Sunday, February 17, 2008

Back to the 19th century

On Thursday, Feb. 14, police descended on the Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban and began ripping out electrical hookups. They ripped out pirated service, and they ripped out legal service. They dug up wires that had been run underground.

Kennedy Road is one of the shack settlements that is part of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a squatter organizing group which has been battling with the Durban municipality for some time now. Its members have been arrested, imprisoned, harassed, and hurt. Now, with no advance warning, the municipality is attempting drive squatters back to the squalor in which the poor lived two centuries ago.

Welcome to the new South Africa!

As Abahlali said in a statement, "Electricity is not a luxury. It is a basic right. It is essential for children to do their homework; for safe cooking and heating; for people to charge phones, to be able participate in the national debate through electronic communication (TV discussion programmes, email etc); for lighting to keep women safe and, most of all, to stop the fires that terrorise us....Why is the government sending the police to force us to go backwards? Development was supposed to be about moving forwards."

For more about Abahlali and their courageous work, you can find a short video here.