Flood victims have been in shack-town limbo for 11 years
They say Durban promised them new homes, but for over a decade they have waited in vain
Draped in a blanket as a cold wind whipped through the “Barcelona” transit camp, Lynnette Fenner lamented the chill. In winter, the corrugated iron walls of the temporary housing camp do little to rebuff the wind.
“When it is cold here it is like a freezer. It’s too much … it’s hard to live here,” she said as she wrung her gnarled hands over one another in search of warmth.
The 60-year-old grandmother has lived in the camp outside Durban for 11 years – calling a single room measuring 3m by 3m home.
“I grew up on a farm in Harding and I came to Durban to find work and I lived in Umlazi. From Umlazi I moved to Lamontville and I lived in the shacks and later I built my own shack there.
“In 2007 we had a flood and it came and destroyed my home. [The municipality] moved us to this camp here. They told us this would be temporary, for three or six months, and they would move us to the RDP houses but we’re still here. I was excited to get a house,” she said this week.For Fenner, and hundreds of others who call the camp home, it has become a place of a purgatory.
“The filth is everywhere and toilets don’t work. People get sick here,” she said.
While she finds cold comfort in her room, which she shares with her three unemployed adult children, Fenner knows that this could all come to an end.Two weeks ago the eThekwini Municipality moved to evict hundreds of residents from the camp, forcibly removing some from their units.
The shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo came to their aid and chalked up a court victory against municipality. The Durban High Court ordered last Monday that informal dwellers evicted would be allowed to return to their homes.
“On Friday‚ beginning at around 10am‚ the notorious security management unit illegally‚ brutally and violently evicted more than 40 families in the Barcelona 2 ‘transit camp’‚ in Lamontville. The eviction was carried out until 1am in the morning on Saturday. A number of people were wounded during the attack‚” said Abahlali in a statement.
“This morning Abahlali baseMjondolo went to court in defence of our members. We defeated the eThekwini Municipality in court.
“The movement has obtained a spoliation order to reinstate our members who have been illegally evicted by the municipality. The court ordered that those who were illegally evicted in Barcelona 2 must be reinstated‚ and that the municipality does not carry out any further evictions in the area.”For now, Fenner has a reprieve, but she and her family are uncertain what the future holds.
Acting eThekwini spokesperson Mandla Nsele said parts of the Lamontville township had been earmarked for a ministerial housing upgrade, which would benefit those living in Barcelona.
But the municipality still had no idea how long the Barcelona residents would have to continue to live there.
“The time of stay in the transit facility cannot be determined as it is dependent on the provision of bulk services and the construction of houses in the earmarked project areas,” he said.He said that those affected by the evictions had been staying in the camp illegally and didn’t have the necessary documentation to allow them to occupy the units.
“The transit camp is used to rotate families while upgrades are taking place in the informal settlements in Lamontville and the illegally occupied units were required to be used to unlock the provision of services by relocating families in the way of bulk services in the earmarked housing upgrade projects. The illegal occupants are attempting to queue jump the housing allocation process in order to receive free houses,” he said.