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Kennedy Road informal settlement

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Title: Kennedy Road informal settlement  
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Subject: KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, Treatment Action Campaign, War on Want, South African Council of Churches, Slum Dwellers International
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Kennedy Road informal settlement

Kennedy Road is a shack settlement, in the suburb of Clare Estate in Durban, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It was founded by a Mr. Mzobe in the late 1970s. The land on which the settlement was founded is steep and runs down between the Municipal Dump and the 6 lane Umgeni Road. At the time of the occupation, the suburb of Clare Estate was reserved, under apartheid legislation, for the exclusive use of people of Indian descent.

The initial occupation was covert with shacks hidden in the bush and people being careful not to be seen entering or exiting the bush on the land. But the early 1980s, the settlement had attained critical mass and the occupation became overt.

Various attempts to force people off the land were resisted and by the late 1980s the City accepted the permanency of the settlement.[1] A development NGO linked to big capital, the Urban Foundation, began the upgrade and installed electricity and toilets and built a hall.

However, in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, the decision to allow the settlement to become permanent was withdrawn. Since then, there has been constant pressure for people to accept relocation to the rural periphery of the city. Thus far, this pressure has been successfully resisted.

2005 Road blockade

On 19 March 2005, around 800 people from Kennedy Road blocked Umgeni Road and held it against the police for four hours, resulting in 14 arrests.[2] In October that year, the Kennedy Road Development Committee, together with Committees from 11 other settlements, announced the formation of a city wide movement of shack dwellers known as Abahlali baseMjondolo.[3] By the end of 2007 the movement had members in 40 settlements in the cities of Durban, Pinetown, and Pietermaritzburg and smaller towns like Port Shepstone and Tongaat. 14 of these settlements are affiliated to the movement and are known as the autonomous settlements. In the other settlements the movement has branches with a minimum size of 50.

Violence at the Kennedy Road settlement from September 2009

On 26 September 2009, it was reported that a group of about 40 people wielding guns and knives and attacked an Abahlali baseMjondolo youth meeting. The attackers allegedly demolished residents' homes and 2 people were killed in the resulting violence. The attacks continued through Tuesday 28 September 2009.[4][5] It was reported by independent local and international academics as well as members of the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement that the attackers were affiliated with the local branch of the African National Congress and that the attack was carefully planned and sanctioned by the local police.[6][7] However this has been denied by the ANC and the police who blame a 'forum' associated with Abahlali baseMjondolo for the violence.[8] The attacks have garnered national and international condemnation with some people labelling the events a 'coup'.[9][10][11][12] Churches also issued statements of condemnation.[13] The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Safety and Security held meetings for stakeholders however these were condemned as unrepresentative by church leaders and AbM representatives. AbM said that they are victims of a 'purge' and that they refused to sit side by side with attackers and have called for an independent investigation into the attacks.[14] A number of well known intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, have expressed concern about the attacks[15] and Human Rights Watch,[16] the Centre for the Study of Democracy,[17] The Norwegian Centre for Human Rights[18] and Amnesty International[19] supported the call for an independent commission of inquiry into the attacks. The government ignored this call.

Abahlali baseMjondolo claimed that violence and intimidation of its members in the settlement continued for many months after the initial attacks.[20][21] The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions in Geneva issued a statement that expressed "grave concern about reports of organized intimidation and threats to members of advocacy group, Abahlali baseMjondolo."[22]

On 18 July 2011, the case against the 12 accused members of Abahlali baseMjondolo collapsed.[23] The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa issued a statement saying that the "charges were based on evidence which now appears almost certainly to have been manufactured" and that the Magistrate had described the state witnesses as ""belligerent", "unreliable" and "dishonest".[24]

Ongoing protest

Recent protests from the settlement, resulting on road blockades, have centered around the issue of access to electricity.[25] It has been argued that the attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo at the Kennedy Road settlement was linked to the movement's successful challenge to the so-called 'Slums Act' in the Constitutional Court.[26]

Other information

The settlement is now home to approximately 7000 people. Many marches and other protests have been organized against the City Council by residents of the Kennedy Road settlement and it has often been occupied by the police and the army. S'bu Zikode, the head of the shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, lives in the settlement. It is also home to the famous isicathamiya choir the Dlamini King Brothers, 3 churches, a resident run crèche, a resident run library and a football team.

Bishop Dladla of the Zion Christian Church lives in the settlement.


External links

  • Bryant, J. 2008, 'Towards delivery and dignity: Community struggle from Kennedy Road', Journal of Asian and African Studies, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 41–61.
  • The Work of Violence:a timeline of armed attacks at Kennedy Road, Kerry Chance, School of Development Studies Research Report, July 2010
  • The Work of Violence: Armed Attacks at the Kennedy Road Shack Settlement, Kerry Chance, Rhodes University, March 2011
  • Report on the Attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Kennedy Road settlement by Malavika Vartak, Development Planning Unit of University College London, 2009
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