Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
Today, Abahlali baseMjondolo march against repression in Durban. Solidarity protests are also taking place in Cape Town, Johannesburg and New York.
Since our movement was founded in 2005 we have faced waves of repression including assault, arrest, torture in police custody, organised campaigns of slander, the destruction of our homes, death threats, the murder of our members during protests and evictions, and the targeted assassination of our leaders. The price for land and dignity has been paid in blood.
This repression comes from a very clear source – the ANC. The Anti-Land Invasion Unit and the police are part of the state that is controlled by the ANC. When we were attacked by the ANC in Kennedy Road in 2009 the police supported the attack, and the criminal justice system was grossly misused to support the attack. Senior ANC politicians like Willies Mchunu supported the attempt to drive us out of Kennedy Road with violence. This was not an isolated instance. In 2013 it was widely reported that the assassination of Nkululeko Gwala took place hours after public threats were made against him by another senior ANC politician, Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
Usually the threats against our comrades, and the assassinations that sometimes follow these threats, come from local ANC councillors. They use the izinkabi (hitmen) to carry out the assassinations. It is clear that the local councillors understand that they get their permission to make these threats, and to hire the izinkabi to do their dirty work, from the statements made by senior ANC politicians. We have noted the increase in threats following recent statements made by Zandile Gumede and Nelly Nyanisa.
After long struggle we have secured convictions in two cases. Two ANC councillors and their gun man are now serving life imprisonment for the assassination of Thuli Ndlovu, our chairperson in KwaNdengezi, in 2014. A police officer is serving a ten year sentence for the murder of Nqobile Nzuza, who was 17 years old at the time of her death, in Cato Crest.
Last year we lost four comrades. So far this year we have lost two comrades with S’fiso Ngcobo being the latest to be killed . He was murdered by three gunmen in Marianhill on the 22 May 2018. There has never been any arrest for Ngcobo’s murder. In fact it is clear that there has been no investigation. Just like many other comrades he was killed with impunity.
On the 12 June the Mayor of Durban and the Chief Whip in the eThekwini council made open threats to our movement and our leader S’bu Zikode. The police officers who confirmed that a hit had been planned on Zikode’s life have done nothing to protect him. Zikode’s car has been tampered with on two occasions and he has been forced into hiding. In the Eastern Cape our chairperson Fano Mathumbu, and two of Abahlali’s secretaries, have all had to go in hiding after Inkosi Thulani Mjanyelwa was killed in broad day light by a gang. When the killers were taken to court they were supported by people in ANC t-shirts.
Nobody in government has taken these killing seriously. We have appeared before the Moerane Commission which was set up to investigate political killing in KwaZulu-Natal to give testimony but that has not helped us. The Interministerial Committee instituted by President Ramaphosa to look at the political killings has not included Abahlali in its investigation. It is only concerned about the killings within the ruling party.
In June this year we wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Bheki Cele about all this. We received no cooperation from them.
We have laid charges of against those who intimidate us and those who threaten us with death.
The repression that we have faced, and continue to face, places huge strain on our movement, and on families and individuals. The ANC have exploited the fact that we are being forced to operate in crisis mode to try and infiltrate our movement. They have not succeeded. Open democratic practices, and especially open assemblies in which everyone can speak freely, are our best defence against infiltration.
The ANC in Durban operates like a mafia. There is no distinction between criminality and politics. The rest of the country needs to understand this clearly and to face this directly.
We will march against the violence against our movement and our leaders, and all other activists, in Durban on Monday, 8 October 2018. We will gather at Curries Fountain (DUT) from 8 am then march into the city centre where a memorandum of demands will be handed over at the Durban City Hall at 12pm. The march in Durban will be supported by organised street traders, including the Market Users Committee, as well as Ubunye Bamahostela, the Congolese Solidarity Campaign and comrades from the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU).
Solidarity marches have been organised by our comrades in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Our comrades in New York City in the United States will protest at the South African High Commission.
We have written to President Ramaphosa and the Minister of Police to receive our memorandum.
We will demand an end to violence against our movement and all other struggling communities. We will demand the right to free and democratic organising outside of the ANC. We will demand that all the murders of our comrades be properly investigated. We will demand that all threats made by councillors, as well as the Mayor, be investigated. And, yes, we will demand that our leaders in hiding be protected.
Photos: Abahlali baseMjondolo
Abahlali baseMjondolo have taken to the streets of Curries Fountain in Durban along with Numsa and Solidarity. They are marching to highlight the ongoing threats they are facing, their fight for land, and the killing of their leaders.
S’bu Zikode, president and founding member of Abahlali baseMjondolo (the Shack Dwellers movement of South Africa) in conversation with Rev Dr Liz Theoharis, Director of the Kairos Center and co-chair of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Filmed at The People’s Forum on October 2, 2018.
S’bu Zikode is president, and a founding member, of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a social movement of people living in the shacks (informal settlements) of South Africa’s major cities. A son of a single mother who was a domestic worker, 43-year-old Zikode is a dedicated husband and father, as well as a widely respected social movement leader and human rights defender.
S’bu Zikode will highlight the contradictions in today’s South Africa and the shackdwellers’ struggle to realize human rights and live in dignity. Since July there has been heightened attacks and threats against the leadership of members of the movement, including an assassination attempt on S’bu. His remarks will share insights from Abahlali’s living politic regarding the forces that perpetuate impoverishment, structural violence and impunity and will seek to draw some connections with the struggles of the poor and marginalized in the US and around the world.
The Abahlali movement, which now has more than 50,000 paid up members and another 25,000 in the process of joining, has been a powerful voice claiming rights to housing, land and essential services. The movement began in Durban in 2005 in the Kennedy Road settlement where Zikode lived at the time. Since its inception, Abahlali baseMjondolo has consistently called for “urban planning from below,” foregrounding human dignity over profit and holding elected officials accountable for fulfilling their obligation to the country’s poor.
A fundamentally democratic movement, Abahlali has challenged powerful forces: exposing corruption and abuse of power in the allocation of affordable housing and entrenched patterns of political patronage. As a result, the movement has faced brutal repression.