Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
Abahlali will be Back in the Durban High Court this Thursday, 20 August, to receive the judgment that has been reserved since 21 May 2015
Following repeated brutal and unlawful evictions at a gun point by the eThekwini Municipal Land Invasions Unit in Cato Crest (the Marikana land occupation) and Lamontville (Sisonke Village) Abahlali won several court interdicts. Each and every time we secured an interdict, or an undertaking from the Municipality to cease its illegal behaviour, the interdicts and undertakings were ignored and they continued with their violent and unlawful evictions. It is clear that the eThekwini Municipality considers itself to be above the law and impoverished black people to be beneath the law.
In these evictions several comrades were attacked before being unlawful evicted. One of them was Nkosinathi Mngomezulu who was shot by the Commander of the Land Invasion Unit with live ammunition and spent more than a month in hospital. Although there were many witnesses to this shooting, and although statements were issued stating clearly who was responsible for this shooting, there was never any arrest. It is clear that the law does not apply to authorities of eThekwini municipality. At the same time we can be beaten, shot and have our homes destroyed with impunity.
Cato Crest is the same community that lost the lives of Nqobile Nzuza, Nkululeko Gwala and Thembinkosi Qumbela who were shot dead by the police and the izinkabi zosopolitiki (politicians’ hit men). In Cato Crest residents were evicted more than 12 times, while in Sisonke they were evicted more than 24 times. These evictions were not just unlawful but also criminal and immoral. In each eviction the residents resisted and rebuilt. The fact that the comrades are still occupying the land is due to their own inkani (forceful determination), and not the law.
These evictions show how cruel our state departments are towards the poor. When evictions are carried out peoples’ homes are demolished in the process. The perpetrators are members of the SAPS, the City Police and private security companies. People, including the elderly and children, become the first victims when they lose every little thing at the hands of those who are supposed to be their protectors. People’s homes are turned inside out, their possessions left broken and lying in the mud. This is very damaging to our children and their sense of safety in the world.
The government tried to justify these evictions, especially in the media, by reference to a blanket interdict granted by Judge Koen on 28 March 2013 which interdicted anyone from occupying one thousand five hundred and sixty eight properties owned by the state. The interdict was obtained by Ravi Pillay, the MEC for Human Settlement and Public Works in KwaZulu-Natal. It was in obvious violation of the both the law and the Constitution. Court orders cannot be granted to enable the state to act against the law and the Constitution.
We could not continue with the situation where the Municipality, the police and the politicians remain above the law and we can be evicted, beaten, shot and murdered with impunity. In February 2014 Abahlali baseMjondolo joined the appellant Sisonke (Zulu and 389 others) in the Constitutional Court. The Court found that the MEC’s blanket interdict was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid. However the Constitutional Court only ruled on the legality of the blanket interdict and referred the matter back to the Durban High Court to rule on the legality of the evictions that had been justified in terms of this court order. This Thursday, 20 August, Abahlali will be going to the Durban High Court to receive the judgement that has been reserved since 21 May 2015 when the matter was heard in court.
If the government wins the case they will have won the legal right to treat us as if we are beneath the law. If we win the case the government might continue to act outside of the law but they will not be able to claim that their actions are lawful. It will be clear to all that we are dealing with a criminal state.
It is not just us who are being treated as if we are beneath the law by a government that is acting as if it is above the law. We also wish to repeat our serious concern about Operation Fiela. This is an armed attack on the poor by the state that is mainly targeting people born in other countries. We have noted that the state has also repeatedly said that the ‘crimes’ that will be targeted include what they call ‘land invasions’ and we call ‘land occupations’ and ‘urban planning from below’. We are asking ourselves if we will have to face the army next. In Johannesburg Operation Fiela resulted in an armed state attack on the Thembelihle settlement in Lenasia, a settlement with a long history of struggle. In KwaZulu-Natal the provincial government is trying to set up a privatised armed anti-land invasion unit. We have won many victories in court (using the law) and on the ground (using our own inkani) in the struggle to ensure that South Africa belongs to all who live in it and to realise our right to the city. But it is clear that the state is determined to regain its control over the allocation of urban land by means of organised state violence – the police, the army, private security companies and anti-land invasion units. We continue to work closely with migrant organisations, especially the Congolese Solidarity Campaign, to oppose xenophobia from below.
Abahlali baseMjondolo has used this weekend to stand in solidarity with mine workers in Marikana and their families as they mourn the loss of their comrades, friends, fathers and brothers. To join those who gathered in Marikana in the North West to remember the fallen heroes Abahlali visited four settlements on Saturday, 15 August to carry our living politic. We presented it at KwaGonowakho in New Hanover and also visited the uMhlalane branch, also in New Hanover, to talk about work in progress in securing housing for them. On Sunday, 16 August we have launched a new branch called Marikana in Tamboville, Pietermaritzburg. We have also relaunched the Tumbleweed branch in Howick.
These launches and political discussions were marked by a deep reflection on the meaning of Marikana today. We started our meetings with a moment of silence in honouring the mine workers who were killed by the state. We have put ourselves with the men on the mountain, the women and children in the shacks, the relatives in the rural villages and in the feet of those orphans and widows who lost their loved ones.
We have discussed the meaning of a government that kills the governed in the name of public order. In 2005 when we started our movement we asked ourselves who counts as the public, and who does not, and why. We also asked ourselves why oppression counts as order and resistance is taken as disruption and crime. Ten years later we continue to discuss these questions. We remain committed to being out of order when order is oppressive.
We decided that there is no better way to honour the dedication and commitment that the workers have shown on behalf of all of us than spending our time and our energy building the power of communities and resistance from below. We note that the state does not regret having committed such a crime against humanity. It has not apologised for the massacre or held anyone accountable. Across the country it continues to intensify its war against the poor.
We feel that Marikana is everywhere as we feel that we are living Marikana lives every day. The difference between our daily Marikana from the Marikana of the mine workers who were murdered by the state is just a question of the number of comrades killed in one day. The state has many ways to kill us every day. We are killed by the police, municipal security, the anti-land invasion unit and the izinkabi. We are killed by the decision to deny us a right to land, decent housing, electricity and water. We die with bullets, in fires, in storms and from diseases caused by our impoverishment. Our children continue to die from diarrhoea. Some of our young people are dying slowly from whoonga.
The weekend was full of reflection and emotion that will forever live with us as we remember the highest price paid by mine workers of this country for standing up for a just wage, a living wage.
The land question is a matter of justice but the state seems determined to try and make it appear as a matter of criminality. The land question should be resolved by negotiations, negotiations that start from the position that the social value of land must come before its commercial value and that everyone who lives in South Africa has a right to be treated with dignity and to have a say in all decisions that affect their lives. However the state seems determined to supress the land question with the use of violence perpetrated against the poor. The state seems determined to place itself above the law and poor black people beneath the law. They want to show us to the world as criminals so that they can justify the oppression of our lives and the repression of our politic.
For almost ten years we have been saying that we don’t count to this society. We will continue to insist that our lives, our black lives, matter. We are not prepared to accept a situation in which human beings are treated as animals or as rubbish. Whatever the outcome of this judgement we will continue to do all that we can to defend our humanity and to take the struggle for land, housing and dignity forward.
We would also like to take this opportunity to express our solidarity with our comrades in Turkey who are facing serious repression. For almost ten years our Turkish comrades have stood with us when we have faced repression. The struggle in Turkey can be followed at this website: http://www.sendika1.org/category/english/
TJ Ngongoma 084 613 9772
Ndabo Mzimela 079 355 6758
Thinabantu Khanyile 060 310 8170
Zandile Nsibande 074 767 5706