OCR's Involvement & Preliminary Investgations:
Overview of the Durban Situation

“Sex-Shop”
A landlord of several buildings has given a new meaning to “sweatshops”. Some sweatshop landlords either charge a penalty of about R150 for a day’s late payment of rental or illegally lockout tenants. Now one landlord has provided tenants with an option – sex for late payment. Women in Umgeni Road contacted the OCR about their plight.
 
Cat Food
In a shelter in central Durban, people are charged R25.00 per night. People have to sleep on the floor on cardboards. More drastic was the discovery that the tenants were given cat food as a meal. One building in Albert Park was also identified as a sweatshop. Investigations are continuing.
 
SPECIFIC INTERVENTION:
 
Reaction From Sweatshop Slumlords
Landlords of some sweatshops are desperate to avoid the authorities and public exposure of their gross exploitation of the poor. They have resorted to "dirty" tactics and self-help remedies like disconnecting electricity and engaging the services of warlords. By resorting to strong-arm tactics and indirect punitive measures, slumlords are hoping that the problems they have created would “disappear.
 
Negotiations :
The OCR has intervened in nine buildings. In one building through a co-ordinated effort between the landlord, tenants’ committee and municipal departments, upgrading and renovations have begun in earnest. Bathrooms / shower cubicles and additional toilets were introduced. On two floors, masonite partitions were replaced with brick walls. The electrical system is also being renewed. Rentals have been re-negotiated and are substantially lower. In most instances, tenants are paying half the rentals.
 
Legal Action : Dash Building: Urgent Order granted
An urgent order was granted on November 5, 2002 to have the electricity restored. The landlord, however, had the electricity deposit withdrawn and had the local authority legally disconnect the electricity on the basis that it posed a danger to the tenants.

The urgent application was brought by Krubashen Moodley of T S Pillay & Co. The order granted by the Magistrate’s court under Case No. 65340 / 02 in respect of the following five applicants: Henrique Ezequlel Banze, Mildred Gabela, Thandazile Mshololo, Regina Gumede, Nokulunga Nuba against Ahmed Sadik Sadik, the respondent. The tenants were granted a Rule Nisi calling upon the Respondent to show cause on the day of 2nd of December 2002 why the final order should not be granted: -

(a) Directing the Respondent to restore the supply of electricity to the First floor of Dash Building, 25 Leopold Street, Durban.

(b) Should the Respondent fail to do so, the Sheriff of the Magistrate’s Court, Durban is hereby authorised and empowered to do all things necessary to restore the supply of electricity to the First floor of Dash Building, 25 Leopold Street, Durban.

(c) Ordering the Respondent to pay the cost of this application on a scale as between attorney and client.

 
Tenants Flee From Warlord
Umgeni Road tenants - about 100, had to leave their premises on Friday, November 01, 2002 after a warlord warned them that their landlord hired him to kill them. The warlord is known as "peace keeper" in the area. On Thursday, October 31, 2002, the landlord informed OCR members that there would be bloodshed if the tenants did not vacate the premises. He also said that OCR members would be shot dead if they were to enter an adjoining sweatshop operated by his friend. Tenants lodged complaints with the OCR regarding their living conditions.
 
Electricity Meter Removed
West Street tenants - about 200 found themselves without electricity on Saturday November 23, 2002. The landlord instructed the local authority to have the electricity meter removed because the electrical system posed a danger to the tenants. About four months ago, tenants lodged complaints with the OCR regarding their living conditions, some were living under atrocious conditions for several years. Tenants had accessed to one tap.
 
GENERAL OBSERVATION
The number of sweatshops / workhouses is increasing in Durban. OCR now has a list of about 28 buildings that houses approximately 10 500 people, mainly Africans. Except for a few buildings, “Indians” of which 80% are Muslims, own most. Religious and ethnic distinctions are necessary when one considers efforts at reconstructing our fragile democracy, the great divide between rich and poor and when certain Muslims are pre-occupied with global issues but neglect South Africans.
 
WAY FOREWARD?
There is an obvious need for this type of accommodation cum business premises for the poor and poorest of the poor who have the skills and the market to become self-reliant. Together with representatives of the sweatshop tenants, the OCR intends to establish a working group with local municipality to: -

• Formulate a policy to improve the living conditions of the destitute tenants.
• Assist tenants through local authority’s (SMME) small micro and medium enterprise initiative in their self-employment skills.
• Intervene legally and through other forms of actions to highlight the plight of these tenants and to provide them with necessary relief.
• Conduct a socio-economic and rental survey. This will enable the OCR to ascertain the extent of the tenancy related problems, socio-economic conditions and levels of exploitation. The results of the survey would be useful in engaging the government to intervene. It will also assist the OCR in enforcing the rights of tenants legally.

 
RESOLVED: “SWEATSHOPS” / “WORKHOUSES”, PRINCE WALK, 133A PRINCE EDWARD STREET
Landlord: Dr A.H.I Solwa
No. of Tenants: 9
 
We submit this information for your records.

Tenants approached the Organisation of Civic Rights in September 2002 to investigate the living and working conditions and exorbitant rentals. The OCR’s intervention resulted in: -

 

1. 50% reduction in rentals.
2. Improvement and upgrading of essential services.
3. On-going negotiations with the landlord and tenants resulting in the tenants agreeing to move out of the dwelling.
4. All tenants have now vacated the dwelling.
5. Landlord has undertaken to further upgrade the building.
6. The landlord has undertaken to give the tenants the first option to re-occupy the premises after renovations are carried out. However, such occupation will be for business purposes only.

 
** The above matter was resolved amicably between the landlord and tenants. **