Government Attempts to Evict Residents After Fire

What is affected
Housing private
Land Social/public
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 13 September 2008
Region AFA [ Africa anglophone ]
Country South Africa
Location Foreman Road Settlement, Durban

Affected persons

Total 8000
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution
Forced eviction
Housing losses
- Number of homes 1000
- Total value €

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Brief narrative Excerpt from Article "Social Movement Struggles for Land in SA"
14 January 2009 found at

Press Release: Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign

Sekwanele! [Enough is Enough!]: Social Movement Struggles for Land and Housing in Post-Apartheid South Africa
By Toussaint Losier

In the predawn hours of Saturday, September 13th, 2008, a devastating fire tore through the thousands of wood and zinc shacks that make up the Foreman Road informal settlement in Durban. Sparked by an unattended candle, the fire spread quickly and raged for hours.

With only one water tap serving nearly 8,000 tightly packed residents, there was little people could do but warn their neighbors and move to safety to watch their houses burn. It would take several hours to put out the fire. Among the smoldering debris, residents would later find the body of Thembelani Khweshube, 30, who had been asleep when his shack caught fire.

"I wish that somebody could save us from this misery," lamented Funeka Nokhayingana to a local reporter from the Durban Mercury amidst the charred zinc and the damp ash. "I have lost everything in the fire - my identity document, my children`s birth certificates, uniforms and school books. It hurts me to raise my children in such conditions, but I don`t have a choice because I have nowhere else to go."

Far from a rare occurrence, these shack fires have become an increasingly frequent phenomenon in post-apartheid South Africa, as the numbers of shack settlements have continued to grow. There have been an average of ten shack fires a day over the past five years, with someone dying in a shack fire almost every other day. In the eThekwini municipality where the Foreman Road settlement is located, there is roughly one shack fire a day.

Not long after the wreckage had finally begun to cool, the residents of Foreman Road held a community meeting to collectively assess their situation. Rather than accepting the city`s offer of relocation, residents resolved to immediately begin rebuilding their shacks using whatever materials could be salvaged from the ruins. Working with others member of Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu for shack dwellers), a social movement based in more than 40 shack settlements, residents put out a press statement the same day, calling for emergency food, temporary shelter and building materials. At the same time, their statement also placed the destruction of more than 70 percent of their settlement in a broader political context:

"Shack fires are a crisis. They are not something normal. The government must stop blaming the victims every time there is a fire. We have to treat the fires as a crisis. We have to act against the real causes of the fires. The main cause is that people don`t have electricity. Other causes are that people don`t have enough taps or any fire hydrants to fight the fires. The short term solution is to electrify the shacks and provides taps, fire hydrants and access roads. The real solution is to upgrade the settlements with proper brick houses."

But far from assisting in rebuilding efforts, municipal officials instead arrived at the settlement with bulldozers the following day. In response, the Foreman Road AbM mobilized to halt the municipality`s plans, threatening to blockade the entrance to the settlement Road and calling on legal advocates to halt this unlawful action. "Foreman Road is our home," reiterated AbM after threatening to destroy any bulldozers that entered the settlement. "We are urbanites. We live and work and school here. We will not be moved. If the City will not give us building materials we will rebuild the settlement ourselves. This land is ours."

From Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign on September 21, 2008

"Elokshini eKapa – As the AEC heads to Durban this weekend for an important alliance meeting and Sha
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