2016: A year of progress for our movement

20 December 2016
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA Press statement

2016: A year of progress for our movement

The year 2016 has come and gone. As we move from one year to another we need to reflect on the year that has been.

2016 has been a good year in the movement. Since our movement was formed in 2005 we have been subject to serious repression – including slander, various kinds of dirty tricks, assault, arrest, torture, the destruction of our homes and murder. There has been impunity for this repression which has mostly come from the police and the ruling party. But during this year, as a result of long struggle and building various kinds of alliances, we made a major break through against impunity for repression. Two ANC ward councillors and a hired hit man were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Thuli Ndlovu, who was our chairperson in the KwaNdengezi branch. The High Court also denied the two councillors (Mduduzi Ngcobo and Velile Lutyeku) and the hit man (Mlungisi Siphesihle Ndlovu) leave to appeal. This was a turning point in the movement since for the first time those who are usually considered to be above the law were given prosecuted, convicted and given a hefty sentence. This sent a clear message to those who continue to repress and murder activists that the arm of the law is long. This case took more than two years to be concluded.

This was also the year in which we held our elective General Assembly where 28 of our branches, all in good standing, and each represented by 15 members, elected the Provincial and National Council. This was a democratic process where our members elected leaders of their choice. Our movement has always stood for participatory democracy, organised through a system of elected councils, as both a means of struggle and a goal of struggle. We continue to see the building of democratic popular power from below as the form of struggle that will open the road to a more just future in which land and wealth are shared and human dignity is respected.

On the 24th of April this year we held our annual Unfreedom Day event. This event is held every year to contest the idea that freedom arrived for all in 1994. Impoverished people continue to be oppressed by an unjust economy, life threatening and undignified living conditions, a lack of access to free quality education, urban planning that that works to exclude rather than to include, a form of democracy that is not participatory and repression by the state and the ruling part. Thousands of people attended the event, and for the first time in the history of the movement UnFreedom Day was covered by the SABC.

We also received a lot of media coverage in Isolezwe as well as Ukhozi FM and Umhlobo Wenene FM this year. The media is an important terrain of struggle and we appreciate the work of all journalists that remain committed to doing their work with honest and integrity.

This was also the year that Local Government elections were held. As a movement we took a firm stand that we will retain our autonomy and not enter in any electoral agreement with any political party. But we encouraged our members to register to vote so that they could vote for the political party of their choice. We decided to take this position because we needed to respond to the repression that we were facing, including assassinations, on all terrains of struggle. We do not undermine the role played by those who fought against the evils of apartheid. However those who took from them with the hope of carrying on with the good work have forgotten the purpose of the struggle. They now serve their own interests and the interests of their families and repress people who threaten their private access to wealth and power.

Unemployment and the lack of access to free quality education is resulting in a crisis for many young people. There are high rates of substance abuse in our communities. On 16 June we held an awareness campaign. We invited experts on drug addiction and abuse. The use of drugs in our communities has been prominent, especially among young people. The theme was “Young people are the Leaders of Tomorrow”.

This year we also held a Women’s Power Meeting where women in our movement discussed issues that affect women and how women can sustain themselves instead of depending on their male counterparts. Women at this meeting came up with brilliant ideas in starting projects that can sustain them. The “Women can do it” workshop was also kick started as a result of this gathering. This workshop has become a useful tool in the upliftment of women in our movement. The movement also held a Gender Equality Meeting where women and men engaged in robust and helpful debates. The full equality between men and women is both a means of struggle and a goal of struggle.

We continued our work against xenophobia. We continue to take the position that everyone that lives here is from here and that each city, as well as the country, belongs to all who live in it. We are proud to have members who were born in other countries in elected positions in our movement. We also continued to work closely with migrant organisations, especially the Congolese Solidarity Campaign – a radical organisation in the tradition of Patrice Lumumba.

The first of October was an important day in our calendar where we officially launched the Thuli Ndlovu Monument as part of honouring and remembering our comrade who fought against corruption until the day she was assassinated.

This year also has seen the leadership of the movement kick starting a new round negotiations with the leadership of eThekwini Municipality. These negotiations are still ongoing. The relationship between this municipality and Abahlali has been hostile in the past 11 years of the existence of the movement. As part of the Operation Siyakhisana that the movement is embarking on it is important that we engage the government as certain forms of development are impossible without government. We can occupy land on our own. But development requires a partnership with government. We entered in these discussions with the municipality purely on the issue of developing our settlements. Also this year on the 17TH July the newly elected mayor of the eThekwini Municipality Cllr Zandile Gumede publicly apologised to the membership of the movement for all the wrongs that the ruling party and municipality has caused to the movement in the past. This was well covered in Isolezwe and Ukhozi FM. We take this admission and apology from the Mayor as a significant breakthrough.

Our movement has always been committed to internationalism. We were pleased to host comrades from movements in various other countries. We were also pleased that our members could travel to Ecuador, Argentina, Zimbabwe and Norway. Two of our members were able to attend the MST political school near Sao Paulo in Brazil which runs for seven weeks. This year there was a new development in our international work. The president of the movement was invited to a meeting organised by the III World Meeting of Popular Movements which took place in Rome, Italy on the 2nd and the 5th of November this year. The meeting was addressed by Pope Francis and was attended by Bishops from all the regions in the world. Our President was given the opportunity for a personal engagement with the Pope.

In closing the year the movement held its HIV and Aids Awareness Day on December 01st. We honour the struggle that has won access to medication for people living with HIV and AIDS and are proud that HIV positive people have been able to serve in elected positions in our movement. The movement has also taken part in the country’s 16 days of activism against the abuse of women and children. We take a clear position that abuse in the family, or in intimate relationships are a political matter, a matter of justice, and not a private matter.

As we move from one year to another it is hard to wish our membership a merry Christmas and a happy New Year knowing very well that it is difficult to celebrate in the conditions that we are still living under. We still need to safeguard our homes against fire, floods and evictions during this time. Some of our members who are going to their rural homes are very aware of the fact that they might return back home and find their homes destroyed either by the fire, flood or by the Land Invasion Unit. What we can say as the movement is that all of us must return in one piece because we still need to fight against our enemies which are capitalism, racism and political gangsterism. We need to unite more than ever before in the new year to fight against these enemies.

We thank all our comrades, in South Africa and around the world, who have stood with us this year

Occupy. Resist. Develop.

Thapelo Mohapi 062 8925 323

Zandile Nsibande 084 6139 772

T.J. Ngongoma 078 528 0810