Ruthless clampdown on shack dwellers in Durban

A march on the Durban City Hall to demand land and housing, 16 September 2013(Photo: Abhlali baseMjondolo Shackdwellers Movement South Africa)

Christian Aid partner the Church Land Programme has strongly condemned the heavy-handed put down of peaceful protests in Durban, South Africa.

Graham Philpott, of the Church Land Programme, accused city officials of "immoral behaviour", while Bishop Rubin Phillip, of the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders' Group, said the police had acted outside the law.

Residents of the densely populated Cato Crest informal settlement were protesting against the allocation of homes in a new city housing project to those closely connected to local political leadership, while the shack dwellers were ignored in the selection.

Christian Aid says the protesters are defying the risks to continue making a stand in the streets against city authorities repeatedly flouting court orders to halt the illegal evictions and the demolition of their homes.

A 17-year-old protester, Nqobile Nzuza, died at the scene after being shot in the back by armed police when they opened fire on a group of peaceful protesters.

In another incident, the city's Land Invasion Unit injured two protesters when they fired at them with rubber bullets. One remains in hospital.

Bishop Phillip said: "We are outraged by the failure of our state to provide the most basic of necessities to those that live in our city. Their actions undermine the dignity we hold onto.

"The police have failed to protect members of our society. Instead they shoot and kill protesters and act outside of the law themselves. Their behaviour is destroying the fabric of our society. We will continue to pray and to protest against these abuses of power."

Graham Philpott, of Church Land Programme said: "If the courts have given orders, they should at least be respected by officials. It cannot be tolerated that people protesting for their rights are shot by police, and criminalised by the justice system. This immoral behaviour by city officials and political leadership is destroying our society."