Transit camp tension


The Gift of the Givers, who have undertaken the construction of the transit camp in Crossmoor, say they are on course to meet their end of October targetted handover to the eThekwini Municipality.

The camp is being built for the residents of the Bottlebrush Informal Settlement who were hardest hit after the Easter floods washed away their homes and belongings. The Bottlebrush Informal Settlement has been part of Crossmoor, Chatsworth, for over a decade.

This, despite the simmering tensions between the residents of both the informal and formal settlements, who are at odds over the construction, Imraan Mohamed from Gift of the Givers said construction was progressing well, and once completed, it should hopefully quell tensions.
Said Mohammed: “I’m hoping that construction will be completed by mid-October and the handover will be at the end of October. However, this will not be done until water and sanitation is in place. We as the Gift of the Givers want a better life for those living in those transit camps. We are rebuilding a better future for the people. It is better for the community that they live in a transit camp than in a shack and people must see that.”

Affected residents of the informal settlement were relocated to a site behind a local church, along Crossmoor Drive. They have been living in shift tents for over four months, with the youngest resident being a one-month-old baby. “They cannot live in a tent forever. This is a humanitarian issue. We have to put humanity first,” Mohamed said.

The construction of the camp has however caused an uproar among the residents of the of the formal settlement, who say that they are outraged over the location. Arguing that a transit situated in the middle of Crossmoor will bring the values of their properties down and increase crime and social ills in the area, despite living next to an informal settlement for nearly 20 years.

Last week, tensions boiled over with two protests taking place at the gates of the construction site. The first was undertaken by the residents of the formal settlement, who held a demonstration calling for the removal of the Ward 71 councillor, Previn Vedan, while chanting and holding up placards that read “No to Transit Camps.”

The second protest was the day after by residents of Bottlebrush saying that they were not criminals. “Just because we are poor, we are not criminals,” said one of the residents. Many related how hard living for them has been after the floods. They questioned why was the community being divided over this issue as South Africa was a country for all its people.

Chairperson of the Crossmoor Civic Association, Julian Moodley, in a video posted on the Save Crossmoor Facebook page, saing they opposing the building of the transit camp was not a racial or political matter as it is now being purported, however the concern was over how the land was acquired, the lack of consultation and the fight for proper housing to be built. “We want them properly integrated to the community,” he said.

Addressing Vedan, Moodley said: “You have forced your agenda to impose a transit camp in the middle of a formal area of Crossmoor. We from the outside have told you months ago that if you are planning to place these individuals, please provide them with proper housing from the onset. Stop pulling the race card. You genuinely don’t care about the community.” While another member of the group, Zain Suliman said: “This councillor has no interest in the Indian people yet call Indians racist. Not sure what to call an Indian who hates all other Indians who questions his failure. Now reporters, put that in the media.”
An undeterred Vedan said: “With leadership comes prestige, privilege and the burden of command. My task is to work for a better life for all the people of Ward 71 whatever their race, class, faith, gender or culture. The people waving placards want to take us back to an ugly period in apartheid history.”

Chatsworth is a diverse community in both race and class. We must learn to live together in peace and dignity. To stand in the way of housing the victims of the flood tragedy is wrong. It is hurtful and even has racist overtures. I was elected on a promise of uniting our people and building our country. I ask you to work with me to promote peaceful coexistence in our community.”

The City of eThekwini has however disputed the allegations that the community was not consulted about the construction of the transit camp. Municipal spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela said: “Council held consultation meetings with the ward councillor, the Crossmoor Civic Association, CPF and other Crossmoor residents on 20 and 26 August. The process of identifying the site for improved temporary accommodation, the same site where the families are currently living in poor conditions under a tent, was explained fully in these meetings.”

The meeting was confirmed in a statement by the Crossmoor organisation and by informal settlement community leader, Falakhe Mhlongo, who said: “I was even banned and shut out of that meeting because they said I was aggressive and would not give them a chance to talk openly.”