On Saturday 27 April, the Mahebourg LALIT branch held a lively demonstration in the run-up to Labour Day in their neighbourhood. The march was for “Popular Democratic control over land and sea use”. The march began outside the Cité La Chaux Social Welfare Centre, followed the Coastal Road to the “Bato Ros” monument and ended in front of the Mahebourg market place. There, LALIT militants explained the reasons for the demonstration and distributed a leaflet to passers-by on a busy Mahebourg market day. Many people in Mahebourg agreed with our demands and congratulated us for holding the demo.
Slogans in the demonstration were: for Cabinet to take a formal decision to replace asbestos housing, for housing to be built for those without a home, for jobs to be created by forcing sugar estates to open up jobs by the thousand in food production, for housing for the homeless and for fishers to be allotted cards so that they qualify for a fishing boat license.
“Lakaz lamyant, kase-ranze.”
“Ki nu pe rode? Lakaz”
“Ki nu pe rode? Travay”
“Peser ki bizin? Kart peser”
The Context in Mahebourg
There were small speeches by LALIT militants in-between the slogans to link our slogans to the main demand for popular and democratic control over land and sea use. These mini speeches were based on a criticism on how the Jugnauth government, like the Ramgoolam government before, is subsidising the almost bankrupt sugar/cane sector that creates no jobs on one hand and subsidising the sugar companies' branching out into luxury real estate business i.e destroying arable land by building luxury villas, golf courses, hotels and “Smart Cities” for billionaires. Near to Mahebourg for instance, the government has built a motorway and bridge for the Omnicane Smart City costing over Rs600 million. In Point d'Esny, the ex-Beau Vallon sugar estate is selling luxury villas for 1.7 million Euros.
This is happening when thousands of jobs have been lost with the closure of textile factories and thousands of jobs in the sugar industry have disappeared in Mahebourg and the rest of the country. Women workers travel all the way from Mahebourg and the coast to Port Louis to work in tuna canning.
Artisanal fishers in Mahebourg and across coastal regions of Mauritius now need a State-issued “Fisherman's card” to be able to get a boat license to fish otherwise they get fined by coastguards. After 10 years of no cards being issued, the government issued only some 400 cards forcing fishers without cards into “illegality”. The government is trying to wipe out artisanal fishing altogether.
Without jobs, without revenue from fishing, people cannot rent or buy housing and are forced to live with grandparents or parents in overcrowded little plots of land. People have not even had the means to replace dangerous housing – asbestos houses that they or their parents bought from the State in the late 1980's.
The Mahebourg LALIT branch-in-formation that grew out of the Joint LALIT-Asbestos House inhabitant Committee in Mahebourg has been discussing the land and sea question in regular meetings in the last 4 months and decided to mark Labour Day with a demonstration on this theme.