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The Blinkbonnie Road Protests: A symptom of Durban’s housing crisis

NEWS COMMENTARY

Fear, antagonism and plight of poverty is all that lingers for the shack dwellers of Blinkbonnie Road in Cato Manor, whose lives appear to have endured enough victimhood. Lizeka Maduna visited the settlement this week.

Walking into the strip of land in Blinkbonnie Road, one is welcomed by a striking smell of teargas and the remains of demolished structures. Earlier this week, the community protested for the right to erect shacks in the area, and were dispersed by police.

Now, people lie on mattresses outside, exhausted and fearful for their future. “We haven’t eaten or bathed since yesterday, we’ve been fighting and will continue to fight,” said Siphiwe Sikhakhane.

Disputes between the municipality and the shack dwellers in Cato Manor dates back to 2016, when a group of people lost their homes and started clearing the green area in Blinkbonnie Road and started setting up their shacks.

The Blinkbonnie Road residents have no access to water, electricity or toilets. Thin bare wires, illegally connected from neighbouring Wiggins Road, hang over the shacks or lie dangerously on the ground, provide dim lighting.

“We are told by the municipality to stop illegal connection of electricity but how are we supposed to cook for our children?” Sikhakhane asked.

Some structures have been demolished and the material wrecked. As in many informal settlements in Durban, the pathways in the Blinkbonnie Road settlement, erected among a copse of trees, are rock-strewn and uneven.

Tuesday, when residents held their protest, was a holiday for the children in the settlement. Some joined the group of adults chanting “Sizabalazel’izwe lokhokho bethu”. (“We are protesting for the land,of our forefathers.”)

Women carried shields made of cardboard boxes and zinc sheets and wielded sticks while singing struggle songs. One woman, Zinhle Ngubane said they have been fighting since they lost their homes in neighbouring Cato Manor and continue to fight almost every day. “We are treated as dogs, the municipality doesn’t care about us. Our police want us dead and if that’s what it takes, we shall perish here,” she said.


Meanwhile, a group of men and women patrolled the other side of the wood, machetes and shield in hand. They sat together in groups, chanting and cracking jokes.

Some structures here are marked with red paint. The community said these are the shacks of residents who appeared appeared in the Durban High Court in July, to sue for the right to remain in the area. These shacks have been allowed to remain standing by a court order, but residents believe they too will be demolished when the land invasion unit comes.

“They have started targeting the houses of people whose names appear on the court order. They are also targeting specific people, one was beaten up and left to die,” says another woman who asked not to be named for fear of being targeted.

One man stands with a shield made up of a masonite sheet and a stick. The word “Akufiwe” (let die) is written on it in large text, next to a drawing of a grave.

Most of the Blinkbonnie Road shack dwellers share the same story – with little education, they came to the city to find work and feed their families. With only unpredictable low-paying jobs to rely on, finding shelter soon became an issue. In the end, they found themselves in a rock-strewn wood, armed with sticks and cardboard shields, in a face off with police over a place to lay their heads at night.

1 Comment
  1. Henry Price Jr. says

    comrades believe me it makes me distraught to view or think of such images. It was so call freedom fighters who became president such as Mandela, Mbeki plus Zuma who were aware of such living condition plus was suppose to put end to them instead they sought only to fill their plus their family members plus cronies pockets with as much money as those pockets may hold. These are sight that vividly show why a Buntu president in a majority Buntu nation is least expendable. It is sickening but our primary focus should be at how to equitably manage this condition plus move nation forward by upgrading living conditions plus restoring these people belief in their government plus their will to obtain 21st century style employment. I know I could put together a team that provide low cost modern housing with essential modern conveniences at a price far far below what contractors plus corrupt officials of South Africa proclaim it would cost. It would not be a burden to government instead it would likely be a very low profit project which raise living conditions, self-esteem plus will of non rich Buntu of South Africa. My project would supply by way of manufacturing or bargain purchases all materials including steel plus cement required to construct low income Earth Block homes in rural plus urban South Africa. Virtually all workers would be from South Africa plus all funds earned by me beyond wages plus cost of equipment plus materials would be reinvested in South Africa. This project would take years with designated number of homes to be built annually. Project could be monitored by federal government for efficiency plus progress. This should have been long ago but as I have acknowledged on multiple occasions you should not trust homosexuals to do what heterosexuals should do. That have proven true in South Africa, plus America with wrongly achieved Obama goals being dismantled by Trump administration with seemingly only Obama health care achievement only act of import surviving at this time. It is not in nature of homosexuals to do what is in best interest of heterosexuals unless forced by some means to do so. Now you have not only observe existence of like condition but as South Africans you have needlessly experienced it.
    Once again under total paradoxical condition only person who will bring about foregoing plus many other upgrades in living for non rich is Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as president of South Africa. She is that “lean on me” leader Buntu of South Africa so desperately need so that they may find their better self. Be sensible do what is in non rich of South Africa best interest or confine non rich Buntu to undue misery plus poverty. Very much sincere, Henry Price Jr. aka Obediah Buntu IL-Khan aka Kankan aka Gue.

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