Audio recording of a talk by Lindela Figlan in Edinburgh

Last month we co-hosted a talk with ECAP by Lindela Figlan from the South African shackdwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. Organising from the bottom-up, thousands of people are involved in the movement fighting for social change, land and housing and abstaining from voting. We recorded the talk and include some quotes from it below. We hope to keep in touch with Abahlali baseMjondolo and continue to show solidarity with them!

Before 1994, I was a member of the ANC and I used to trust the ANC thinking maybe, if the ANC can be [in] power maybe I’ll be free. But after 1994, I noticed that we are not free and it seems as if we will never be free if we don’t stand up and fight for our rights. That is why we started the movement, known as Abahlali baseMjondolo movement […] We started it out of anger, hunger, panic and disappointment. Just because our government promised us so many things, good things, but later when we asked them to fulfill their promises they decided not to listen to us. The reason also why we started this movement, we decided […] let us create our own democracy – where the people living in shacks will define themselves.

Abahlali baseMjondo, they decided to start their own movement, in order to define themselves. In order to speak for themselves.

…if we can try by all means to stop the capitalist system which is all over the world I think that would be good. Just because the reason why there are some people who are too much rich and others they are too much poor is because of the capitalist system. If we can come together, all of us and make sure that we fight this giant, the capitalist system, and build the world, a world which everybody will be equal, where everybody will share the economy of the country, where everybody will feel as a part […] of the society that is what we want as Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Just because we believe [in] a bottom-up system where the people on the ground, they have to define themselves. Where the people on the ground they are going to be respected, just because in South Africa our government doesn’t want to respect the poor people. If we were respected the government would come down and talk to us, not … the other way round, just because even now our government, they are busy building the houses for the people, they are not building the houses with the people. … we want to make sure that the government in whatsoever development which is going to the people, the people they must be involved. We don’t want this kind of approach, a top-down approach, we want to be involved in whatsoever plans, decision made by the government for the people. We want to make sure that the governemnt of South Africa understands and really knows what we are talking about. We are not contesting, we are not [a] political party, we are not doing anything, the only thing, we want the government in South Africa to respect us and also to deliver what they promise before 1994, that is what we want as Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, they have got an objective, their objective is to bring the democracy to the community by empowering the community to represent themselves in their political engagement.

…we are organising grassroots structures which are led by the poor. Our movement is a movement of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the people who are living in the shacks.

Whenever you come to our movement we tell you straight, you are not here in order to see a consultant. We are not the consultant. We are the movement of the people. Once you join our struggle, you are going to fight your own struggle. We are not going to fight for you, you are the one who has to lead your own struggle. We are going to support you to fight your struggle. Just because you are the one who knows how you are suffering, if now somebody from somewhere come and fight for you it seems as if we are imposing. The people they must lead their own struggle.

South Africa now is full of corruption. They are saying they are the custodians of democracy, whereas on the other side I think they are the custodians of corruption. That is what they are doing in South Africa.

Our government must give us land, just because without land there is nothing you can do.

On Kennedy Road, where we started this movement they decided to attack us on the 26th September 2009. And they destroyed whatsoever we had, and they burnt our shacks. The reason why they did that is because of this movement. Just because they say we are the traitors of their democracy. Whereas we don’t see any democracy in South Africa.

We notice we are going the very same way with the people more especially in London and Scotland, these people calling themselves the anarchists. I think we are going the very same way. I think it would be very good if maybe we can make an alliance also with those people, just because mostly they are saying what we are saying. That is what I like with the anarchists.

We want to get rid of capitalism. Those who don’t want capitalism must stand up and fight against capitalism.