dignity!


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