19 March 2013
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
Nigel Gumede Must Go
Everyone knows how serious the land and housing crisis is in Durban. According to the eThekwini Municipality there are more than 400 000 shack dwellers waiting for houses in the city. There are also 11 000 families rotting in transit camps. But the city is failing to build enough houses for the people. The Sunday Tribune reported that they only built 1 268 houses in the last financial year. And these houses are more like dog kennels than homes. Every year money from the housing budget is returned unspent. And after the scandals around the Manase report, Nqola and S'bu and Shauwn Mpisane everyone knows how bad the corruption is. Many people have been killed in struggles over housing. Cato Crest is just one example. We have also seen people being killed in places like KwaNdengezi and Uganda. Calls, letters and marches to the housing department go ignored. Court orders are also ignored. We have called for a public citywide list for the people in need of housing so that there could be transparency in the housing allocation. But the politicians refuse this idea so they can corrupt, monopolize and politicise housing delivery.
All of this clearly shows the failure of the housing department under Nigel Gumede. There is something very seriously wrong when people are living under the shadow of death in a democracy. Gumede is looking for someone to blame for this failure and he has chosen to blame 'criminals' and 'migrants'. We keep hearing in the media that he is blaming 'criminals' and 'migrants' for the land and housing crisis. He says that land occupations shack lords, and he says that migrants from the Eastern Cape are causing the backlog in housing delivery. Sometimes he says that people from small villages in rural KwaZulu-Natal are also part of the problem but his focus on people from the Eastern Cape is clear.
His comments are very dangerous to the nation that is still reeling from the so-called xenophobic attacks of May 2008. It is well known that Gumede has hatred for people coming from the Eastern Cape. After the attacks on our movement in Kennedy Road in 2009, attacks that were organised on an ethnic basis, he came to the settlement and said that Mpondo people “use dangerous muthi”. A person with these prejudices is not a suitable person to be governing the city. And Gumede is not the only politician to blame the land and housing crisis on migrants. Some councilors, in Mayville have made similar comments and the Mayor, James Nxumalo, said the same thing in a mass meeting in Marianridge after the protests there. Nxumalo clearly said that the reason that there is a huge housing backlog in the city is that it is caused by the migrants coming to Durban.
The politicians are showing the person from the Eastern Cape as a person who is coming to Durban to steal your house. They are setting the stage for another attack, another war against people from the Eastern Cape or people from other countries.
After the attacks in Kennedy Road in 2009, attacks where our movement was said to be "an Mpondo organization", Gumede said that the people that were able to remain in the settlement would be housed by February 2010. It is 2013 and there is no development in Kennedy Road, or in Foreman Road, Jadhu Place, Pemary Ridge, Quarry Road, etc, etc. Is this the fault of people from the Eastern Cape? Even in places like Joe Slovo where houses are being built they remain in the hands of the people not in the area. We have proof that we have reported of the people whose homes were given to somebody else while the rightful owners remain in the shacks. But Gumede fails to investigate and correct this. Such corruption is rife in KwaNdengezi, Isipingo, Shallcross, Khulula, Joe Slovo, etc, etc. If the government is serious about fighting corruption they must come to us. We will gladly give them the information. Is this corruption the fault of people from the Eastern Cape? Is the enrichment of the Mpisane's in the name of the poor the fault of people from the Eastern Cape?
And we know exactly where this idea that African people must remain in rural areas comes from. Like the transit camp it comes straight from colonialism and apartheid. Once again Gumede's comments raise the question of whether he is fit to hold his position in our lifetime.
The idea that land invasions are all organized by criminals who want to be shack lords is also a colonial idea. No one likes to live in a shack. People come to the city because they are looking for jobs. People move to shack settlements or occupy land because they have no other alternatives. The people that are really profiting from the suffering of the poor in this city are people like Cllr Nqola or S'bu and Shaunn Mpisane and there are many Mpisane's in this city. And the City represses democratic organisations in the shack settlements and supports authoritarian organizations that take their own little share of the corruption in exchange for controlling the people for the politicians. It is clear that Gumede is collaborating with people like Nqola in KwaNdengezi who rule through the barrel of a gun.
Why does Gumede want to deal with shacks with bulldozers? Why does he say that security must be “beefed up”? Gumede says that everyone that opposes evictions is a shack lord. But each shack is home to its own human life. No one can support an eviction that leaves them homeless. Gumede thinks that the land and housing crisis can be dealt with by more security, more evictions and more repression. However it is clear that the only solution is more land and more housing.
Everybody knows that Gumede is a Big Man. He wants to show what a Big Man he is. He wants to show that he doesn't respect his own Mayor, that he doesn't respect court orders. On his understanding his success as a politician is demonstrated by showing that he doesn't have to abide by the law.
It would be good to hear from the City at what stage will they consider Gumede to be a failure? How many people must rot in transit camps, die in fires, be evicted, arrested or assassinated before they will consider Gumede to be a failure?
Thembinkosi Qumbelo would be alive today if the housing department had a leader of a human nature.
Evictions are a curse. Transit camps are a curse. No politician that keeps evicting and keeps building transit camps can be said to be a servant of the people.
We do not see Nigel Gumede as a leader. We see him as an oppressor. And it is not just our movement that sees Gumede in this way. In settlements across the city people see him as a gangster, as a person to be feared, as a threat to society.
Nigel Gumede's statements are insulting and dangerous. We will continue calling and working for the unity of the poor. A person is a person where ever they find themselves and all people have the same right to decent housing. The government has failed to address the land question and there can be no resolution of the housing question if the land question is not resolved. We will continue to struggle for the social value of land to come before its commercial value and for the social value of land occupations to be recognized.
The occupation of vacant land is a political act. It is an act that can take us towards a more just city. When the government fails people will come up with their own ideas and they will implement them. When the government violates the law and evicts people, leaving them homeless, as in Cato Crest, then the people will not accept to be told that they alone must respect the law.
When will the Municipality and the ANC take action against Nigel Gumede? We are calling on them to act before there is further bloodshed. If we had strong and honest leadership that respected everyone's right to the city we would not be living in the shadow of death.
We pass our condolences to Thembinkosi Qumbelo's family. We don't know the truth of what happened in Cato Crest. There are many different stories. But we know that he was at the centre of the housing struggle in Cato Crest before joining the ANC. We also note that he was Xhosa speaking. We call for a credible and public investigation into his death. This city cannot afford another political killing to be swept under the carpet or for the police to fabricate evidence once again.
For comment and further information please contact:
Bandile Mdlalose – 071 424 2815
Mazwi Nzimande – 031 304 6420
S'bu Zikode – 083 547 0474