DURBAN, June 26– About 700 members of shack dwellers movement Abahlali Basemjondolo on Monday marched to Durban City Hall to protest mayor Zandile Gumede’s “politics of lies and oppression”.
“This protest is about the latest brutal evictions and killings of our members that have been taking place within the last two weeks within the city, where one of our own was killed in Ward 15 by eThekwini municipality’s land invasion unit,” Abahlali’s general secretary, Thapelo Mohapi, told the African News Agency (ANA).
Mohapi further cited the death of two-week-old baby Jayden Khoza who was killed at the Foreman Road informal settlement in late May during clashes between police and residents after a service delivery protest turned ugly.
Community members believe the child died from inhaling teargas, but the State pathologist ruled the death to be of natural causes.
Abahlali said it would be hiring a private pathologist to determine the cause of Jayden’s death, but Mohapi told ANA that those results “were not yet ready”. The results received from the State pathologist “are not legitimate”, he said.
In a press release issued prior to Monday’s march, Mohapi accused Gumede of “lying to us several times”.
“She promised to engage and commit her administration to work with Abahlali on a clear programme of action that will see the lives of shack dwellers changing, but her administration failed even to produce a plan and status of each settlement,” he said.
The return of “armed, violent and illegal evictions” had led to the death of Samuel Hloele in eMansenseni informal settlement in June, with other shack dwellers seriously injured, he alleged.
“All our efforts to engage the mayor on these matters are either falling on deaf ears or we are lied to,” he said.
Abahlali claims to be apolitical and says it has 35,000 members. Its memorandum of demands was expected to be handed to the mayor at City Hall on Monday afternoon.