Occupy Umlazi!

Thursday, 05 July 2012
Combined Abahlali baseMjondolo & Unemployed People’s Movement Statement

Occupy Umlazi!

The meeting between senior ANC representatives and representatives from the shacks in Ward 88, Umlazi, was supposed to start at 3:00 p.m. It ended up starting at 5:00 p.m. None of the senior ANC people that were expected pitched up. Only the ANC regional representatives came.

The ANC said that they needed a tangible reasone why the community representatives needed to see MEC Willies Mchunu. This was so clumsy! What could be more tangible than the fact that people are currently in hospital due to police brutality and shootings. They could also not give any good reason why Nigel Gumede was not at the meeting. They did not do what they had promised to do.

We told them upfront that there is nothing that we will talk if the people we are expecting are not present. They agreed that they will bring the people that we need from the ANC and so the meeting continued.

The meeting was very tense. As usual representatives of poor people’s organisations were treated with contempt. The ANC even said that we are not allowed to call each other comrade as that is only for the ANC. The representative from the ANC regions office told us that she was given a mandate to come and get what was in the memorandums that we have handed over at various protests so that the ANC would work on to it and make a follow up to those officials. We raised a big concern at the system that is being used towards engaging the people. We asked why officials can only act when it is the ANC talking. Does that mean that the people do not have a voice or do not count in this society? Does it mean that only the ANC counts and has a voice?

It felt like we were being treated as children. We were not listened to. We felt like the officials feel that they are degrading themselves when they are forced to come down to the poor and to talk to us as equals.

When the ANC then tried to sweet talk us into discussing the police brutality and shootings without the presence of the ANC we walked out of the meeting.

At the report back after the meeting it was decided to move to plan B.

At 11:00 today we began a screening of Dear Mandela at the Zakheleni Creche. After that we will screen a film about Occupy Wall Street. We will use the screenings to create a space for the people to strengthen their power by discussing the issues that face us and how to take our struggle forward. Once the screenings and discussions are concluded we will proceed to occupy the councillor’s office. The occupation will be opened by a prayer. We will be praying for all these officials who are undermining the dignity of the people and who does not respect people. We will be praying for our strength to confront oppression.

Noxolo Mkanyi, who was shot in both legs is still battling with pains at eMshiyeni Hospital. Reports say she is not receiving adequate treatment and that doctors simply come and go without attending to her. Her legs are swelling and painful.

We request the media to please come to the Zakheleni shack settlement for themselves, to speak to people, to witness the discussions and to observe the occupation. So far journalists have just been writing reports by phoning someone from the community and then someone from the police or the ANC. The rebellion in Umlazi is a serious matter and it could be much better understood if journalists were willing to come to the settlement, spend time there and speak to people.

The attendance register for the meeting is on the AbM website.

Bheki Buthelezi (UPM) – 072 639 9893
China Ngubane (Right to Know Campaign) – 072 651 9790
Bandile Mdlalose (AbM) – 071 424 2815
Mahedebe (Zakheleni Community Crisis Community) – 074 714 4682