South Africa: Fire at Cato Crest occupation in Durban

A fire that broke out in the early hours of yesterday morning has left more than 70 families without homes in our Marikana occupation in Cato Crest. Many people were not in their homes when the fire took place at around 5 a.m. today. Many are away in the rural areas with their families who they have not seen for a long time as a result of the lock down. These families will be coming back to ashes in what used to be their homes.

All the families were unable to take out their possessions or save their building materials. They lost everything. Most were away and others, who were at the occupation, could not save their possessions or building material because the fire was so strong. The situation is very difficult at the moment as many people have lost their jobs as a result of the Corona virus lockdown which had a devastating impact on the economy.

Apart from facing the economic decline, job losses and the pandemic we in the shacks are facing fires which leaves us destitute. This is because decent housing and services are not provided. These fires are taking place at a time when we are supposed to be with our families in the rural areas. To us happiness is a dream even at a time when people are in joyous times.

Our movement has been working to politicise the understanding of shack fires for 15 years. They are not accidents or tragedies. They are a direct result of oppression. We are left to burn because we do not count as human beings to this society and this government.

We continue to burn in the shacks of indignity during these trying times when the world is facing a serious pandemic that has taken many lives. For many years the local leadership of Abahlali in Cato Crest have tried to engage with the ward councillor, Mzi Mnguni, on the issue of electrifying the settlement. This has not born any fruit as the ward councillor has always been against the Marikana occupation. Many of the people who are living in the occupation were left out of the housing project nearby because they were not members of the ANC. Instead of services being provided to us we are attacked by the Anti Land Invasion Unit and the local hit men. Our struggle for land and dignity is responded to with regular violence from the state and the ruling part.

These attacks have led to many members being injured or killed. Our homes are not regarded as important because they do not “have value” on the market. That’s why they are destroyed by the municipality with impunity. That’s why the fire emergency services do not come on time when we are burning. That is why disaster management will only respond 48 hours after we have been burnt. Our lives continue to be vandalised by this government.

We do not matter in the eyes of this government. We have to rebel.

This is a very difficult time in our country, especially for the poor and working class. We appeal to those who can extend their hands in these trying times in our country to offer whatever solidarity they can. We urgently need building materials in the form zinc, poles, etc. so that we can rebuild our homes and our lives. We also need clothes and food for the kids.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, December 28, 2020.