Stand off between Old Mutual and Khayelitsha occupiers

15 hours 48 minutes ago
Residents were removed but returned almost immediately

By Vincent Lali

Photo of Old Mutual property in Khayelitsha
Evicted residents from a block of flats and bungalows in Khayelitsha owned by Old Mutual reoccupy the building. Photo: Vincent Lali

Twenty-five people who occupied an Old Mutual property, and were then evicted, have got most of their possessions back. But they claim that some of their goods are damaged or missing. They have reoccupied the building.

A leader of the group in Thembokhwezi, Khayelitsha, said they got their seized possessions back from a depot in Blackheath on Friday.

They illegally occupied the property on 16 June and were evicted on 30 July by Red Ants and police. Most of the occupants were backyard dwellers in the area. The property has been vacant since Equal Education moved its offices from there in 2016. Old Mutual intends to build “289 units and amenities such as a crèche or church, a school and a public open space” on the property, according to its spokesperson Jenna Wilson.

Neli Bomvana, a leader of the occupiers, said a fridge belonging to one occupier is broken. Another occupier could not find a digital camera that was confiscated, and another could not get their shoes back.

“We discovered that Old Mutual didn’t have a list of the things it seized. Our advocate has asked us to draw up a list of the things we could not get back and he would approach Old Mutual,” said Bomvana.

The property, dubbed Azania Square, by the occupiers — but as yet unnamed by Old Mutual — has several buildings on it that would be part of the project the insurance giant was about to start.

Wilson said Old Mutual had consultations with local community leaders and the City of Cape Town, and a layout for the development has been completed and approved. “The development proposal accommodates the community’s requests for a commercial centre and the City’s requirement for a housing development,” she said.

Rough eviction

Asanda (surname withheld), one of the occupiers, said that during the eviction a police officer grabbed her by the neck and shoved her down. There was a scuffle and she said the policeman said “he would kick me until I shit”. Asanda said her left eye and her thigh ached from falling down.

She said her laptop, digital camera, couch, fridge, clothes, bed, TV and money were seized.

Asanda opened a case of assault against the police at Khayelitsha police station. This was confirmed by station commander Brigadier Mkuseli Nkwitshi.

Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said the sheriff of the court had a court order. He said the role of the police was to safeguard the sheriff while executing the court order.

Wilson said, “While we believe in the right of all South Africans to have the security of a roof over their heads, Old Mutual is committed to protecting the rights and properties of the local community of Thembokwezi, and ultimately, to deliver on our obligation of developing the site for use by this community.”

Occupiers return

When we spoke to Asanda after the eviction she said, “We are going to break down doors and move back into Azania Square.”.

Sibulelo Mkhontwana said his food, TV, clothes, and money were seized. “I was about to buy groceries with the money. Now I will starve,” he said.

Mkhontwana claims the Red Ants broke the door of his room and confiscated all his belongings. “I said leave my clothes alone, but they ignored me. Now I have no clothes other than the ones I’m wearing.”

Mkhontwana said he makes a living from cutting grass, cleaning yards and fixing damaged stoves for residents of Bhongweni.

He also vowed to occupy the flats again when we spoke to him after the eviction. “Because I have nowhere else to stay, I will sleep here tonight.”

The occupiers did return. According to a member of the Ward Development Forum, Nolubabalo Mtshalala, they returned the very same night after the evictions took place. “Not a single one has given up and left. We are not cowards,” she said.

Neli Bomvana shows the floor where occpiers have been sleeping. Photo: Vincent Lali

Mtshalala said she and Bomvana came to stay with the occupiers of the flats to demonstrate solidarity with them. “We as community leaders have made a decision to stay with the occupants of the flats, support them and ensure we deal with anyone who victimises them,” she said.

Mtshalala said more residents are set to occupy the premises.

When GroundUp visited the flats on Thursday, she and Bomvana were sitting and chatting outside. “Some occupants of the flats have gone home and others have gone to work. We take turns to guard the flats,” said Bomvana.

She said at night the occupiers share the few beds still left while others sleep on the floor.

“We put money together to buy food and divide it among ourselves. We eat take-away food because we have no groceries,” said Bomvana.

But Wilson said the occupants will again be interdicted. “The interdict is open-ended and focuses on the occupation of existing structures (such as the flats) on the land as well as the erection of structures on the land.”

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Kabila's decision to step aside won't change the DRC's power dynamics

21 hours 42 minutes ago
Anti-Joseph Kabila protesters left five people dead and scores injured in Kinshasa. Robert Carrubba/EPA-EFE

The ruling party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), The Peoples’ Party for Reconciliation and Democracy, made an announcement recently that took everybody by surprise — that Joseph Kabila will not be its presidential candidate come the December 2018 general election.

Kabila has been in power since 2001 and was widely expected to cling to the presidency beyond his constitutional term limits. He took over after the assassination of his father Laurent Désiré Kabila who had overthrown Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.

The country has been on tenterhooks since late July when the nomination period opened, tensely awaiting Kabila’s decision on his candidacy. He was barred from running for a third term under the country’s constitution. But many feared he would do so anyway.

The US welcomed Kabila’s decision to stand down. But Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, noted that much more still needed to be done in terms of ensuring a stable democratic transition in the DRC.

Nevertheless, the party’s announcement means that for the first time in modern Congolese history, presidential power will be transferred through an election. Instead of Kabila, the Peoples’ Party for Reconciliation and Democracy has fronted former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as its presidential candidate.

Many commentators have described Shadary as a loyal regime hardliner. There should be no illusions that his candidacy means that the DRC faces a brighter democratic future. He is very close to Kabila (as he was to his father) and is unlikely to threaten the incumbant’s grip on power. Kabila will most likely pull the strings in the background if Shadary is elected president in December.

Emmanuel Shadary

One of the founders of the Peoples’ Party for Reconciliation and Democracy , Shadary’s administrative career began in 1997 when the former president Laurent Désire Kabila, appointed him as vice-governor of the eastern Maniema province. A year later, he became governor. Maniema is an important mining centre in eastern Congo even if it’s not the most significant as it contains diamonds, copper, gold and cobalt resources.

Since 2012, Shadary has been the president of the party’s parliamentary group. He wields a lot of power in Kinshasa. Until February this year he was instrumental in organising the violent repression of protesters in the capital.

The US and EU have imposed sanctions on Shadary for his involvement in repressive activities. This means that even if he’s elected president, he will not be allowed to enter America or Europe.

That notwithstanding, the EU and the US are among the DRC’s largest donors. And their sanctions have not impeded Shadary’s rise to power.

Kabila still in play

Shadary’s candidature means that Kabila may still retain a good deal of power. There’s speculation that he could become prime minister under Shadary. The president can technically choose the prime minister under the Congolese constitution although their choice has to be ratified by the National Assembly. If Shadary was elected, and Kabila was chosen as his president, then this cohabitation would increase Kabila’s power as PM. Both men would be from the same party, the PPRD, and so the president would find it difficult to exercise power without Kabila’s support.

There’s also speculation that he could run in the next presidential elections that would occur five years after the next president is elected in 2023.

Both these developments – assuming the role of prime ministers as well as skipping a turn at the presidency – would be similar to the way in which Russian President Vladimir Putin held on to power. Firstly, he allowed Dmitry Medvedev to become President of Russia in 2008, only to take over the role himself in 2012. And he served as prime minister under Medvedev.

Shadary has support in his Maniema stronghold. But it’s uncertain what his appeal is beyond the region. He will nevertheless benefit from the narrow field and the resources at the PPRD’s disposal.

It’s almost certain that the hugely popular former governor of Katanga, Moise Katumbi, will not be able to run for the presidency. Katumbi, who has been in exile for two years, was denied entry when he tried to enter the DRC at the Zambian border. There has been widespread protests against the move, mainly in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi. But he hasn’t been allowed home.

Shadary will face two notable challengers.

The two key challengers

First, he will have to compete with Félix Tshisekedi, the son of long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi who is trying to step out of his father’s shadow during this campaign. Tshisekedi is running on a Union for Democracy and Social Progress ticket. The party is one of the DRC’s longest lasting opposition parties, and Tshisekedi has had a lot of time to campaign. The latest poll showed that he is likely to get 19% of the vote. But without Katumbi or Kabila in the race, his chances of success have gone up.

The other man to watch is Jean-Pierre Bemba. He recently returned to the DRC after being released from prison following his conviction on war crimes and crimes against humanity being overturned on appeal at the International Criminal Court.

Bemba is trailing Tshisekedi in the polls, but has had far less time to organise his campaign. He could well turn out to be a political thorn in Shadary’s side.

As it turns out, Kabila’s decision not to run in the upcoming elections has opened up the field to some extent. The focus now shifts to Shadary, and whether he will allow his opponents the freedom to campaign in the days ahead. As Kabila has decided he’s not running, there is some hope for a more democratic DR-Congo. However, it’s unlikely to be a wholly free and fair election and it may well result in Kabila remaining in power if not in office.

The Conversation

Reuben Loffman has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economics and Social Research Council and the British Academy. He is affiliated with the Labour Party.

Nema Demolishes Java House, Shell Petrol Station in Kileleshwa

1 day 16 hours ago

By Agewa Magut and Harry Misiko

A Java House coffee outlet was brought down in Kileleshwa on Monday morning as the national environment watchdog demolished structures on riparian land in Nairobi.

A Shell petrol station and a Safe Dose pharmacy were also closed in the demolitions as the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) set out to reclaim illegally occupied wetlands in the city county.

Magnate Ventures billboards and signage were also brought down.



'People Celebrate When Their Houses Are Marked for Demolition'

1 day 17 hours ago

Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen fields questions from Okon Bassey on his encounter with the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and debunks insinuations that the Governor Udom Emmanuel signed a pact to serve one term. Excepts.

You are considered Governor Udom Emmanuel's right man, is true that the Governor entered an agreement with the Oron people to serve one term after which an Oron person will serve one term to complete the mandatory two-tenures for the Eket Senatorial District?

Oron is in my senatorial district. I believe in evidence. There must have been people at that meeting. A document must have been signed. Where are these documents? Who were at this discussion? At the time Governor Udom Emmanuel was emerging, Oron people had gone to other camp. Most of their leaders were in the other camp. I believe with all my heart that Governor Udom Emmanuel will not tell a lie. People believe that in government, you must tell a lie to get things done. I am of a different school of thought that is why I am able to work very freely with the Governor. The Governor says it the way it is. There was no such understanding. If you tell me that the then governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio must have had some understanding, I may not argue because I was not there. Governor Udom Emmanuel was not there.



IDIF Gets Gh¢2.5 Billion Boost From Consortium

1 day 17 hours ago

By Julius Yao Petetsi And Alfred Nii Arday Ankrah

A Consortium of six banks have pledged financial support to the tune of GH¢2.568 billion to the government's flagship programme, One District, One Factory (1DIF), the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, has disclosed.

The banks are the Ghana Commercial Bank, GH¢1 billion, United Bank for Africa, GH¢880 million, Universal Merchant Bank, GH¢440 million, Agriculture Development Bank, GH¢200 million, the EXON Bank, GH¢103 million and Societe General Ghana, GH¢25 million.

Mr Osafo-Maafo made this disclosure at the Graphic Business/Stanbic Bank Breakfast Meeting in Accra yesterday on the theme, "Unlocking Economic Growth through Manufacturing-Cost Quality and Competitiveness."



Occupiers of Cape Town buildings hold first congress

3 days 16 hours ago
Reclaim The City elects leaders and adopts constitution on Women’s Day

By Phathiswa Shushwana

10 August 2018

Photo of Deena Bosch
Deena Bosch celebrates after being elected to Reclaim the City’s Woodstock chapter. Photo: Barry Christianson

About 300 members and supporters of Reclaim The City gathered at Queen’s Park High School in Woodstock on Thursday, Women’s Day. This was Reclaim the City’s first annual congress.

This is the organisation that organised the occupations of Woodstock Hospital and Helen Bowden Nursing Home opposite Cape Town’s Waterfront. Both properties, owned by the Western Cape government, were empty at the time. Up till now the provincial government has taken no steps to evict the occupiers.

The occupiers have named the Woodstock building Cissie Gool House and the nursing home Ahmed Kathrada House.

Members of Cape Town civil society organisations, such as #UniteBehind, Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Equal Education and Abahlali Base Mjondolo attended in support. The SJC’s General Secretary, Axolile Notywala, told the meeting: “We should work together and support each other. If Reclaim the City needs anything, call on the SJC and we will gladly help.”

The audience sang struggle songs, such as “Asinalo uvalo [We are not scared]”.

Belinda Diedricks who was elected to Reclaim the City’s leadership smiles on stage with fellow elected members. Photo: Barry Christianson

“We are not occupiers. We are tenants,” said a speaker, Belinda Diedericks, who lives in Woodstock and has been active in Reclaim the City. “The worst part was having little knowledge about what to do and where to go when you’ve been evicted. This campaign educates us about the law, our rights and what a legal eviction looks like.”

Outside the meeting three people protested against violence against women that has allegedly occurred at one of the properties.

The main purposes of the congress were to elect new leadership and adapt a constitution.

Seven leaders were elected for each of the two occupied properties. A further five leaders were elected for a Woodstock chapter and a Sea Point chapter. These 24 people form the organisation’s co-ordinating committee.

Bevil Lucas, also a member of Reclaim the City, explained to the audience that the adopted Constitution was an interim one because more time was needed to get feedback on it.

A capella group, Ikahalethu, put on a performance. Photo: Barry Christianson

Siphiwo Makapela reads the proposed constitution before the programme begins. Photo: Barry Christianson

Three people protested against Reclaim the City outside the congress. Photo: Barry Christianson

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


Why unsafe paraffin stoves are still being widely used in South Africa

4 days 16 hours ago
In South Africa, untamed fires are on the rise in informal settlements and low-income neighbourhoods. Alpheus Mashigo/

The discovery of fire is often considered to be the most important in the history of humankind. But an untamed fire is also insidious and destructive.

In South Africa, untamed fires are on the rise in informal settlements and in low-income neighbourhoods, in and around the country’s cities.. Nearly 5000 informal settlement fires were reported between 2009 and 2012. Nearly all happened in neighbourhoods that suffer from energy poverty – the absence of clean, safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally benign energy.

Casualties from fires in poor people’s homes usually reach many thousands every year. The cramped living conditions in informal settlements compounds the risk situation and is the reason that a single fire can destroy tens of homes at a time. In 2015, fire losses in informal settlements were estimated at R132 million.

The main causes of the fires are paraffin stoves, heaters and candle mishaps. Fires are more frequent in winter when everyday energy use is at its highest.

We conducted research to try and establish what was causing the fires. We looked particularly at paraffin stoves which are ubiquitous in communities without electricity. But they are also the riskiest cooking appliances in South Africa and are used by about 3 million households. The design life for these stoves is 500 hours of burn, equal to about six months at two and half hours of use per day.

Research findings

Our research found that a third of a sample of 150 South African Bureau of Standards approved non-pressure paraffin stoves malfunctioned after a few months of use. The malfunctions included technical failures such as leakages, faulty flame regulators and broken self-extinguishing mechanisms. Even though some had visible defects, a number of households continued to use the defective stoves because of financial constraints and a lack of safer alternatives.

The users also tended to believe that the appliances were reliable after the recommended six months design life. One possible reason is that they took the seal of approval as a sign that the stoves were safe.

Earlier research we did showed that the risk of fire and burn injury is highest for homes using paraffin. Paraffin, combined with candles pose an especially high risk.

Why the response is not enough

To respond to the hazards posed by paraffin stoves, the South African Bureau of Standards, in 2006 enacted a national standard for non-pressure paraffin stoves and heaters. The standard was made compulsory in 2007.

Sample of faulty paraffin stoves. Author supplied

But the mark of approval doesn’t always mean that the stoves have been manufactured to a safe standard, or is able to maintain its safety features over time. For example, one of the key safety requirements is a self-extinguishing mechanism that puts out the flame if the stove is tilted beyond a certain point. But this feature isn’t always working.

This shows that the regulatory role played by the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards has been found wanting. Unsafe stoves continue to be manufactured and distributed with an approval stamp, with nominal, if any, enforcement.

Even though the government sends reminders to communities to use approved stoves only, faulty stoves are still being distributed. Although there’s a tendency to blame manufacturers for unapproved appliances, the problem also lies with government which isn’t tackling non-compliance by licensed manufacturers.

The solutions

Immediate solutions for addressing the problem should include a rigorous scrutiny, review and enforcement of stove safety standards. This could be accompanied by education campaigns that emphasise the safe handling and use of fuels and appliances. Households should be discouraged from using a stove that has visible defects.

Medium term solutions should include the targeted phase-out of paraffin as a domestic fuel and replacement with safer alternatives, such as liquefied petroleum gas for cooking which has a number of advantages over paraffin. It’s already been promoted successfully as a replacement for paraffin and biomass in Indonesia, India and Senegal. Although it was piloted in selected South African communities with some success, efforts at scaling up have not been forthcoming due to cost and policy barriers.

In addition, what’s needed are technological interventions to broaden access to sustainable, cost-effective and especially safe energy. This should include subsidising proven alternative energy technologies, such as liquefied petroleum gas and solar power.

The Conversation

Ashley Van Niekerk receives funding from SAMRC.

David Kimemia does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Owner breaks down house under tenants’ feet

5 days 16 hours ago
Woodstock property stripped before eviction hearing starts

By Barbara Maregele

Photo of woman in broken doorway
Nicole Puterson and other residents are fighting to stay in the house where some of them have lived for more than 30 years. Photo: Barbara Maregele

Three Woodstock families are battling in court to be allowed to stay in a house where some of them have lived for more than 30 years.

Shariff Alexander, his girlfriend Nicole Puterson, and their one-year-old live in one room of 23 Gympie Street. They share the three-roomed property with eight other people, including children. Alexander moved in with his grandmother, who is the primary tenant, in 1980.

“My family has lived here for over 30 years. This is why I’m trying my best to fight for this place,” he said.

Alexander told GroundUp that residents’ troubles started a few months ago when the property was sold after the death of the owner. He said that since January, the occupants had been harassed by police. A resident, who lived in the lounge, had been forced off the premises when the new owner began renovating the space.

On Monday, Pilland Property Investments – the estate agents handling the sale of the house – brought an application in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court to evict the three families. The families, represented by Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre attorney Jonathan Cogger, are opposing the eviction.

The residents say in documents before the court that Alexander received a letter from the estate agents telling him to vacate the property by 10 January. He said the letter was dated 20 December, but he only received it on 8 January.

On 6 February, he was served with notice of the court application for eviction. Then two days later, representatives of the agents came to the property to tell the residents to leave, and on 9 February, the agents, accompanied by a team of police officers, conducted a raid on the property. The residents were asked if they paid rent. They were told to leave the property immediately, the residents say in an affidavit.

The same day, construction workers began renovating the inside of the property, without the occupants’ consent. The back door and some windows were removed, and plaster was stripped from most of the walls. An interior partition erected by the occupants was dismantled, and belongings of former occupants were thrown away, according to residents.

The Gympie Street house is being stripped while three families are living there. Photo: Barbara Maregele

The families then sought help from housing activists who referred them to Cogger.

When Cogger visited the property on 17 February, a representative from the construction company told him the building was unsafe and dangerous. Puterson and her baby were inside at the time. Renovations inside the property were stopped later that afternoon.

According to the occupants’ affidavit, most of them make a living as informal traders or do piece work in the Woodstock area. None of the residents earn more than R1,500 a month.

“The occupiers submit that the ejectment from the property, without the provision of suitable well-located alternative accommodation by the City of Cape Town, would render us homeless and/or become a considerable burden to our families,” they said in their statement.

When GroundUp visited the house, some items of clothing, a bath and rubble were scattered on the front stoep and on the adjacent plot. The front windows were taped up with cardboard and plastic. Inside, most of the wooden flooring in the lounge area had been removed, there was a large hole in the roof and most of the walls had been stripped.

Alexander said electricity and water had been switched off three weeks ago, without notice.

“Since the construction people were here, the place has also been vandalised.” Thieves had removed the wiring and cables in the roof, he said.

The case was postponed until 4 September for argument.

Attorney Anthea Pienaar-Julius, for the agents, is expected to argue that the property is no longer habitable. Cogger, opposing the eviction application, will argue that it is not “just and equitable to grant the eviction because the occupants have already been deprived of peaceful and undisturbed possession of the property”.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


“Violence is the only language our government understands”

6 days 11 hours ago
Ngcobo residents block R61, demand better roads

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik and Yamkela Ntshongwana

Photo of traffic jam on road
Residents of Ngcobo blocked the busy R61 to Cofimvaba on Monday, demanding better roads in their area. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Residents of Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape blocked the R61 to Cofimvaba demanding that the provincial government fix their roads.

They closed the busy road with burning tyres, stones and trees, demanding a meeting with Eastern Cape transport MEC Weziwe Tikana.

The protest started at 3am and went on until lunch time. School transport and taxis were prevented from entering or leaving the area.

Two weeks ago residents closed a gravel road. Residents said after that protest Ngcobo municipal manager Vusumzi Phoswa and Mayor Lizeka Bongo-Tyali had promised to bring Tikana to address residents within 24 hours. When she had not come after a week, a decision was taken at a community meeting (on Saturday) to close the R61.

A community leader who did not want his name used said the community was tired of empty promises. He said the gravel roads had last been fixed in 1992.

“The province must come here. We want them to tell us when they are going to fix this road. They must give us a date,” he said. In support community members started counting the people involved in car accidents in their area.

Phumlani Voyiya, a grade 10 learner from Ngubesizwe High School, said he had missed his maths literacy test because of the protest. He said he hoped his teacher had heard about the protest and would allow him to write the test later.

Elias Maduna said he had been stuck in traffic on the R61 for almost an hour on his way to Lusikisiki. “I understand the community’s frustration. What can people do? Violence is the only language our government understands.”

When GroundUp arrived, police were firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

Phoswa said the municipality had failed to communicate with community members. He acknowledged that the gravel road the residents wanted fixed was in a bad state.

The protest was called off after community leader Wandisile Mendela received a call from Tikana via the police on the scene. Mendela put the phone on loud speaker for all the residents to listen to Tikana.

Tikana asked residents to give her more time and promised to come next week.

Residents took turns on the phone, telling her people were dying on the gravel road. Some said they would not vote for the ANC if Tikana did not come.

Community leaders asked community members to go home, saying protests would continue until Tikana came.

Police spokesperson Namhla Mdleleni said no arrests were made.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

2 minutes 51 seconds ago
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