Category Archives: schools

Motala Heights Will be a Community for All

There is an archive of entries on Motala Heights here.

Press Statement from Abahlali baseMotala Heights
30 October 2010

Motala Heights Will be a Community for All

When we joined Abahlali baseMjondolo and started our struggle in 2006 the municipality, led by the ward councillor Derek Dimba, were trying to destroy the jondols up on the hill. They were coming with guns and tear gas and evicting the people and destroying their homes. They were doing this illegally.

In the tin houses down in the valley the landlords, led by the gangster businessman Ricky Govender, were also evicting the poor people. They were coming with thugs and they were also evicting the people and destroying their homes. They were also doing this illegally but the polices were supporting them as they supported the municipality.

Derek Dimba was always in Ricky Govender’s house. The rich were united and we, the poor, were divided. Together they were trying to push all the poor people off this farm and to develop it for the rich. Govender was building the commercial housing developments for the rich himself.

Since 2006 we have had some ups and some downs in our struggle here in Motala. But we have faced a lot of threats and intimidation and united the poor in the jondols and in the tin houses against the power that the rich had over this community. We stopped the evictions in the jondols and in the tin houses. We electrified the jondols ourselves. We built a crèche. We organised all kinds of events and mutual aid. Through our participation in the larger struggle of Abahlali baseMjondolo we were also able to negotiate with the Municipality along with our comrades in the movement from other areas from the end of 2007 till the beginning of 2009. As a result of these negotiations we won an agreement from the municipality to provide more services to the poor in Motala and to build houses for the poor in Motala. This was a real victory. We went from a situation where all of the poor people were being driven out of Motala to a situation in which we brought the rich under some control and won an agreement that Motala would be a place for everyone and that we could all live here safely. That agreement is an agreement to put the social value of the land here before its commercial value and to put the right of an established community to remain together before the rights of the rich to use their money to make more money by evicting us and developing the land for commercial housing.

Land & Housing

The Department of Land Affairs came with Zamo from the Housing Department and showed us where development could be done. They said that this year is the second year of the planning period and that next year will be the third and last year.

But after a while no one in our office could get to Zamo but Kalinca [Kalinka Copello –a PhD student from Brazil] could. Why is it always like this? Mike Sutcliffe will meet with any student from England or America and try to charm them but he’ll never meet with us.

Zamo told us that Ricky Govender was working with Faizel Seedat of the housing department to do a private sector commercial development. Seedat and Govender call this ‘low cost housing’. But Govender will rush you R600 000 for a house. This is not low cost housing.

Govender has built a show house that is priced at R595 000 and he says that he has a paper that states that the municipality has given him money to develop the area. A comrade working in a steel company told us that Govender recently bought enough steel to build 1 600 houses. We’ve heard that Ricky Govender is building low cost houses for the government in Phoenix and Verulam. Here in Motala he is telling the poorest people to make a list of all their income including child support grants and any businesses that they have. This is creating the impression that Govender is providing the houses that we have fought for. We took a copy of Govender’s form to Zamo and Zamo was shocked. We can’t risk our housing budget getting into Govender’s hands. Money is a devil to anyone. It cannot go to Govender or to any other individual person. That money is for the community.

Govender’s vehicles and bulldozers were all repossessed in December by the sheriffs. It is widely known that he is owing money everywhere. Govender continues to dump illegally in the community and Dimba is not fazed about this. Even the Highway Mail has written about this. This has been going on for years. But Dimba is not fazed. Govender remains above the law in Dimba’s eyes. The poor are below the law and the rich are above the law. It seems that the law is only for the people in the middle.

Zamo has left the Housing Department and Nompilo has gone on maternity leave. We’ve heard nothing from the Department since Kalinka spoke to Zamo on the 8th of April and Nompilo told us on the 15th of April that the land assessment had gone to land affairs. Therefore we want clarity. The Municipality must come straight to the point and discuss everything openly with us like Zamo did. We are very angry.

Our demands to the Housing Department are that:

1. We want an urgent meeting to give us clarity on the status of the plans for our housing development and, also, clarity on what Ricky Govender is doing in Motala, on what land and with what money. We need to know what is his relationship with the Municipality.

2. We want regular meetings during the whole planning period of the development in Motala.

Some of our members are saying that instead of struggling all the time for the government to build us houses like they promised we should just demand that they just give the poor the land and then we can do our own mud houses. Some of us are old, we were born from here and we’ve never seen anything from the government. If they just give us the land and the paper to say that it is ours then we can see for ourselves. We are not hungry for their money. We are hungry for the land.

We read in the Daily Sun about that man that every day when we goes to look for work he also looks for bricks. Every day he comes home with three or four bricks and he is building his house solely three or four bricks at a time. If the government can’t build for the people it must let the poor people build for themselves. It’s like how they try to stop illegal electricity and water connections while they are failing to provide legal electricity and water connections.


We stopped all evictions in the jondols in 2006 and there have been no more evictions since then. We stopped all evictions in the tin houses for a few years using various strategies including rent strikes, legal strategies and mobilisation. Most evictions are illegal and so legal strategies usually work very well. After a number of defeats Govender stopped intimidating people. He’s very quiet these days although he has recently been coming with people who we do not know and filming in certain plots in Motala. We don’t know why. But now the land lords are starting to get their confidence back. Ten families are threatened with eviction in lot 6 and a number of families in lot 35. Govender is threatening five families in Lot 46. They have not received eviction letters yet. It is just at the verbal abuse stage now. Govender is also trying to evict two families from Lot 13. He has been trying to evict these families for years but he has always failed. We have successfully defended these families.

We have been to the deeds office to check who really owns the land from which people are being evicted. It costs R150 to get each file. This is another way of excluding the poor. But from what we have found it seems clear that Govender and other people arriving and claiming to be landlords are just stealing land. According to the deeds office lot 36 is owned by the National Housing Board. And lots 18 and 51 are owned by the Municipality. All these lots were set for public housing in 1986. We demand that all the land owned by the Municipality must go to the poor and not to private housing or other commercial developments.

In every eviction case the papers from our side are also served on the eThekwini Municipality but they have done nothing. Whenever government can’t do anything for us we have to see what we can do for ourselves.

Since we started our movement we have only been unable to defend two families from eviction in the tin houses. We do not accept that people should be left homeless when there is a lot of empty land in Motala, some of it owned by the Municipality and some of it owned by the National Housing Board. Therefore we have identified and allocated land for these families so that they can build their own homes and stop being tenants of the rich. If government is not gonna take any steps to protect the poor who are made homeless then we have no choice but to take the law into our own hands. We will continue to do this. We demand that no one is made homeless in Motala. If government cannot afford to build us RDP houses now then they should just give us the land right now.


We are still struggling for services. We tried to get the municipality to bring a grader to make the road to the jondols as this had been promised to us but then we were referred to Derek Dimba and so of course nothing happened. Everything that is supposed to be for the poor fails when it touches Dimba. If the Municipality is serious about working with all the people they need to work directly with the poor people and not with the councillors that are just here to oppress the poor. The councillors represent the rich and not the poor and therefore we must be allowed to represent ourselves. This is basic logic and yet it is often taken as a crime for the poor to organise ourselves and to speak for ourselves in this country.

Two years ago Bongo Dlamini and Shamita Naidoo made a statement to the Water Department about the need for more stand pipes in the tin houses. This was agreed to in the negotiations with the Municipality and PPT. But Bongo is late one year now and the Water Department only came now, on Wednesday last week. At first they just asked if there was a tap for the tin houses and we said yes but one stand pipe for all the tin houses without their own taps is not enough. We were very clear on this point and they have now agreed to put in new stand pipes in all the places where there is no water. We also negotiated with Zamo and PPT that they would build toilets in three places in the tin section. This was the first promise that was made to us in the negotiations but it has not been kept. We want them to bring those containers with toilets and showers.

The people with taps inside their tin houses are paying R200 and upwards for water. This is unaffordable for many families. From August billing is coming with a sewerage tariff but they don’t have a sewerage system. They are using the pit system.

There is a man called Steven (Duma) who has got an office in Pinetown which is called “Deprived Community Services and Helping Hands”. He helps the deprived communities to get water connections in their houses. He charges a fee of R1000 and then R60 per month. But now the Municipality is saying that his water connections are illegal. They won’t provide water connections but when someone else does they say it is illegal. Steven connections were like heaven to some of the tenants in the tin houses. Someone that is willing and able to do the work that the government is failing to do should be given the right to do that work.

Those that can’t afford water through Steven are still going through their neighbours. Often there is one legal meter for twenty families.

When it comes to electricity Operation Khanyisa is operating very well in the jondols. We are gonna steal electricity until they put the electricity inside. If they disconnect again we’ll just reconnect. They can’t stop us. Some people in the tin houses have prepaids but the bills are still coming too high. When electricity is unaffordable we have to go back to chopping wood. People have to wake up very early in the morning to chop wood.

We are also having a problem with the postal service. The tenants in the tin houses don’t get their post. The letters for those of us that are tenants of Govender go to Govender at his supermarket or warehouse. Either we don’t get the post or when we do get it it has been opened. We want our own cluster boxes with keys.

The Clinic

The clinic not only provides services to residents of Motala Heights but they also service nearby communities and the Westmead Industrial Area. However, the clinic here in Motala Heights is open only on Mondays and Fridays. Mondays from 9 till 3 and Fridays from 9 till 1. The nurses often arrive after 10am and take their own time for lunch while we are waiting outside. They have done away with providing services on Wednesdays.

They are supposed to give porridges and milk for the poor kids, pensioners and the sick, but they are not giving it. In Reservoir Hills the clinic even gives hampers for the very sick but not here.

Condoms are supposed to be supplied for free but people are afraid to go and ask the nurses for condoms because they ask people a thousand questions. That’s why we have had to organise condom distribution ourselves.

The blood pressure machine is not working and even our people with the killer virus are not getting their HIV medication. In fact they are not even getting porridge. Often the clinic just refers us to the hospital and then when we go to the hospital they refer us to the clinic. Sometimes the clinic refers us to Marianhill Hospital which is a semi-private hospital but you have to pay R150 to spend the night there and R360 for a scan and poor people just can’t afford this. We prefer to go to Khan’s Hospital because it is a government hospital.

One of the nurses is very helpful and she said that we have rights as people and that we must complain. But the other nurse is very rude to the poor people. She even refused to treat one very sick man who is living in an old truck because she said that he smelt. It is the job of nurses to treat everyone who needs treatment. This man is dying. He is in very critical condition. The hospice and the hospitals won’t help. The clinic chased him away because he was smelling. He spends all day just sitting in the bus shelter. Before the owner of the truck said that he could stay there, and put a plastic over the broken windscreen for him, he was living in the Post Box but it caved in under the rain. What kind of country are we where people must live like this? Where people must die like this?

The Health Department did set up a Health Committee here but it is not functional. There is no communication. It is the usual story with these top down structures.

As a movement we supported the Public Sector Worker’s strike because everyone needs to be paid properly and because most public sector workers are supporting a lot of people who aren’t working. But some of our people couldn’t get their HIV medication during the strike and their health has really gone backwards. This is not right. Nurses and other public sector workers must understand that when you work for the public you work for the people and the people mustn’t be forced to pay the price for the legitimate struggle of nurses against the greed and arrogance of the government.

We really need help with looking after some of the HIV ladies and their children here.


Every year the government makes the budget but there is nothing for us. It looks like nobody knows us. We are like the animals to them. But we are living people.

The municipality must come to all the communities and allow us to have input in the budget. We have two demands about the budget:

1. They must bring the budget to us and show it to us so that we can see where the money is going.

2. From next year and onwards there must be a participatory and democratic budget planning meeting in each community each year. Government must stop pretending that the councillors represent everyone in the meetings where budgets are decided. The councillors represent the rich. They do not represent us. We represent ourselves. Therefore the money for Motala should be allocated by an open meeting in Motala.


Every year we have the same struggle to get the poor kids into schools. Last year the poor kids were even stoned by the rich kids in Wyebank. We fill in the fee exemption forms for all the kids but some of them are rejected. Others are not rejected but they are just ignored and nothing is done. While there is no feedback the fees are accumulating. The poor children are treated badly. Sometimes they are sent home for silly things like having their hair too long when there is no one at home to look after them. It’s not right for a child to be roaming around on their own.


Everything that touches Dimba fails.

Dimba says that there is no way in hell that he will come to Motala. He says that he feels threatened by us. But no one has ever got aggressive with him. All we did was to come to his meeting and ask him our questions through a loud hailer. If councillors think that questions are threatening that is their problem and not our problem.

When Shamita phoned him recently, on the speaker phone at the Minister’s Fellowship, he took off with her and put the phone down.

He won’t even give us the proof of residence.

Like in most areas where Abahlali baseMjondolo organises, Dimba, like most councillors, refuses to give us the proof of residence forms that you need to get a bank account, to make your cellphone legal and to get grants. This is one of many ways that the councillors try to control the poor from the top down. We have had now made our own arrangements to get proof of residence certified for people on a regular basis without having to go through Dimba. In Kennedy Road Abahlali baseMjondolo just started issuing proof of residence forms on its own. We are looking into this.

In 2007 the PR councillor, Mr. Narenjee from the IFP, said in the paper that he assisited in the provision of low cost houses in Motala. But where are these houses? When we ask him he runs away.

We have noticed that in fact councillors and officials don’t understand about land and housing. They don’t even understand about schools. We have to learn them. We are willing to keep learning them. But we as the poor shouldn’t have to be learning them all the time. They are paid to do their jobs. We are paid nothing to organise in our communities.


We meet on the roadside every Saturday. The government treats us like we haven’t got hands, like we haven’t got minds, like we are babies. But we stand together even though finance kills us all the way.

We get most of our solidarity through all our comrades in Abahlali baseMjondolo but here in Pinetown we are also getting support from the Minister’s Fellowship. We want to thank them for their living solidarity, a solidarity with dignity.

For more information and comment please contact:

Sipho Khanya: 073 588 9729 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              073 588 9729      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Louisa Motha: 078 176 0088
Shamita Naidoo: 074 315 7962
Krinesh Rajah: 082 463 6853

The education crisis: Call in the people

The education crisis: Call in the people

As usual at this time of the year, there has been a sudden spurt of analyses, discussions and scenarios about our education system. Some of these are symptomatic of the annual matric exams-related national itch. This year, some of them are undoubtedly related to contests between political parties positioning themselves for next year’s general election. And yet we believe that something even more important is taking place – as South Africans we are sensing more clearly the depth of our crisis in education. And we are realising that education should be placed on the national agenda as a priority item.

A bleak future?

Every South African citizen who knows that the future of this country ultimately depends on the health of the education system has come to realise that at this moment, we have no future. This is so because of the fact that the system continues to stagnate and even to regress in crisis mode, in spite of all well-intentioned interventions by government and other interested parties.

By way of reminding ourselves of the depth and the extent of dysfunctionality of the system, a few examples must suffice. Behind these, there is a veritable archive of statistics and other data that demonstrate in brutal detail just how bad the situation is.

Very many of our children – especially in the impoverished rural areas and townships – go to school hungry. They are by definition unable to learn effectively.

The majority of our children are not learning to read and write confidently in any language. The culture of reading, which is the foundation of any modern nation, is confined to a thin layer of privileged people.

Too many schools are unsafe, bleak, uninspiring places where violence and abuse are rife.

Teachers and their students are too often traumatised, demotivated and merely going through the motions. Schools as learning spaces, where opportunities exist for experiencing the joy of learning, exploring, experimenting and achieving, are few and far between. Where they do exist, they are to be found mainly in established suburban, former White areas.

In most other cases, schools are no more than dumping grounds where parents hope the teachers will cope with their offspring as best they can. And, indeed, given class sizes and other anti-educational factors, many teachers are no less than miracle workers!

79% of our schools do not have libraries and 60% do not have laboratories.

60% of children are pushed out of the schooling system before they reach Grade 12.

If you dropped out before completing Grade 12, your chances of employment are not significantly higher than someone without any schooling.

Teachers are the most important group of professionals in any society since everything else depends on their dedication and effectiveness. Yet the quality of teacher education and professional development, as well as the levels of support for most teachers, are grossly inadequate. So much so, indeed, that 55% of those in the profession would leave it if they could.

30 000 teachers in fact do leave the profession annually, while only 7 000 enter it.

Crux of the problem

The long and the short of the crisis is that we have a two-tier educational system in South Africa, one for the children of the rich and another for the urban and the rural poor. Schooling is based on middle class norms – such as literate parents, homes with some books and newspapers, daily access to English, and homes with long standing confidence in discussing school work with children. The majority of our children who come from other kinds of families and homes are doomed to fail and to be frustrated. The consequences can be seen everywhere in our streets and in our prisons. We need to address the social inequality which is at the root of this phenomenon, inter alia by creating the supportive environment and providing the inspiration, the leadership and the resources that all children need to benefit from their schooling.

What can we do?

We have to call in the people, do again – and even better – what we did under apartheid. We have to make education into a people’s affair. Communities, especially working class and other poor communities, have to become directly involved in looking for immediate ways out of the crisis. Government and educationists have to engage the people in open, public, transparent processes where the issues are canvassed in detail and social contracts between relevant arms of government, educational institutions and the relevant communities are entered into. Schools of education at universities should place the engagement with poor communities at the top of their list of research and development priorities, and government as well as other organisations with resources should see this as worthy of public investment.

The Department of Education should institute a national commission on restoring quality education immediately after the 2009 elections. Such a commission should not consist merely of ‘experts’ and an army of consultants. It should, like the poverty hearings, involve all communities over a period of at least 18 months and issue interim reports and recommendations until it can produce a final report on a well-considered and realistic programme for the radical transformation of the system as a whole.

Immediate actions

Three issues should receive immediate attention: improving the quantity and quality of teachers in the system, especially in the primary school, improving the availability of quality learning and teaching resources for all learners and educators and, above all, instituting a corruption-free compulsory nutritional scheme co-delivered with, and accountable to communities, so that even the poorest child is given at the very least the chance to attend school on a full stomach.

We are engaged in weaving together a network of educators and other interested people to launch an initiative to come together, across differences, to mobilise for education – sensing that our future depends on urgent and wide public participation in education. We believe that all those who are serious about salvaging our proud educational heritage and building on it for the liberating future we held up to our youth and our people in 1994, will want to be part of this non-party political network and educational movement.

We stand at the proverbial crossroads. We either take the road that goes around in a long detour only to come back to where we are now – in crisis; or we take the direct, if difficult, road to the kind of education we want for our children and other members of our society equally in need of educational development. It is only if we have the courage to do this that we can build the kind of South Africa for which we have fought so long, and for which we continue to struggle.

We believe that the choice is crystal clear.

Signed by: Neville Alexander, Ivor Baatjes, Nhlanganiso Dladla, Andre Keet, Nobuntu Mazeka, Nomsa Mazwai, Enver Motala, Kim Porteus, Brian Ramadiro, John Samuel, Salim Vally.

Daily Dispatch: Stun grenades end ‘horror school’ protest

Stun grenades end ‘horror school’ protest


POLICE fired stun grenades yesterday during a protest by East London pupils against the dilapidated state of Lumko High School in Duncan Village.

Their plan was to march to the Department of Education’s office to list their grievances – which include having sewage run through their classrooms and having to sit 60 to a room – to the MEC of Education.

According to them, the department has been promising them a new school for the past 15 years.

But police were called to disperse them when they disrupted lessons after demanding entry into neighbouring Ebenezer Majombozi High School.

They marched there in the hope that Ebenezer pupils would march with them to the MEC’s office to show their support. They had already mobilised pupils from Qaqamba High School.

When the Ebenezer Majombozi High School principal refused to allow them entry, they tore the school’s gate open.

Police dispersed them using stun grenades and threatened the pupils with rubber bullets.

Police spokesperson Captain Stephen Marais said two stun grenades were fired by police to disperse the toyi- toying pupils .

“They were blocking the road and the police tried to calm them down. Only two stun grenades were fired to stop them from walking in the middle of the road disturbing the flow of traffic.”

The students carried placards that read: “We want school, we have rights, no more empty promises.”

Vuyani Mkonqo, leader of the school governing body, said a number of people claiming to represent the department had visited the school in May, and had noted the conditions. They wrote a list of all of the students’ and teachers’ grievances.

Top of the list from both was the appalling conditions of the bathrooms, which they claimed were beyond repair .

According to them, the toilets no longer flush and had become so clogged that sewage spilt into the classrooms.

Pupils complained that at times they have to jump over human excrement to get into classrooms, and then endure the smell during lessons.

Mkonqo also said teachers complained about classrooms being too small to accommodate the 900 pupils who attend the school.

According to them, at times they have to teach 60 or more pupils at a time in a room that should hold no more than 30.

They also said there were not enough chairs and desks so that some pupils were forced to sit on the floor.

Pupils complained that when it rained water came through the roof .

Angry student Chumani Quluba said: “There are no lights in the classrooms. Doors don’t close properly. Rainwater gets in on rainy days. We get so cold in winter from the broken windows.”

Other students said there were no science laboratories or sports field.

Leader of the student representative council Nonstikelelo Joyi said that members of the Education Department met with her and teachers in early May. Proposals for a new school were discussed, and they were shown the building plans.

They also introduced three men who were apparently organising temporary prefabs while the school was being built. The department also allegedly promised buses to transport pupils to the new premises.

On Monday, the first day of term, the pupils waited for the buses, which did not arrive, and then walked to the new premises which did not exist.

Angry parents were also present. One of them, Linda Mamase, also a member of the school governing body, said they were told of the new school and the prefab classrooms but asked to meet the MEC to confirm everything, as the last time land was earmarked it was said to have been sold for Public Works. Another parent said he was tired of the “huge rats that constantly ate” his children’s lunch.

Despite numerous attempts, the Education Department could not be reached for comment. – By ZISANDA NKONKOBE

Once Again Our Children Are Being Evicted from Schools

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release
Friday, 6 February 2009

Once Again Our Children Are Being Evicted from Schools

Every child has a right to a decent education. Every child has a right to dignity in school. These principles are not negotiable.

Abahlali baseMjondolo has a yearly calendar. The last struggle of the year is usually against evictions because Christmas is always the worst time for evictions. Every year the first struggle is to get our children into schools. Before the movement was formed each family waged this struggle alone. Since 2006 we have run an annual back to school campaign. We run workshops informing people of their rights, we provide parents with fee exemption forms and help them to complete the forms, and we negotiate with schools and school governing bodies. We have to confront all kinds of discrimination against poor people and we have to confront racism. The first challenge is to get our children into schools. The second challenge is to ensure that our children are treated with dignity once they are in the schools.

There are laws and policies that are there to secure the right of all children to access schools and to be treated with dignity in schools. But, just as with the right to occupy land unlawfully without arbitrary evictions, and the right to march and speak freely against the government, these laws and policies are usually just ignored when it comes to the poor. Some principals – like some police officers, the land invasions unit, politicians and even some lawyers at the legal aid board seem to believe that the poor are beneath the law.

The first problem at our schools is that poor people can’t afford to pay the fees or to buy uniforms and stationery. Some schools will not accept children without fees, money for text books, a full set of stationery and full school uniforms. Some schools demand that fees are paid for the whole year instead of by term.

At the primary school in Motala Heights in Pinetown lots of children from the shacks have been turned away and the secretary won’t let their parents speak to the principal. When they asked to meet the principal security drove them away. The security often chase poor parents and African parents away. In Motala Heights the schools only go to grade ten and this year when the older kids went on the bus to the high school in Wyebank the people in Wyebank stoned the bus and pulled the driver out. The driver took the children to Wyebank and then brought them back. He was threatened not to return to the area with the children from Motala Heights.

In KwaMashu the high school in Castle Hill refuses to take the children from the shacks. When the poor parents ask for fee exemption forms they are told to ‘top up’ the exemption with R300 a month. Here the issue is not race – it is just a question of class because every one is African.

Shack dwellers in Joe Slovo (Durban) are facing the problem that the wealthy parents at Chatsworth High School have dominated all the meetings and so the issues of fees and safety are influenced by the rich parents. The same thing happens in Motala Heights. There the poor parents did attend the meetings of the School Governing Body but the principle looked so badly at the poor parents and always put them down. This is why the poor parents stopped attending the meetings.

This issue of money has created conflict between communities and teachers. We recognise that the government is highly irresponsible and wastes hundreds of millions of rand on luxuries like stadiums but fails to give schools enough money to pay teacher’s salaries, buy chalk and books or pay water and electricity bills. We recognise that this is not the fault of teachers. Where ever possible we will work to unite communities and teachers and principals to work together to pressurise government to give enough money to schools.

We know that teachers are under pressures in other kinds of ways. Sometimes teachers have to be security guards as well as teachers. We are happy to support the teachers with these kinds of problems so that they can focus on being teachers.

However some teachers, secretaries and principals are exploiting the good will of communities to force the poor to pay what the government should be paying. It is easier to intimidate and bully a poor person than to stand up to the government. But this is not right.

In some schools poor parents are forced to come in and clean the schools because they cannot afford school fees. In some schools the children are humiliated and punished because their parents cannot afford school fees. In many schools the end of year results are not released to families that have outstanding fees. This forces many families to use all their December money, often also borrowing, to pay their debts to the schools. They then have to spend Christmas with nothing.

Children are often excluded from schools because their first language is not English.

Some children don’t have parents and therefore don’t have documents. It often happens that even if we get a letter from social workers to say that they are undocumented orphans they are still not accepted.

Some children don’t have documents because of the xenophobia of the Department of Home Affairs. They can also be refused access to schools.

However the law clearly states that no child can be denied access to a school on the basis of race, class, or language. The law clearly states that it is the principal’s responsibility to facilitate access for every child. It is illegal for a principal to ask for a registration fee to secure a place for a child, to withhold results for fees, to humiliate or punish children whose parents have not paid fees or to make parents who cannot pay fees to clean the school.

The law clearly states that orphans cannot be charged fees, that foster parents are exempt from paying fees, that everyone getting a grant or pension is exempt from paying, that schools must make provision for children whose parents can not afford stationery, and that schools cannot charge loan fees for text books.

The law clearly states that parents who earn less than ten times the school fees for a year do not have to pay anything and that parents who earn between ten and thirty times the school feels for a year can get a partial fee exemption.

In all the areas we are encouraging the poor parents and, where there is a problem of racism, the African parents to attend the school meetings. We recognise that parents are often afraid to attend meetings after being humiliated by secretaries and chased away by securities in the past. Therefore we work to build the courage of parents against hatred of the poor and hatred of Africans. We do this by showing parents that they are not alone and that together they can be strong.

When the principals show this hatred we always start by trying to educate them about the laws and policies that protect the rights of the poor. We always start by trying to negotiate. But when principals refuse to obey the law and refuse to respect poor people and African people we will march on them and picket their schools. We will report their behaviour to the Department of Education and when necessary we will take them to court.

In order to prepare ourselves so that we can lead our leaders we need to educate ourselves. We are fully aware that education does not stop at the school gate. We all need to keep learning all the time. This is why we always try to get our members into adult education programmes. This is why we always strongly support the Socialist Student’s Movement in their struggle for free university education.

But we also need to learn independently of forms of education that are really teaching us to know our place in the world. As a movement that is moving out of the places in which the poor are supposed to be kept, and moving out of the order that the poor are supposed to obey, we have to think for ourselves. This is why we started our own library. This is why we started the University of Abahlali baseMjondolo where we have formal classes and graduations and where we also create places to think, together, about our lives and our struggle. Everyday we learn together through discussions about our struggles. Right now, as another school year starts, we are relearning the lesson that as the poor we are still foreigners in our own country. Just as we are driven out of the cities and into government shacks in rural human dumping grounds our children are driven out of the schools.

As Abahlali baaseMjondolo we stand firm for the right of every child living in South Africa to access decent education without regard to the financial status, race, language or country of origin of their family. This principle is not negotiable.

All parents who are having problems with accessing their schools, or with ensuring the dignity of their children in schools, or who need to get fee exemption forms or who need help in completing the fee exemption forms can contact:

Abahlali baseMjondolo: 031 269 1822

The Education Rights Project: 011 717 3355

The Paulo Freire Institute: 033 260 6186

For more information or comment on the ongoing and illegal evictions of poor children from government schools please contact:

Ivor Baatjes, Paulo Freire Institute: 033 260 6186
Shamita Naidoo, Chairperson of the Motala Heights Abahlali baseMjondolo branch: 078 224 5441
Zodwa Nsibande Abahlali baseMjondolo General Secretary: 082 830 2707
Mazwi Nzimande, President of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League (and grade 12 learner): 074 222 8601
Britt Sable, Paulo Freire Institute: 033 260 6186
S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo President: 083 547 0474

SSM: Protest For Free Education on 8 September 2008

SSM has supported every Abahlali march from the beginning. SSM has been beaten, tear-gassed and shot at with Abahlali. Abahlali fully supports the demand of SSM that education not be run as a business and that all education should be free. Education should be a right for every person and not the privilege of the rich. Abahlali will be supporting this protest by SSM. Abahlali salutes SSM, who are students inside the university, for supporting the right of people outside to education.


The Socialist Student Movement (SSM) is making a call to action for free education against the background of a year of protests at institutions of higher learning, culminating at the closure and beginning of the academic year. Financial exclusions, triggered by exorbitant annual fee increments, academic exclusions, shortages of accommodation, of resources necessary for learning and teaching and of qualified educators have pushed students into battles where they have been faced with brutal state repression, with shootings at for example Wits and the University of Johannesburg.

The wave of protests has highlighted the reality of exclusion that goes through the entire education system. At tertiary level, thousands of, mainly black, working class students every year face financial and academic exclusion. The Education Minister, Naledi Pandor, recently expressed concern at the number of students who drop out before they graduate. But in addition, the greatest exclusion is of those who never enter the universities’ gates: many of those who finish matric are denied entrance to higher education and fill the ranks of South Africa’s eight million-strong unemployed ‘reserve army’ of labour; for a number of reasons, including the unaffordability of fees and the pressing needs of mere survival but also the stringent entrance requirements – introduced by the now ‘corporatised’ higher education institutions as a ‘cost reduction’ measure. But moreover, less than half of school learners make it through to their matric year.

In spite of many promises by the government and the ruling party, including the unfulfilled promise to put an end to learning under trees by 2006 – many schools, not least the 14 000 so-called ‘no fee schools’ that are supposed to constitute 40 percent of the country’s schools, still lack the necessary material and human resources for meaningful learning. In KwaZulu-Natal alone, there is a shortage of 10 000 classrooms and about 700 schools are without water and proper sports facilities, amongst other things. To upgrade these basics R30 billion is required, while the department has a budget of just R1, 2 billion for the financial year 2008/2009.

While the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to education, the reality is that education has become a commodity. The best education available costs the most. In the backdrop of the problems, undermining the right to learn, faced by public institutions, those parents who can afford to opt for private education, an element of which exists also within the state’s schools as wealthier parents add school fees to fund extra teachers, equipment etc. The result is the steady deterioration of matric results, down to a 65.2% pass rate last year from 66.5% in 2006, to which the government’s main response is the conscious dilution of the quality of passes.

While not providing specifics, the Zuma-led ANC has also acknowledged the situation needs urgent intervention. In its traditional January 8 statement, the new NEC makes fresh promises regarding ‘free education’ – calling for 60 percent of schools to be declared ‘no fee schools’ by 2009. Some student and youth organisations aligned to the ruling ANC-led Tripartite Alliance have also called for ‘free education’. Again, no details as to how this will be achieved are given.

In the context outlined above, the ANC’s ‘no fee’-version of ‘free education’ (on which the government spends about R3 billion a year) amounts to mere consolidation of the class divide in education, with the children of the poor confined to impossible conditions of learning and a preparation more for unemployment, violence and humiliation than skilled participation in economy and society. The no fee schools experience huge problems of even worse poverty than before. This policy is part of the government’s attempts to dish out alms to the poor with the left hand to cushion the effects of the right hand’s facilitation of big business’ extraction of wealth. Real free education has to be for all, with the same high quality for all!

The Socialist Student Movement therefore reiterates its call for decent free education for all and proposes to all genuine, struggling, organisations of students, youth, our parents in workers- and community organisations, the mobilisation for a national Day of Action for Free Education on September 8, 2008 which is World Literacy Day. Trying to make links with workers, whose rights to decent working conditions and a living wage are also being eroded, will be crucial. The SSM is joined in this initiative by the Democratic Socialist Movement.

Contrary to what the government wants us to believe, the failure to provide decent, free education is not due to unavailability of resources, per se, but the misdirection of the available resources. The government itself is with religious zeal implementing market-orthodox policies while heavily subsidising business through for example special below-cost electricity prices, projects such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Gautrain, the corrupt arms deal and the environmentally destructive Coega Development Project. The funds poured onto such projects could go a long way in eradicating the problems in the education system as well as in wider society, not to mention the scandalous budget surpluses which Trevor Manuel aims to keep running until 2010 at the least.
But moreover, the vast majority of SA’s wealth is not even touched by government but pocketed by private individuals. For example, Anglo American, which is said to own about 70 percent of the SA economy, announced a profit of R59 billion for 2007, two thirds of which it claims to draw from its operations in this country. BHP Billiton made a R6 billion-profit. This is built on the exploitation and marginalisation of workers and working class people just as SA capital was historically built on the blood and sweat of mineworkers, the starvation of their families in ‘reserves’ and ‘homelands’ and the explicit racist and sexist structures permeating all of society. Apartheid may be gone, but the economic dictatorship of (still overwhelmingly white) capital is doing better than ever.
A mass-based campaign for free education is needed to take up the fight for these resources that could sustain free education and other basic services such as health care, housing, water and electricity. We hope that you will join us in this campaign. The picketing would be stage outside the City Hall Library upon Anton Lembede Street ( Smith Street) commencing at 12h00 ends at 14h00.

For more information contact:
Percy Ngonyama 084 4580184 (SRC Member Howard College UKZN)
Bongani Nzama 084 8047516 or e-mail