Shackdweller Statecraft

Although you’ll have to wait a little longer to see Dear Mandela, the fine documentary about shackdweller struggles in South Africa, a recently-released companion short is well worth watching, especially today.

A FISH IN A TIN — a companion short to the documentary film DEAR MANDELA from Sleeping Giant on Vimeo.

Today, shackdwellers are taking their municipality to court. The government evicted poor residents from their homes, and threw them into transit camps, where they live ‘like a fish in a tin’, waiting for more permanent housing that never comes. It’s not easy to make the state behave in ways that aren’t like a state. But this is shackdweller statecraft.

Full press release on today’s news below.

Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) and Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa

PRESS RELEASE – 29 February 2012

eThekwini Municipality Disobeys Court Order to Provide Housing and Investigate

Residents go back to court to compel Mayor, City Manager and Director of
Housing to provide houses or be held in contempt

In 2009, 37 poor families won the right to receive permanent houses in terms of
an order issued by the Durban High Court. The families must now return to court
to force the eThekwini Municipality to obey the order. The Socio-Economic
Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) and Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) are
suing the Mayor of eThekwini on behalf the families, who now live in the
Richmond Farm Transit Camp near KwaMashu, Durban.

The order directed that the families be relocated from an informal settlement
to a transit camp in order to make way for a new road. The order also stated
that the families must be given permanent housing within a year of arriving at
the camp. The order further directed the municipality to investigate the
corrupt allocation of housing at the Khulula Housing Project near KwaMashu. It
had been originally been intended that the families would be given permanent
housing in the Khulula project, but the houses meant for them were irregularly
re-allocated to other families by provincial and municipal officials.

If successful, the case will mean that the Mayor, City Manager and Director of
Housing must take steps to provide housing to the families within 60 days, and
must investigate the corrupt allocation of housing at the Khulula project. If
they fail to do so, they will face a fine or jail time.

Teboho Mosikili, SERI attorney for the families, said: “Both Abahlali and the
families themselves have patiently attempted to engage with eThekwini
Municipality for three years now. Yet the Municipality is still in defiance of
the court order. It is very sad that an organ of state – whose duty it is to
uphold the rule of law and respect the authority of the courts – has chosen
to act in such a blatantly illegal manner. The Mayor, City Manager and Director
of Housing have all been served with the court order, and meetings have been
convened with the Mayor to discuss compliance with it. Yet nothing has been

Sbu Zikode, ABM’s Chairperson, said: “The corrupt allocation of housing in
Durban has been a concern for Abahlali’s members for a long time. People are
dumped in transit camps, told that it is just temporary and then left to rot
while other people are allowed to jump the queue. Now the council is supporting
this by refusing to obey a court order. Moreover the Manase report which is due
to be tabled to full council today in eThekwini Municipality confirms this

The residents will be represented in court by the SERI Law Clinic and Trudie
Nichols Attorneys, together with Advocates Geoff Budlender SC, Stuart Wilson
and Nicole Lewis.

The papers filed in the case so far are available here.


Teboho Mosikili, attorney at SERI: / 072 248 2199

S’bu Zikode, chairperson of AbM: 083 547 0474

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