Councilor Lucky Mdlalose’s of KwaMashu’s phone was ringing non-stop on Friday as activists from all over the world phoned in as part of a Global Day of Action to support a community from KwaMashu, South Africa that had been evicted because of the COP17 Climate Conference in November. This Global Action, with people calling in from the United States, India, Belgium, the UK and others, also included a protest in London at the South African Embassy.

“I called because no one should have their home stolen from them, especially not by their own Government” reported Anna Collins of the UK.

Activists from “Occupy COP17”, who came to Durban for the COP17 conference, had developed a close relationship with the community. “In our General Assembly, someone told us of how a community had been illegally evicted because of the COP17, so we called them.” said Kevin Buckland of, “two days later, some of us from Occupy COP17 went to meet with them. As soon as we arrived we were moved to tears by hearing about the injustice that had occurred. They told us their story on the very place where there houses had stood just weeks before. Now all that was left were piles of broken roofing and scattered objects.”


On the last day of the COP17 Climate Change Conference, community members attended a “Vigil For Climate Justice” just outside the ICC Center where the Climate Negotiations were being held. At the vigil, they shared their story and young members from the community performed a play reenacting the illegal eviction. Many of the people who witnessed the performance were among those to call-in on Friday.  Community member Jabulilie Mdlalose said “They destroyed our houses. They destroy our lives. They took our food. They took out clothes. They took everything from us. And they said we are messing up the place because of the COP17. Today we don’t have a shelter. ”


“Now that we have met them and heard their story,” said Buckland “we cannot let them suffer alone, and we will not abandon. Councillor Lucky Mdlalose: people all over the world will be watching how you act on this. We will stand by our friends from KwaMashu until justice is served.”

This community of 31 families had originally been evicted in 2007 to build a road for the World Cup. They were given no alternative housing and eventually built homes in KwaMashu, District 7. On November 23rd the community, consisting mostly of women and children, were illegally evicted without an eviction order and without an assessment required by the PIE act of 1998.


Shortly after the illegal eviction the community appealed to local authorities to let them sleep in a public hall. They were barred from entering the hall, and so, having nowhere else to go, they returned to the site where there homes had been and huddled under plastic sheets. In the torrential rainstorm that night, one man, Mwempi Caka, caught a chill and died soon after. The community has until now received no attention from local authorities despite attempts to deliver legal documents and repeated requests for meetings.


Anna Collins, an organizer from OccupyLondon who was in Durban for the Climate Negotiations and helped to organize the Action at the South African Embassy said, “We decided to organize this solidarity action at the South African Embassy because one death is already too much. Many of these community members are grandmothers and small children, they should not have to beg to sleep on neighbors floors any longer. One grandmother is very sick, and a young girl will be having a heart operation this month. They need their homes back, they need immediate action!”


The feeling of betrayl is strong among the community, many of whom had recently voted for Councillor Lucky Mdlalose and are hoping he will follow through on his promises to bring improved living conditions to KwaMashu. “The municipality said we were messing up the community and they didn’t want the people coming to Durban for the United Nations conference to see us,” said Jabulile Mdlalose. “They are ashamed of us. We have nowhere to go in our own country. The worst part is that the order to destroy our community came from a councilman who had come campaigning in our neighborhoods just months before, promising that he would get us running water and electricity if we voted for him. We voted for him expecting something better and we got this.”


“We stand in solidarity with OccupyKwaMashu because this is not just the story of 31 families, but the story of a government who is not looking out for its own people. Our constitution was created to protect our people from injutices such as this. If our government violently evicts its own civilians from public land without offering them an alternative is not the South Africa that Nelson Mandela and others worked so hard to create,” reported Nkyaniso Madlala of Durban. 


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