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Tuesday, 19 August 2008
LPM Protea South Press Release

The Protea South Branch of the Landless People’s Movement Has Won a Breakthrough Court Order Against the City of Johannesburg

Since 2003 the Landless People’s Movement in the Protea South shack settlement in Soweto has been trying, without success, to engage the City of Johannesburg around the future of the settlement. The Protea South LPM branch has clear demands:

1. There must be no evictions.

2. Every effort must be made to build houses for the people in Protea South.

3. If it is genuinely not possible to build houses for all residents in Protea South then discussions must be held to find the closest possible alternative site.

4. The settlement must receive all essential services while waiting for housing development.

5. All planning for the development of the settlement must be undertaken with and not for the residents.

It has become clear to the LPM that the City of Johannesburg does not take shack dwellers as human beings. It has become clear that the City will have to be forced to recognise the humanity of shack dwellers. It has become clear that the City will have to be forced to learn to think with and not for shack dwellers.

All requests for discussion have been ignored. All protests have been violently repressed. Activists, their families and journalists have been arrested, assaulted and intimidated.

For instance on 1 October 2006 over 100 SAPS officers from Protea North Station raided the settlement one day after over one-thousand residents marched in Johannesburg to demand housing. The raid resulted in the beating and pepper-spraying of the 16-year son of the LPM Protea South’s Chairperson. The incident marked the second time the Chairperson’s children have been targeted for assault by the police. At one point in the raid, police opened fire on peaceful residents, but only succeeded in shooting one of their own officers.

On the 5th of September 2007 the Freedom of Expression Institute made the following comments in a statement:

FXI staff were eyewitnesses to acts of police harassment against Protea South residents Monday morning. Maureen Mnisi, a community leader and Gauteng Chairperson of the Landless People’s Movement, was arrested while trying to speak with the media. She and at least five other community members were taken into custody and released, without being charged, after spending the night in jail. FXI staff overheard a police captain admitting that he had “always wanted to arrest” Mnisi.

We were shocked by the police violence. SAPS members fired at random towards the protesters, leaving the pavement covered with the blue casings of rubber bullets. Police also deployed a helicopter and water cannon, and we saw at least two officers using live ammunition. One Protea South resident, Mandisa Msewu, was shot in the mouth by a rubber bullet, and several other residents were attended to by paramedics due to police violence.

There has not been any apology from the City for all of this illegal violence and intimidation. In June this year the City of Johannesburg issued a press statement in which they said that Gauteng MEC for housing, Nomvula Mokonyane “warned those who attempted to derail service delivery. ‘We should be on the lookout for those people who always try but fail to destabilise our commitment to provide decent houses for our people’.”

These attitudes have forced the LPM to approach the High Court. The matter was heard in the High Court on 12 August and judgment was handed down on the same day. The court has ordered that the City of Johannesburg must, within one month:

1. Provide evidence of its plans to provide life saving basic services to the settlement including water, toilets, refuse removal, lighting and access road for emergency vehicles.

2. Provide evidence of its plans to provide housing for the residents and, in particular, to show what steps it has taken to explore the possibility of in-situ development and/or relocation to a site or sites as close as possible to the Protea South settlement.

The full text of the order is available in pdf here and attached below.

The LPM welcomes the judgment as do Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign. The LPM would like to thank Moray Hathorn of the Webber Wentzel law firm for his pro bono work.

The LPM will, together with its allied movements, continue to struggle for land and housing in the cities and radical land reform in the rural areas. The struggle will be waged in the settlements, in the streets and in the courts.

For comment on this judgment please contact:

Maureen Mnisi, Protea South Branch of the Landless Peoples’ Movement: 0823374514.

Moray Hawthorn, Webber Wentzel Law Firm: 0832661081

S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo: 0835470474

Ashraf Cassiem, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign: 0824805489

Attachment Size
LPM_Court Order.pdf 70.71 KB
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