Monday 20 August 2012

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Clairwood Ratepayers and Residents Association 

City shys away from engagement with south Durban community

Durban, South Africa, 20 August 2012 – Lack of engagement between eThekwini Municipality officials and the people of south Durban around the proposed spatial development plans continues. Scores of the most vulnerable living in Clairwood’s informal settlements filled the Clairwood Tamil Institute Hall on the evening of 16 August only to be told that city officials had cancelled.

120 people gathered for the meeting, the group largely made up of those already challenged with marginalisation and instability in Clairwood as a result of not having access to a safe and secure home or a constant income. And they will be the first people to be directly affected by the relocations as they live in tents, shacks and some rent from landlords are seen as ‘easy to move’ targets. 

The city is aware that hundreds of people have been housed in transit camps or other temporary housing conditions for eight years, yet the latest Integrated Development Plan indicates that they must continue to wait for another 80 years for houses.

This is not the first time that the city has not met with residents. On 30 July, the city and Transnet had been invited to attend and present at a meeting in Merebank, as part of a series of community meetings held by the south Durban organisations to discuss the plans with residents. The officials declined to attend the meeting, and instead suggested residents and organisations attend meetings that they would be holding. In another case, despite a two-week advance notice, Transnet did not attend a protest march by south Durban residents on Saturday 21 April to receive a memorandum of grievances. It was only once the protestors had left that Port Manager Ricky Bhikraj arrived.

South Durban communities have previously complained about the type of engagement the city has attempted with them; vital documents provided on the day of the meeting to the people only in English, and often in a highly technical language which most people cannot understand. They believe it is part of the city’s plan to keep them in the dark about the reality of the plans.

Clairwood residents will be the first to be removed in the proposed spatial developments that are set to change the face of the south Durban basin forever. People’s homes and their community will supposedly be transformed into a ‘logistics centre’, which will bring in more industry-related impacts such as social dislocation and environmental degradation. Whilst the city, national government and big business remain focus on goals of economic growth, these residents are asking at what cost to the social, historical and environment that have been part of this area’s identity for decades.

Speaking about previous forced removals and developments that are fundamental to the historical narrative of the south Durban area, Desmond D’Sa from SDCEA highlighted: “These plans are the next biggest challenge south Durban residents will fight in their life time and this struggled should be equated with that of the masses who struggled during apartheid”.

It is clear, however, that removal of the people of Clairwood will not be an isolated incident. Residents and small businesses throughout the south Durban area will be affected in various ways, including further removals. 

CONTACTS

Desmond D’SA, SDCEA Co-ordinator at             031 461 1991       desmond@sdceango.co.za 

Priya Pillay, SDCEA Project officer at             031 461 1991       priya@sdceango.co.za