Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
5 December 2012
SAPS Attempt to Illegally Ban Protest in Durban
The Abahlali baseMjondolo branch in the Palmiet Road shack settlement in Clare Estate, Durban, has decided to march on the Ward 23 councillor, Themba Mtshali. They have been supported in this decision by all other Abahlali baseMjondolo branches in the ward.
Mtshali is one of the shack dwellers who became a councillor in the last local government elections as part of the ANC's strategy of trying to contain our movement – a strategy that has included serious repression and intimidation, attempts at co-option, channelling our victories through ANC structures and bringing non-AbM shack dwellers into positions of leadership in the local party structures. However like all other councillors Mtshali is remoted from above and is only an instrument for implementing top down decisions by the party and municipal structures. He does not engage people democratically. In fact it is impossible to even arrange a meeting with him. He has failed the people of Ward 23 and in particular he has failed the poor of Ward 23. Even though he was poor himself a few years ago he is now a councillor and so, as with all councillors, we are not worthy of respect in his eyes because we are poor.
The march has been planned for Friday 7 December 2012. The march will begin at the Palmiet Road shack settlement, move down O'Flaherty Road, and onto Quarry Road and then end at the councillor's office in the Aquarius building on Mountbatten Drive. Our demands will be issued to the councillor and to the premier. We have made it clear to the premier's office that we have no faith in the office of the Speaker of the eThekwini Municipality and that this is why we are jumping straight to the provincial level in this matter.
The demands that will be issued by this march fall under three categories:
1. That basic services like water, sanitation and electricity must immediately be provided to all shack settlements in the ward.
2. That negotiations must immediately begin to secure land and decent housing in the ward for all shack dwellers living in the ward. We will not accept forced removal to transit camps in the human dumping grounds outside the city.
3. That all development and decision making in the ward must happen in a genuinely participatory and democratic manner.
We know the law governing the right to organise protests very well and we have complied with all of the necessary steps to organise a legal march. We also know all of the old dirty tricks that are used by the police and politicians to deny people the right to march or to delay the provision of this right until the very last minute in order to frustrate mobilisation.
We gave written notice of our intention to hold a march on 19 November 2012. We received a stamped acknowledgement of the receipt of our letter of notice. When we received no reply we followed this letter up with a number of phone calls. We were told that there was no record of our letter. We then wrote a new letter and when we delivered that letter we were told that in fact our first letter had been found. Then we received a phone call saying that we need to direct our application for permission to march to an office in the Outer West. The numbers that we were given were never picked up. These tactics of 'losing' notifications, suddenly changing the office at which notifications must be given, giving phone numbers that are never answered and so on are all typical ways in which attempts are made to frustrate the right to protest. These are all old tricks. Lately a new tactic has been to say that permission cannot be given for a march unless the people who that march is protesting against or making a demand to have agreed to accept the memorandum. This is completely illegal. In fact the law says that we only have to inform the City that we will be marching – there is not even any legal requirement to apply for permission and there is no such thing in the democratic law as a permit to march. That was a requirement of apartheid law but municipalities just carry on as if the law was never changed.
Yesterday an officer from the Sydenham Police station called Ntombenhlophe Zothwa, the march convenor, and asked her to come to the police station. He also said that he was aware that this was an IFP march. He gave his name as Solomon.
Ntombenhlophe also received another call to attend a Section Four meeting today at 9. AbM attended this meeting. It was chaired by Captain Govender from the Metro Police. She was a good chair. She was fair, polite and respectful to everybody. Officer Solomon was also at the meeting though. He said that the march could not go ahead as we have not received a permit from the Reservoir Hills shopping mall which is on the route of the march. He also said that we need a permit to march from the owner of the Aquarius building where the councillor has his office. The march will only pass the shopping mall (which was built on the site of a shack settlement that was illegally demolished a few years ago) and it will not go inside. But now we are being told that we must get permission from the owners of a building that we will pass on our march as well as the owner of the building in which the councillor has his office. There is nothing like this in the law. And our movement has never once damaged any building, or caused any other damage to property, on any of our marches. We have been violently attacked by the police but we have never caused any damage to any property or harmed any person on any one of our marches. Saying that we cannot organise a legal march unless the property owners give us permission is a new addition to the long history of dirty tricks used to deny us our right to protest.
Also this morning S'bu Zikode received a call from Nigel Gumede, who is head of housing in the eThekwini Municipality. In the past he has made an open death threat against S'bu. However today he was polite. He was saying that they should meet and that there was no need to march as they could sit and talk. He also said that he knew that this would be an IFP march. S'bu told him that all attempts to talk had failed and that the march was going ahead. He also said that the movement has a long experience of this very old dirty tactic of saying that there is really a third force or a political party behind protests. When AbM marches on the ANC they often say that the march is really organised by the IFP, Cope or the DA. When we march on the IFP or the DA they say that the march is really organised by the ANC. None of the political parties can understand that as poor people we can think and act for ourselves. They are all failing to understand the difference between being poor and being stupid. S'bu explained this clearly to Gumede and told him that this march would be an AbM march.
We wish to make it very clear that:
1. This attempt to deny us our basic democratic right to protest is totally illegal.
2. We will not accept this attempt to deny us our basic democratic rights.
3. The march will be going ahead.
4. If necessary we will take legal action to secure our right to march and if necessary we will march in defiance of any unlawful bans on our right to protest.
We also wish to note that it is clear that Officer Solomon is clearly being used by politicians to undermine the rule of law in order to deny us our basic democratic rights. The SAPS in Sydenham have done a lot to improve their relationship with the poor communities in the area, and with our movement, since the new commanding officer, De Villiers, was appointed. However if they wish to be credible then Solomon must be isolated.
We also wish to note that the Premier's Office has acknowledged receipt of our letter and that we have had good co-operation from that office.
For more information and updates please contact:
Ntombemhlophe Zothwa, Secretary of the Palmiet Abahlali baseMjondolo branch 083 218 1934
S'bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo 083 547 0474