Shack dwellers up in arms
There was a tense stand-off between protesters and police when members of the Abahlali baseMjondolo took to the streets of Durban yesterday to demand that the government take action to help the poor and homeless.
Shop owners closed their doors when the police tested their water spray trucks and cordoned off roads with a heavily armed police force when the marchers stormed down West Street.
The march by the Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers association) and Rural Network had to be diverted from the Durban City Hall, with the police and marchers squaring off. Earlier city officials had obtained a court order to prevent protesters from gathering near the city hall.
The protesters, whose main demand was housing, converged on Albert Park in Durban to voice their grievances.
Abahlali baseMjondolo president S'bu Zikode said: "We are not just asking for housing, we are marching for human dignity, respect, equality and justice.
"Of course we would like basic services like shelter and toilets, but our concerns are much bigger than that. The land and the wealth of this country must be shared equally."
"It's a disgrace and an insult that our city manager, Mike Sutcliffe, has not allowed us to march to public buildings and is violating our human rights on Human Rights Day. The city hall is a public building," Zikode said.
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Poor People's Alliance, Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Landless People's Movement in Gauteng showed their solidarity with the protesters by marching with them.
In a hard-hitting memorandum Abahlali baseMjondolo said: "For too long those of us living in shacks have suffered without enough water and without toilets, electricity, refuse collection and drainage.
"Therefore we demand decent social services in all our communities so that we can live in safety, health and dignity."
Allience Coordinator Desmond de called on the crowds to boycott the 2010 World Cup.
"The government has failed the poor of this country. They have taken money that was meant for us and used if for the 2010 World Cup.
"We will boycott the Soccer World Cup because it is not for us. We must not go to the stadiums because there is a constant onslaught on the poor."