[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Crossmoor update
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Jul 19 11:29:03 BST 2007
'Save us from this hell' plea
July 18, 2007 Edition 1
"HAPPY birthday for today, Mr Mandela. Please spare a thought for us on
your special day and save us from starving to death. Help to give us our
daily bread and maybe a warm place to stay." That was the desperate plea
from 150 starving, homeless people who have been living in inhumane
conditions after the eThekwini municipality demolished their shacks in
Crossmoor, Chatsworth, two weeks ago.
Seven-month pregnant Tasneem Maurera, 25, her husband Hashimi, 26 and
son Junaid, two, have been sharing one of the tents with 50 other people
after their "home" was razed to the ground by the municipality.
With hunger churning their stomachs and deep cracks etched in their skin
from the biting cold, Maurera said they had no option but to stay in the
"Both my husband and I are unemployed and we have no money to rent a
home. I have a five-year-old daughter Geraldine and she lives with
relatives. I had no choice but to send her away. I cannot take care of her."
She said all three of them slept in one single bed and shared a portable
toilet with 150 other people.
"We have no running water and the toilet system is inadequate. We rely
on handouts to survive and if there is no food we go to bed on hungry
stomachs. That's our fate."
An emotional Maurera said she had lost faith in the government and
sometimes felt death was a better escape than the life she presently led.
"There is no hope for us. No one cares about what happens to us. I am
not asking for a handout, just for a home to escape the cold and keep my
Single mother Mavis Kalawan, 39, is living in fear for her life and
keeps an eagle eye on her daughter Shantal, 16, and cerebral palsied son
"I was forced to move here from Moorton because I was tired of being
abused by relatives. My husband left us a long time ago and I have to
fend for my children."
"It is freezing at night and we sleep almost one on top of the other to
keep Santona warm. All we have to escape the cold is a blanket and a
She said they usually ate a staple diet of dhall and rice and also
relied on the generosity of the community.
"We live in a tent. There is no door and I am afraid to sleep at night.
Residents from a neighbouring informal settlement have threatened us
before and we don't know when they are going to strike."
She said when her shack was destroyed, all she managed to salvage was
"Everything else that I had owned was destroyed. We have nothing. Even
Shantal's school books were lost and she has to start from scratch
compiling her notes. She hates this life and I pray God saves us from
"Today (Wednesday) is Mandela's birthday and I hope he takes some time
to reflect on the plight of the poor. To us there is no democracy. We
have no rights and are being treated worse than animals," she said
Sharlene Naidoo, 27, her husband Kumar, 27, mother Doris, 55, sister
Sharmaine, 30 and niece Sarah, one, share a double bed.
"We are constantly hungry and cold and keep warm by huddling together.
We have no food and have to share what ever little is given to us."
A desperate Naidoo said they could not find jobs and had no money to pay
for accommodation elsewhere.
"Our lives are really dark and gloomy, but we have not lost faith in
God. I am sure He will find a way for us."
She said the government had "failed" them and it was sad that
politicians only made an appearance on "good days" such as Diwali and
Christmas, and hoped that Mandela would be the one to rescue them from
their life of squalor.
"We need to eat every day to survive. These politicians don't realise
that. They think feeding us for Diwali will give us energy for the whole
She said the cold had affected her health and she had been suffering
with a chronic ear infection for the past three months.
Community worker Orlean Naidoo, 46, described the conditions as "pathetic".
She said the residents of Crossmoor informal settlement felt "abandoned"
and their constitutional rights to water and a roof over their heads had
"These people just want a place they can call home. They are living in
appalling conditions and don't even have access to water."
She said most of them were surviving on the generosity of community
Deputy Mayor Logie Naidoo said the demolition of the shacks was "legal"
and ordered by the Durban High Court.
"They invaded council land and we took the necessary action. When people
break the law, they unfortunately have to pay the price."
He said there were 200 000 informal dwellers in KwaZulu-Natal and the
Council was building 15 000 units a year to accommodate the shack dwellers.
"These people have to wait their turn. A total of 5 000 units have been
earmarked for Chatsworth and will be completed in due course. Some shack
dwellers have been waiting for years and we cannot give preference to
one group of people. They are all in a similar plight."
Community activist Ashwin Desai said he was convinced Naidoo had "lost
his head" and the reality of what's happening in the "real world".
"He moves from one glittering function to the next and is unaware of the
suffering of people. People need to stop inviting him to these functions
and maybe then he will have the time to focus of the plight of the poor."
Desai described Naidoo's "uninformed" comments as "hurtful and humiliating".
"These people have fallen on hard times and have no alternatives.
"They are forced to live in squalor. Council is in denial and needs to
devise a new housing policy to give hope to these people."
The impoverished community are in desperate need of food, candles,
blankets, warm clothing, and non-perishable groceries.
Anyone interested in helping should contact Orlean Naidoo at 072 671
2901 or Yogas Nair at 031 308 2418.
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