Abahlali baseMjondolo: ‘a homemade politics’ Rights, democracy and social movements in South Africa | Abahlali baseMjondolo
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Abahlali baseMjondolo: ‘a homemade politics’ Rights, democracy and social movements in South Africa

Matt Birkinshaw

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Abahlali baseMjondolo: ‘a homemade politics’
Rights, democracy and social movements in South Africa

by Matt Birkinshaw

Abstract

This paper will outline a number of factors behind the emergence of Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM), the South African shack dwellers’ movement, and consider a number of elements of their thought. Initially, economic and political factors, the conditions for people living in shacks and a widely shared feeling of betrayal by politicians will be sketched as factors providing the material and psychological conditions for social movement formation. I will then describe the thinking of the movement, which can, for convenience, be considered under equality and democracy.

I spent three months in South Africa with Abahlali in 2008, spending much of my time living in Abahlali communities. The movement asked me to research and speak to people about the problem and politics of shack fires and I wrote a report on the issue for them which can be found at www.abahlali.org/node/4013.