Thursday, May 18, 2006

exactly who are the rats here?

This article on rat infestation appeared in South Africa's Daily News on May 17th. It's one of the last lines that's scary, spoken by Vernon Mchunu, spokesman for the Durban City Council: "We continue to clear slums so that rats will not have dirty places to breed."

Thanks to Richard for sending me the article. I'll let him provide the context: "This discourse is precisely, and I do mean precisely, the same as that used under apartheid and colonialism to justify previous state attacks" on the exact same squatter area.

Is there no difference between the African National Congress and Apartheid? It's a thought that may seem horrifying, but when it comes to squatters, the rhetoric and reality are largely the same.
Rats Infest Cato Manor

By Bongani Mthembu

A recent study conducted by the eThekwini municipality's communicable
diseases unit has revealed that rats in Durban's Cato Manor settlement
have two potentially fatal diseases which are easily transmitted to

The findings of the Natural Sciences Museum's research are not being
taken lightly. According to the head of the communicable diseases unit,
Dr Ayo Olowolagba, plague, leptospirosis and poxoplasmosis were the
three diseases that were usually found in rats.

He said, however, that only leptospirosis and poxoplasmosis were
detected during the research. Olowolagba said it was extremely difficult to
diagnose the three diseases as their symptoms were similar to those of
the flu and needed to be tested in a special laboratory in order to be

The findings of the study have prompted council to distribute rat traps
to residents in areas identified as being prone to rat infestation
before the problem spreads to other parts of Durban.

"We are very concerned about the problem because many rats that we
caught had the diseases. The good news is that people who were found with
the diseases have never been sick. We believe those who came into
contact with the rats had immune systems that were strong enough to quell any
infections," said Olowolagba.

Council spokesman Vernon Mchunu said the extent of the health problem
caused by the rats had raised serious challenges for the municipality
which wants to curb the problem before it escalates.

"Council officials' visits to the area have resulted in the development
of the Cato Manor beautification campaign which is comprised of various
elements such as sensitising residents about the need to keep the
community clean," he said.

Mchunu added that council also wanted to ensure that wild cats which
fed on rats were prevented from coming into contact with humans.

"One of the identified causes for the prevalence and increase in the
number of rats in the area is the amount of litter and rubbish dumps. We
want to make sure the whole area is cleaned and that we continue to
clear slums so that rats will not have dirty places to breed," he said.

Mchunu said an educational door-to-door campaign dealing with
environmental health, waste disposal, sanitation, rats and remedies to deal with
related problems would be launched soon. Mchunu said 20 people had been
recruited from the area to assist in the campaign.

Published on the web by Daily News on May 17, 2006


Teo Ballvé said...

Hi Robert,
I have just begun reading your book on squatter communities. It's fantastic. I am an editor of the NACLA Report on the Americas, a New York-based, English-language magazine about Latin American affairs and US policy toward the region.

I have looked around for your email, but haven't found it. I am hoping to get in touch with you about a project I am undertaking this summer. Could you write me?

My email is teo at

Thanks for your important work!

Blue Panther said...

It seems like you have done some important work on slums and slum dwellers. I congratulate you on that.
But your post on the blog can be said to be a little misleading. The statement that you put up in your note, if read alone, seems apalling but after going through teh folloing article it seems to me that what was meant that there will be more cleanliness and if the governemnt can provide the slums with clean surroundings, there is nothing wrong with that.

rn said...


Thanks for your comment. I understand your confusion. But what the government spokesman means by clearing the slums is destroying them completely. Wiping them out in order to save them. Which is no solution at all.

If the government simply wanted to make them cleaner, provide water and sanitation and sewers, that would be a great step forward.

Frank Partisan said...

I found this blog surfing. It certainly is one of the more interesting ones.

The Durban solution, is almost as bad as the Mugabe solution.

Continue your good work.