Kids are running around playing, it’s the school holidays. Elderly women are sitting outside in the sun; they say inside their houses it’s chilly. Enkanini, which translates to ‘place of strong-willed’ in Blinkbonnie Road, Durban, has become their only home.
“We have settled here, this is now our homes and a community,” says a 58-year-old Noncedile Diko.
After months of restlessness and continuous court disputes over land with the municipality, the people of Blinkbonnie Road, a strip of land in Bonela have finally found ‘peace’. Diko, whose house was demolished several times says she in at peace now that she finally has a place to call home.
“We fought a winning battle, they tortured and victimised us but here we are today. God remembered us,” she says looking delighted.
In October last year Enkanini was a vacant strip of land with not more than one hundred houses, but now the place has more than 274 homes; with more people still waiting to get their turn to moved into this piece of land.
According to Nhlanhla Mtshali, Abahlali baseMjondolo’s secretary in Enkanini Branch, there hasn’t been evictions in this area in a while now.
“We’ve been living in peace and harmony for a few months now. It’s not easy to tell when we might find ourselves in the same situation again,” he said.
The place which was covered in trees and shrubs is now full of newly built houses. Although there is a pinch of fear, people here are happy to have a place they can call home.
It’s a typical Thursday and with schools closed, kids are playing around their yards. Meanwhile some are running around jolly, others are keeping busy with house chores.
Two little girls and a young boy are busy washing dishes outside until they notice a camera looking their way. With all the struggle of the past few months between the people of eNkanini and the city’s authorities, these kids don’t seem to know much. They are beaming with joy and hope.
Gugu Nene, 32, sits outside the house with her nieces. Across them is her son and her mother, who she says haven’t been able to live with her until very recently. She reminisces about the time she was shot with rubber bullets when the city’s officials and Anti-Land Invasion Unit carried out ‘brutal’ evictions some time last year.
“If I were to look back to those days, I’d rather run away and never look back. Those were the worst days ever. Sometimes my mom would tell me to stop fighting and go find a place to rent, but here we are today in a place we can call our own home, “ she says.
Nene has been part of the struggle since their houses were first demolished and similar to many others, she has endured more than just losing her belongings, but she knows what being hit with a rubber bullet feels like.
A mother of two, Nompilo was also beaming with joy. She says she can’t believe that they haven’t slept out in the cold in months now.
“God remembered us, we finally have our homes. We are also grateful to our president of Abahlali, if it weren’t for him and his endless efforts we wouldn’t be here today,” Nompilo said.
Noncedile Diko sits on a pile of cardboard that she collects and sell for a living. She says she hasn’t been happier since she built her house without any interference or demolitions. Next to her is a free flowing stream that lies between the road and the houses.
Asked how she copes with the cold since it’s winter, Diko said that the cold is the least of anyone’s worry now that everyone have their homes.
“We couldn’t care less about the cold. We have shelter and we’re at peace, we also have firewood for making fire during the cold evenings,” she said.
The houses are made of plank and corrugated iron sheets with holes; and as much as they seem to be more ventilated, the people here are grateful for the shelter. During cold winter nights, they sit together around fire and share their life stories.
Featured image by Lizeka Maduna.