No Longer on Our Own

Left NGOs pose a serious threat to the politics of the poor when they seek to exploit this politics to legitimate their own projects, projects that often involve them being junior partners to Northern NGOs, donors and academics requiring the simulation of political credability and which seldom get beyond meetings about meetings. It is not uninteresting to note that the police remain entirely uninterested in these meetings… Key techniques for this kind of exploitation are to use access to funding to overtly and covertly set agendas, to work with simulated movements or co-opted individuals in movements rather than with the democratic structures of actually existing mass movements, to run meetings in a language not confidently held by most movement members, to make effective participation in decision making dependent on resources that movements of the poor do not have (email, transport, knowledge of certain jargon, knowledge of the terrain on which NGO activists operate etc), to engage in outright misrepresentation and so on. At times some of this is highly racialised but this is not necessarily the case. Class is well able to do the damage on its own. The Freedom of Expression Institute is a noble exception. The Institute consistently provides excellent support to movements battling repression but fights only for movements of the poor to defend or win access to voice. See their very good press statement on the increase in repression in South Africa below. Abahlali has received similar principled solidarity in the form of practical support for particular projects conceived and run under the direction of the movement from the Open Democracy Advice Centre, the Legal Resources Centre, the Centre for Housing Rights & Evictions, the Foundation for Human Rights, the Church Land Programme, Bishop Reuben Phillip, Lawyer Shanta Reddy, Freirean David Ntseng, geographer Richard Ballard, filmmakers Sally Gilles & Fazel Khan and a growing network of others. Abahlali has also worked very well with local community movements like the Westcliff Flat Residents’ Association and the Wentworth Development Forum as well as important regional and national social movements like the Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Treatment Action Campaign. Bahlali have travelled to Harare, Cape Town and various places in rural KwaZulu-Natal to share experiences with others confronting evictions from land and from shanty towns. This movement began with S’bu Zikode asserting that ‘We are on Our Own’. But that is no longer the case.

Freedom of Expression Statement on Increasing Police Repression: