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South Africa: Dishonest statements by MEC Ravi Pillay

On 13 February the Durban High Court granted our movement an interdict against the eThekwini municipality’s repeated violent and illegal evictions against the eKhenana land occupation in Cato Crest. The interdict protects 109 named families against illegal eviction.

Submitted to Enough 14.

Note: Enough 14 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.

The roots of this occupation are in the corruption of the local ANC. When housing was provided in the area the process was corrupt and some people were left homeless.

After the interdict was granted to our movement the local the local ANC councillor Mzi Ngiba encouraged, and in some cases forced, his followers to occupy land to try and undermine the court process. This caused division in the ANC in the city with Ngiba supporting the new occupation organised to disrupt the court process and the Mayor and other senior people in the party opposing it.

On 22 February the Municipality went to court to seek an order to evict Ngiba’s ANC people. They were successful. When we are evicted the Municipality just sends in armed men to attack us. There is never a court order. We were pleased that they were now going through the court and hope that they will do this for all occupiers in the future.

The court directed officials of the Land Invasion Unit and leaders of Abahlali to hold a site inspection in order to establish the exact demarcation of the property so that 109 families protected by the court order cannot be mistakenly evicted when the City evicts Ngiba’s ANC comrades.

On 27 February provincial MEC for housing Ravi Pillay published an article in the Mercury. This article contains two deliberately dishonest and defamatory statements about our movement. The first line of the article states that: “Last Friday, the Durban High Court granted an order to eThekwini Municipality against Abahlali baseMjondolo and a large number of land invaders.” As Ravi Pillay is well aware the court order does not give permission to evict members of our movement. It was granted against Ngiba’s ANC comrades.

How can the court issue an interdict protecting Abahlali members against the Municipality on 13 February and then, on 27 February, issued an order to evict the same people? The truth is that Ngiba encouraged and forced some people to occupy land to undermine the interdict won by our movement and the Municipality than won an order to evict Ngiba’s people. This is the first time that we are aware of them seeking an order to evict.

Further down in his article Pillay makes a second dishonest and defamatory statement. He writes that: “We are pleased that a Mr Zondi who was an office-bearer of Abahlali baseMjondolo was arrested and convicted last year for selling land unlawfully and sentenced to three-year imprisonment.”

We issued a press statement about this matter on 13 March 2018. We made it clear that Zondi was not a member of our movement, that he was falsely claiming to be a member of our movement and that we condemned his corruption in the same way that we always condemn corruption. We stated that: “We welcome his arrest and hope that there will also be an effective prosecution and a conviction.”

At the time we were negotiating with Pillay, who has often been willing to negotiate with us when the Municipality in Durban has not been willing to negotiate. We worked closely with the provincial Department of Human Settlements to have Zondi arrested for selling land on our name. We were the ones that raised this matter with the Department.

Pillay’s claim that Zondi ‘was an office-bearer’ of our movement is completely untrue and Pillay is being dishonest when he leaves out the fact that we were the ones who raised this matter with his Department in the first place.

We understand that Pillay is under huge pressure from the rate payers’ associations who are opposed to the escalation of land occupations in the province. But we cannot allow him to spread lies about our movement in order to cover for himself.

Today, a former member of our movement is expected to appear in Durban Magistrate court on charges of selling land and collecting membership fees in the name of our movement. We first heard about this from concerned community members in December last year. We immediately launched an internal investigation about these allegations and we found them to be true. We are the one who then approached the MEC’s office and the police to report this matter after which the police took over the investigation. One of the two individuals has been arrested and will appear in Durban Magistrate court this morning. We are happy to say that, this was a joint effort between our office, the MEC’s office and the police. We trust that Pillay will be honest about this.

We are opposed to the commodification of land and to all forms of corruption whether by the state, the ruling party, NGOs or other impoverished people. Many people join our movement because of their experience of corruption in the ANC and we will never tolerate any corruption in our movement or in the name of our movement.

Zondi was not a member of our movement. The person who will appear in court today is a former member of our movement. In 2014 a person who was a member of our movement was charging membership fees at an inflated rate and collecting money from a community facing evictions which she said was for lawyers. We only work with pro bono lawyers and, in this case, there were in fact no lawyers. We held an internal inquiry and expelled that person. These facts are well known.

Last year it became clear that a small group of people in our movement had been offered a deal involving the National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA (Nafupa-SA) and VBS bank to sell our movement to the pro-Zuma forces. Those individuals were recalled from their positions by a popular vote at an open assembly following which they resigned from the movement. These facts are also well known.

We are fundamentally opposed to corruption and when it has appeared in our movement we have acted against it immediately and decisively.

Ravi Pillay has often been one of the few people in the ANC that we can negotiate with. We are very disappointed that he has chosen to resort to blatant dishonesty. He holds an important position in our society at a time when escalating land occupations are resulting in increasing social tensions between the middle classes and the poor. We hope that he will be willing to conduct himself with integrity in the future.

We trust that Pillay will apologise for making dishonest and defamatory statements about our movement and that the Mercury will issue an apology for publishing false and defamatory statements.

We reiterate our position that land, wealth and power must be shared fairly and that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

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