eThekwini fuels strife with shack dwellers’ group
THE eThekwini Municipality has fuelled rising tension with shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) by accusing it of being controlled by an outside force.
During an Executive Committee (Exco) meeting yesterday the city effectively sidelined AbM and said in future it would deal with the South African Shack Dwellers’ International Alliance (Sasdia), an umbrella network of non-government organisations which helps communities in various ways.
EThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede said they had worked hard to reach an agreement with Sasdia because there seemed to be a “third hand” behind AbM’s actions and it was better to deal with an umbrella body like Sasdia.
ANC Exco councillor Nelly Nyanisa accused AbM leader S’bu Zikode of being “hellbent” on making the city ungovernable.
”We will deal with them,” she said.
The city has a strained relationship with AbM and the two parties have faced off in the high court over alleged land invasions.
Accusations that Zikode was being controlled did not sit well with AbM, but the group’s spokesperson, Thapelo Mohapi, said they were not surprised.
“It’s not the first time it has been said that we are being controlled by a third force. It is actually undermining black people to say that they can’t question or create their own bodies. When you question authority, when you expose corruption and the way things are being done, then they say there is a third force.”
Mohapi said this implied that black people could not do anything for themselves and needed help from other race groups or assistance from overseas.
“What Exco is doing is creating division between poor people.”
He said they were open to work- ing with the municipality but would not tolerate corruption and unkept promises.
Mohapi said AbM had a cordial relationship with Sasdia and had been in contact with them as recently as last month.
DA councillor Heinz de Boer yesterday said he was not happy with the way in which the city had secured an agreement with Sasdia and excluded AbM.
“It is a smack in the face, really… The mayor’s comments are cheap politicking.”
De Boer said AbM was one of the biggest organisations in eThekwini and in the province and should have been consulted.
“The matter is that Abahlali does not back down from the ANC and tells it as it is,” he said.
Samke Phewa from the Community Organisation Resource Centre, which falls under Sasdia, said the agreement with the municipality was at the draft stage and was with the municipality’s legal department.
She said it was the culmination of years of effort to try to form a relationship with the city.
Phewa said they would be happy once the agreement was signed and in use.
The programme would include helping people to help themselves. She said this entailed communities starting projects with the help of the city.
The community would also do surveys where they would detail their urgent needs, which would be taken to the municipality.
They would also be looking to get informal settlements upgraded and supplied with better services, she said.