by Marc Davis, Huffington Post
ANC leaders have suppressed activists fighting corruption and others have been shot by police on instructions from senior politicians, leader of shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali BaseMjondolo Sibusiso Zikode claimed at an inquiry on Wednesday.
Zikode also asked that the Moerane Commission of Inquiry into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal provide him with protection after he mentioned eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede’s name in the hearings underway in the province.
“I ask for protection because I know I will not sleep now that I have mentioned someone’s name,” he said at the commission, which is probing political killings in the province where at least 89 people are reported to have died since 2014 without any arrests.
Abahlali BaseMjondolo on numerous occasions has been lied to by the Durban mayor, Zikode said, providing detailed instances where Gumede had made false promises to residents.
The movement’s “successful exposure of corruption has been a threat to those in power,” Zikode said, lashing out at political leaders including the mayor who come in “formal attire” and lie to residents.
Zikode claims Abahlali BaseMjondolo members in the province have been intimidated and attacked for years following disputes over corruption in allocation of land and housing in the province. He also said his family, and families of other leaders, have been attacked “in full view of police”.
Assassinations of activists ongoing for years
Several AbM members were killed in 2013, he said.
Zikode, in October 2013, told an audience at Rhodes University in Grahamstown that his own life was also at risk amid ongoing state-led violence against shackdwellers in the province and country.
“Several activists gave been assassinated. Thembikosi Qumbela was the first to be gunned down on the 15th of March this year, followed by [housing activist] Nkululeko Gwala who was fearless and wanted to speak against corruption, injustices, misallocation [of housing and funds]. Nkululeko was told to vacate the area and stop talking, just like we are told everyday,” he said.
In a radio interview with 702’s Xolani Gwala, Professor Richard Pithouse of Rhodes University said threats and assassinations have persisted at grassroots level for years.
“It is not new, it has been very much part of our politics… for a very long time… it has drifted upwards over the years.”
Pithouse said there has been widespread impunity over political violence and that “mostly middle-class society has simply not been interested in this kind of toxic politics festering on the ground”.
“It is only… suddenly it is in the newspapers, suddenly civil society is discussing it,” he said.
‘Shackdwellers cannot be left out of decision-making’
Responding to questions on how the problem of informal settlements can be solved, Zikode said in the short term there “must be recognition that shacks are there”, including the provision of services include water and sanitation, electricity and refuse collection.
Beyond this, shackdwellers cannot be left out of decision-making on the growth and development of the province, he said. The provision of a transparent and democratic housing allocation committee, he said, should be part of this change.
“[Members of] Abahlali are unemployed yet… jobs are given to ANC [affiliates] only,” he said. Those who really need radical economic transformation know very little about it while it is spoken about in Parliament and convention centres, he said.
In October 2013, Zikode said: “Abahlali wants to see a society where every man, woman, child is treated with respect and dignity. We were formed to fight, protect, promote and advance the interests of the shackdwellers and the poor in South Africa. As a movement we had no choice but to mobilise [because the law failed us].”
“Our crime has been to speak truth to power, to question issues of democracy, of how housing is allocated, how policies are interpreted by the authorities. We don’t want to die as cowards, we want to die in truth. We all have to die, but what is the point of dying in silence and cowardice that you leave the generation in a disgrace,” he said.