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Cato Crest residents block roads after shack demolitions

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Abahlali baseMjondolo leader says protesters were not their members

Photo of blocked road
A tree blocks Vusi Mzimela Road (Bellair Road) in Cato Crest. Photo: Musa Binda
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Shack dwellers in Cato Crest, Durban brought the township to a standstill on Thursday morning by blocking roads with rubble. They were protesting the demolition of their shacks by eThekwini Municipality’s anti-land invasion officials over the weekend.

When GroundUp got there, the protesters were nowhere to be seen. But roads remained blocked and residents confirmed that there had been a protest. The protesters also left before the police arrived. Traffic along Vusi Mzimela (formerly Bellair) Road had to weave around trees, rubbish and rubble.

The demolished shacks were built during February on vacant land owned by the City.

Thobile Gedeza, a resident whose son uses a bus to school said they felt the effects of the protest because her son couldn’t get to school. Her plans to get out of the township this morning were scuttled too.

There have been ongoing shack occupations, evictions and demolitions in Cato Crest, and rising tensions between residents and the EThekwini Municipality. In November evicted families cleared a space in a nearby forest to build themselves Ekhenana - a “Place of Hope”.

Social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo has been organising much of the resistance by the land occupiers in the township, and arguing that many of the evictions are illegal. But the organisation’s local leader, Lindo Mnguni, said that Thursday morning’s protesters were not part of their movement.

EThekwini Municipality spokesman Msawakhe Mayisela said the municipality condemned the occupation of its vacant land. “It is something we are not going to tolerate. We have obtained several court interdicts where the municipality is given the right to demolish the shack structures that have been built illegally on its land. We are going to continue doing so because as much as we are a caring municipality we feel that the shackdwellers are undermining the law,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane said: “We can confirm that this morning Cato Crest residents blockaded several roads in the area with burning trees, stones, trees and rubbles. The police were called to attend the road closure. Upon their arrival they noticed that there were no community members in sight but the roads were closed … No case was opened and police are monitoring the situation.”

Rubble was strewn across roads. Photo: Musa Binda

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TOPICS:  Housing