Jika Joe Residents Grab the Bull by the Horns

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Source: Abahlali baseMjondolo

On Thursday morning residents of the Jika Joe settlement in the Msunduzi Municipality blockaded the roads leading into Pietermaritzburg, the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal. They shut down the city.

The army was brought in but it was the taxi mafia that actually attacked the protestors. Sandiso Mazendala was shot after drivers from the Masukwana taxi rank opened fire at protestors after they refused to dismantle a blockade. They also assaulted Bongekile Madlala. Mazendala is in a critical condition in Northdale hospital.

Our movement has a strong branch in Jika Joe. It is an old settlement. It was there in 1994. Residents here have faced numerous fires, as well as floods, and fought battles against the landlords, the taxi mafia, the ANC and the state. There have been long periods when repression by the landlords, backed up by the taxi mafia and the ANC, made autonomous organising impossible.

Some people have lived their whole lives in filth and squalor in this settlement. The branch chairperson Zodwa Kweyama grew up there and both her parents died there. As she bravely told the media after the blockade the municipality has refused to engage the residents seriously and honestly and residents have now made it clear that they will accept nothing but well located and decent housing. Their dignity is not negotiable. They will refuse to continue to accept humiliation and dehumanization.

More than 3 000 households have been living under very dangerous, unhealthy and undignified conditions and yet the municipality refuses to engage them with seriousness and respect. They have been constantly lied to and undermined.

Zodwa, making it clear that she spoke as an elected leader in a mass democratic movement, sent a letter to Mr. Mbanjwa at the Human Settlements Department on 20 December last year listing the most pressing issues for the residents and requesting an urgent meeting. There was no response.

Three years ago, the municipality started building flats in a nearby piece of land with the promise that the community would be relocated. However, now that these flats are complete the municipality says that they will be allocated to people who can afford rent. This is not what was said when this project was first introduced.

The municipality is now talking about building ‘transit camps’ for the community with another empty promise that they will be building low cost housing far from the area. Even if these houses are built one day people can’t live far from schools, work and family, friends and comrades.

People who have been lied to are now told to accept ‘transit camps’, which are nothing but government shacks, something that the ANC took straight from the apartheid state. ‘Transit camps’ are not fit for human beings.

Across this province ‘temporary housing’ has become permanent. We have seen this in Foreman Road, Barcelona 2, Isipingo and many areas where we organise that once people agree to be relocated to ‘transit camps’, they live there for the rest of their lives.

The community of Jika Joe demands that they be allocated the 400 flats that are already built and that were promised to them, and that more houses are built to accommodate the rest of the community. Decent housing must be a right for everyone, not something only available to those who can pay.

Youth unemployment in South Africa is just under 75%. Total unemployment is just under 47%. More black people are unemployed than in work. In a social crisis like this commodification of accessing to housing, land, water, electricity, education and food can only mean exclusion and suffering.

After the road blockades shut the city down the municipality were suddenly running around like crazy horses trying to set up negotiations. Suddenly the Speaker was able to address the community. The Speaker has promised to come back to the community after she has engaged with the officials.

Once again we see that it is only when people take to the street and blockade roads that the government is willing to engage with them. It is the only language that the ANC led government understands. They only take us seriously when we force them to take us seriously.

Our thoughts and solidarity are with Sandiso Mazendala as he lies in the hospital. It has
Long been the case that the thugs in the taxi industry are used to advance the interests of corrupt politicians. We have lost many comrades that were killed by taxi mafias.

We call on the Msunduzi Municipality to address the needs of the community. We are tired of living like pigs in the mud. We cannot allow our humanity to vandalised like this year after year, from 1994 to 2022.

Ukubamba inkunzi ngezimpondo

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