Statement issued by eThekwini Mayor, Cllr James Nxumalo
 
We have called this media briefing to clarify issues relating to recent protests and present the City’s standpoint on these matters.
 
Over the past few months the Municipality has experienced a number of protests in several settlements around the City, the most notable being the situation at Cato Crest. Subsequently, we have noticed different groupings entering the fray and making comments that were mainly not based on facts as well as perpetuating wild and baseless allegations. These range from newspaper editorials to commentaries by certain academics as well as the media statements issued by the General Council of the Bar of South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal Church Leaders. While we do respect these groups and individuals’ right to freedom of expression, however, given the positions that they hold in society and the kind of influence and authority that comes with their positions, one would have expected them to base their commentaries on proven facts and to look at both sides of the coin; instead of allowing themselves to be fed with lies and misinformation and present it as facts.
 
It is however not our intention to engage in a public spat with them, but to engage with these learned colleagues so that we could clarify our positions on this matter.
 
Ladies and gentlemen of the media
Our intention this morning is to give a detailed report on what the Municipality is doing to address the housing backlog and to fast-track service delivery. We must state upfront that, like any other Metropolitan Municipality, eThekwini Municipality is facing a huge challenge of urbanisation, which results in the migration of people from different areas of our province and elsewhere, in search of better opportunities. This results in the mushrooming of informal settlements which adds to the current backlog.
 
It is also important to mention the fact that eThekwini remains with the best service delivery record when it comes to housing. The fact that our Municipality’s human settlements programme won the Metro Category for two years in a row in the Govan Mbeki Human Settlements Awards bears testimony to our commitment to service delivery. In fact eThekwini Municipality remains the highest performing Metro in terms of housing delivery despite some of the compliance challenges that we encountered in the recent past. Conversely, it is this very impressive housing delivery record that attracts people to our City.
 
Let me now turn to the issue of Land Invasion
Partially, the growing number of people who move into eThekwini with the hope of quick access to houses and economic opportunities has resulted in an upsurge in the number of land invasions across the City. The Land Invasion Unit has had to deal with a number of cases of people who have attempted to occupy pieces of vacant land with the hope that this will force the City’s hand into providing houses and services ahead of others. What compounds the matter is that there are groups, including political parties, who have been encouraging people to invade land and spread a lot of misinformation, thereby raising people’s hopes and expectations unnecessarily.
 
Council adopts a zero tolerance approach to land invasion and is committed to putting an end to this practice. A decision has been taken that we will no longer tolerate the mushrooming of new informal settlements and as such have utilised legal processes to stop the construction of new shacks as well as invasion of any state property. Whilst as government we remain acutely aware of the need for housing, we have a responsibility to implement governance instruments to ensure the solutions that we provide are sustainable in every way – i.e. socially, economically and environmentally.
 
In cases of new land invasions, the Municipality is not obliged to prioritise the invaders for housing delivery nor will it be obliged to provide services like water, electricity and sanitation. I must emphasise that this only applies to people engaged in new land invasions. For people living in existing informal settlements we will continue with delivery plans that are already in place, including the provision of interim services like water, electricity and sanitation, which are presently being rolled out to different informal settlements in eThekwini.
 
Allow me to now address you on the issue of Cato Crest.
 
Firstly let me start by saying the recent developments in Cato Crest are most unfortunate. As the leadership of the Municipality we are very sensitive to the needs of the community, however, it pains us to see our beloved fellow citizens being used by people who push their own agendas whilst pretending to be fighting for the community.
 
The recent events in Cato Crest are as a result of attempts by groups of people to invade a piece of land that is owned by the Provincial Department of Human Settlements. Let me hasten to mention that the violent protests at Cato Manor cannot be classified as service delivery protests, given the fact that Cato Manor is one of the areas that has received a lot of development and there is compelling evidence to back what I am saying, as will be demonstrated below.
 
The Cato Manor in-situ upgrade project was initiated by the erstwhile Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA) and when the CMDA folded the project was taken over by eThekwini Municipality. In 2006 there were about 3500 families, and the current estimate stands at approximately 4000. The current in-situ project will yield about 1500 units with a budget of R113 million. Already 850 units have been built and allocated to beneficiaries, and services have been made available in the form of water, sanitation and roads. The balance of the work is in progress.
 
The above scenario means that the project will not be enough to cater for all residents and a further 2000 beneficiaries will have to the relocated to other housing projects. This includes the families currently staying in the local transit camp.
 
Hence it can only be prudent to conclude that the protests that we have seen in Cato Crest area cannot be linked to service delivery, however they are due to social instability in the area as people jostle to be among the first to benefit from the housing project. Development is taking place as we speak and evidence is there for everyone to see.
 
It is also a pity that certain organisations, in particular Abahlali Basemjondololo, have chosen to take advantage of the situation and stir up people’s emotions, obviously for their own benefit as they have to justify their existence to their funders. It also raises eyebrows that people who masquerade as representatives of shack dwellers do not live in those areas and have no understanding whatsoever of the difficulties that our people face on a daily basis.
 
Let me also touch on some key issues at Isiphingo Transit Camp and Kennedy Road respectively.
Isiphingo Transit Camp was created in 2009 as a transit facility for people who had to be moved from different areas for a variety of reasons. About 370 families were moved from KwaMnyandu station informal settlement for the upgrade of Umlazi Sports Complex ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. There were further relocations of about 150 families from Dakota Beach who were affected by the floods and storm disasters of 2009. Other beneficiaries were moved from areas like Bayhead, Hillary, J-Section Umlazi, Umbilo and Solomon Mahlangu. There were also invasions by people from surrounding informal settlements.
 
Currently there are 750 families residing in the camp. As the leadership of this Municipality we have acknowledged the fact that living conditions in that camp are not humane, as we have realized that the area where they were relocated to is unsuitable due to damages as witnessed during heavy storms.
 
It is clear that these families have to be relocated to a better place. From this week the Municipality has commenced with preparatory work for relocation.
 
The Municipality is presently engaging with residents about plans for their relocation and pieces of land have already been identified for feasibility assessments. It is worth mentioning that the Municipality is engaging with Isiphingo residents and report back sessions are on-going. A Development Committee which will discuss development matters with the Municipality, has been formed by residents. Sensitive and life threatening cases are being identified for immediate relocations to projects with vacant sites.
 
As a matter of principle, the Municipality has taken a firm decision to do away with transit camps in the City and this forms part of our top priorities. As such we will be launching a new housing technology to fast track the process of delivering houses to our people. We will use this method, in the first instance, to target the eradication of transit camps.
Let me give you a brief update on Kennedy Road.
 
We have ascertained that there are over 2600 families living in the area. Due to the topology and the fact that the area is located close to a landfill site, an in-situ development could only yield about 700 units, which means that close to 2000 families would have to be relocated to other green field projects. Currently plans for construction on site are already being implemented and a show house will be constructed in a few weeks’ time to mark the launch of the project. Coupled with this are relocation plans which will be announced in due course.
In fact, we can state openly that Kennedy Road has been on the Municipality’s plans for many years and that there has been strong resistance to plans for relocation.
 
In conclusion, we are very serious about service delivery and will continue to work diligently to implement our plans. As a government, we are open to listening to issues from concerned communities and will provide explanations to help communities understand our programmes. We must emphasise that the Human Settlements Unit has been hard at work on these matters and we would like to warn our communities to be wary of people who want to claim easy victories of a programme that was always on the pipeline. It is also important to highlight the fact that the Municipality will not allow a situation where people seek to cause instability so that they could jump the queue ahead of those who have been waiting for houses for a long time. We also wish to urge our people to exercise their right to protest in a peaceful manner and to utilize the existing structures to engage with their representatives about development in their communities.
 
We call on all stakeholders to join hands with us in finding solutions to the challenges facing our people. Working together we can do more!
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.
 
Issued by the eThekwini Municipality's Communications Unit. Contact Municipal Spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng on 031 311 4820 / 082 731 7456 or email Thabo1.Mofokeng@durban.gov.za.