Sibusiso Innocent Zikode
A short biography
S’bu Zikode was born in 1975 in the village of Loskop, near the town of Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. He was raised by a single mother who was often away from home as she worked as a live in domestic worker. As a school boy he was very involved in the scouting movement and he graduated from the Patrol Leaders Training Unit at Lexden in Pietermaritzburg in 1990. He attended Bonokuhle High School in Loskop from 1992 to 1996.
In 1997 S’bu registered as a law student at the former University of Durban-Westville but, due to an inability to pay his fees, had to abandon his studies later that year. After that he was worked as a security guard and then as a petrol pump attendant. In 1998 he met Sindy Mkhize, his life partner.
In 1999 S’bu and Sindy moved to the Kennedy Road settlement as they could not afford the rent for formal accommodation. Later that year he was promoted to the position of administrator at the petrol station where he had been working for some years. In 2001 S’bu became the first democratically elected chairperson of the Kennedy Road settlement. He declined to stand for re-election in 2002 but successfully stood for the position of deputy-chairperson in 2003. He was re-elected as chairperson in 2004 and held the position every year until 2007 when he decided not to stand for re-election.
Between 2001 and 2005 he worked very closely with many government housing programmes and he was a reservist at the Sydenham Police station from 2001 until 2004 and became the Director of the Clare Estate HIV/AIDS Drop-In-Centre in 1993.
At the end of 2004 the Kennedy Road Development Committee declared that 2005 would be the ‘Year of Action’ and a number of protests were organised in that year. In October 2005 S’bu was a founder member of Abahlali baseMjondolo – a democratic membership based and directed shack dwellers’ movement. He was elected as the first President of Abahlali baseMjondolo that year and has been relected as President each year since then.
Abahlali baseMjondolo has started and run crèches and gardens, organised for women’s rights and the rights of people born in other countries, strongly supported the rights of all children to access schools, campaigned for live saving basic services to be provided to shack settlements, organised against police brutality and hostility to poor communities and successfully used the courts to oppose unlawful evictions by the state and private land lords. The movement also negotiates with the government and NGOs to upgrade and develop settlements where they currently are rather than have shack settlements razed and their residents forcibly moved to out of town relocation sites. The movement strongly believes that that our cities should be democratic spaces in which all people, rich and poor, are welcome.
Anglican Bishop Rubin Philip has written that:
the courage, dignity and gentle determination of Abahlali baseMjodolo has been a light that has shone ever more brightly over the last three years…Your principle that everyone matters, that every life is precious, is very simple but it is also utterly profound. Many of us who hold dear the most noble traditions of our country take hope from your courage and your dignity.
Along with other high profile members of the movement S’bu’s commitment has cost him his job. In February 2007 his boss at the petrol station, a close friend of the mayor, caved to political pressure and S’bu was forced out of his job. He has also been subject to slander by politicians and unlawful arrest, detention and assault by the police.
Abahlali baseMjondolo now has more than 10 000 paid up members spread across 53 settlements in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. In 2009 the movement joined with the Landless People’s Movement, the Rural Network and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign to form a national alliance of poor people’s movements, the Poor People’s Alliance. On 9 February 2009 Abahlali baseMjondolo signed a breakthrough deal with the eThekwini Municipality that will see 3 settlements being upgraded where they are and 14 receiving services.
S’bu is a regular commentator in the media and has published a number of articles in newspapers, magazines and academic journals. His work is prescribed reading at many universities around the world. He has also been invited to speak at universities and many social movement, NGO and church events. In 2007 he was invited to address a conference of architects in Istanbul, Turkey.
In 2009 he won a scholarship awarded for academically promising students with exceptional records of social commitment and, again, registered to study law. He and Sindy now have four children.