Stop the evictions in Itireleng
Wednesday 13 January 2010 by Nic
On Monday (11th January) over 1000 families in two sections of the Itireleng shack settlement, situated between Atteridgeville and Laudium in the Tshwane region, were brutally evicted by a combined force of Red Ants and the Tshwane Metro Police. During the eviction, the residents were attacked were batons, rubber bullets and some residents reported that live ammunition was also used. As a result, 49 people were injured, several seriously. All the evicted residents were left without any shelter and the majority have been camping by the side of the road for the last two days.
Most of these families have been living in Itireleng for over a decade. Repeated attempts by residents over the years to access formal housing and the provision of services from the Tshwane municipality have been ignored, despite the community’s consistent engagement with authorities. Instead, the municipality allowed a sizeable section of Itireleng to be purchased by Pretoria Portland Cement Company Limited (PPC) who was then subsequently granted an eviction order. Joining forces with PPC’s hired guns – the Red Ants – the municipality dispatched the Metro police to help in the eviction. Residents in an adjoining section of land owned by municipality were also targeted in the eviction. Pleas by residents to the Tshwane MMC for Housing to halt the eviction and now, for alternative accommodation, have fallen on deaf ears.
APF activists have been in Itireleng since the eviction began trying to assist with alternative accommodation and organising further resistance. Yesterday, a mass meeting was held followed by a night vigil out in the open. Residents have vowed not to move until they are either allowed to return and rebuild their shacks or are provided nearby alternative accommodation. Not surprisingly, APF activists report that they have been the targets of violent intimidation by some members of the local ANC.
This inhumane and constructed eviction once again shows that the local government and ANC authorities are paying lip service to both the needs and rights of marginalised, poor communities as well as the institutional and so-called participatory processes supposedly designed to ‘include’ and ‘hear’ the voices of poor communities. It also once again confirms that those politicians who claim to represent such communities are more interested in cozying up to, and facilitating the needs of, corporate capital. While billions have been spent (and made by corporates like PPC) and endless propaganda continues to spew forth about the benefits and ‘world class’ character of the upcoming soccer World Cup, the lives of the most vulnerable and impoverished continue to be treated with arrogance and contempt.
THERE CAN BE NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE!
UPDATE 10th February 2010
Since the eviction on 11/12th January of approximately 1,000 families in portion 15 and portion 25 of Itireleng informal settlement, the situation on the ground remains tense but there has been some progress due mainly to the tenacity of the residents and the consistent work of APF activists in the Tshwane region. Even though many of the evicted residents of portion 15 have been camping out in communal, make-shift shelters with their few remaining belongings, APF activists have played a vital role in ensuring that NGOs such as the South African Red Cross provide relief to people. Further, the APF has been instrumental in securing the services of Lawyers for Human Rights to act for the residents of portion 25 who were evicted without a court order. LHR is currently investigating who carried out the eviction of portion 25 and preparing an application to the High Court that will restore people to their plots and enable them to rebuild their shacks. In the meantime, many of the portion 25 evictees have moved back onto the land and erected shacks. Unfortunately, a few so-called ‘community leaders’ continue to try and take advantage of desperate residents by fraudulently selling ‘stands’, while some members of the ANC continue to try and ride on the back of the residents plight to score cheap political points and divide the community. The APF is in the process of helping to mobilise the residents for a march to the Tshwane Municipality to present their memorandum on issues of the evictions and service delivery.
PRESS NOTICE 22 February 2010
The Pretoria High Court will tomorrow (23 February) hear the application by residents of Itireleng to restore them to their plots and allow them to rebuild their shacks. The Tshwane Metro Police and the Red Ants dismantled their homes over a month ago, evicting them from a portion of the informal settlement that had been sold to PPC Cement. 49 people were injured during the eviction in which police attacked with batons, rubber bullets and reportedly live ammunition. Other residents on land still owned by the municipality were also removed, though no eviction notice had been being issued for this portion of Itireleng. Some of them have returned to rebuild. The rest of the 800 families affected by the mass eviction have been living in make-shift shelters with their few remaining belongings, helped by the emergency relief services of the Red Cross.
Lawyers for Human Rights is acting on behalf of the residents. The first hearing on the 9th of February was postponed to allow the LHR more time to consult with residents, who packed the courtroom to leave no doubt about the urgency of their plight.
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