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Vanessa Burger and Faith kaManzi support Durban harbour mobilisation, Dalton Hostel, 16 March

Umbilo residents vow to block port plans
Colleen Dardagan (The Mercury) 17 March 2014

UMBILO residents have promised to block Durban’s multibillion-rand port expansion, saying they had not been consulted and the plans would benefit big business, not the poor.

The residents, mainly women, gathered at the Dalton Beer Hall in Umbilo Road yesterday to hear from activists, community leaders and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), about Transnet and the city’s back-of-port plans.

A presentation viewed at the meeting shows that the hostel falls within a block set aside by the city for industrial rezoning.

Mthembiseni Thusi, who heads the uBunye Bamahostel Association at Dalton, said the community was “shocked”.

“We are seeing for the first time what the plans are. The municipality has not been here to speak to us. We also know those 135 000 jobs they talk about are not for us. They are top positions.

“We are against this development and will protest against it until the government sits down with us,” he said.

Thusi said hostel residents would join a national protest on Wednesday with Numsa, where they would raise these issues.

In the city’s back-of-port local area plan, the blocks between Frere and Esther Roberts (formerly Sydney) roads – which includes the hostel – are to be rezoned for industrial activity.

Vanessa Black from Earthlife Africa Durban told the meeting it was clear the city and provincial government were neglecting services in all areas set aside for the port expansion such as Clairwood, lower Glenwood and Umbilo.

“We don’t believe they are not going to expropriate land. There are massive plans for more roads and they are going to have to expropriate for those,” she said.

“The city has also promised no forced removals. But when someone sells their house and, for example, a trucking company moves in, they do nothing about it. So, of course, the neighbours are going to sell. Living in these areas becomes untenable,” she said.

Desmond D’Sa from the South Durban Community Environment Alliance said residents should not only block the plan but called on the government to spend its money where the poor and the environment could benefit directly.

Zweli Vuzisweli, the provincial head of the hostel association, said employment promised at the new port would bypass locals and present a massive environmental disaster.

“What about all the asbestos on these buildings around here?

“What about the increase in air pollution?”

According to a provincial Department of Public Works report, more than R52 million was set aside in this year’s budget to upgrade buildings and build another 417 units for the 2 500 residents at Dalton hostel.

The Mercury was unable to contact Marc Descoins, who is in charge of Transnet’s proposed port development project, to confirm details of the hostel plans.

Themba Mchunu from Numsa said it was not enough to upgrade living standards.

“We are viewed as cheap labour. That is why they won’t develop hostels and improve our skills or living standards. This port is going to produce false employment,” he said.

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