• Three people have been assassinated and others have been shot with live ammunition by state police
  • There have been daily evictions and on-going police brutality
  • The state has declared war on its poor citizens

Sbu Zikode to Speak at Rhodes University on Thursday 10 October

The Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) in Grahamstown has contacted S’bu Zikode, Chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo. He has agreed to speak at Rhodes about state repression and the situation in Durban.

On Wednesday, Dear Mandela will be screened at Rhodes to provide those interested with an over-view of Abm’s struggles. The Multi-award winning documentary produced by Rhodes Graduate, Dara Kell in 2011 follows the story of how Abm was able to take legal action against the state resulting in a court ruling the KZN Slums Act unconstitutional.

When: Wednesday, 9th October 2013

Where: Arts Major

Time: 18:30

What is Abahlali baseMjondolo?

Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) is a shackdwellers' movement that was started in 2005 in response to the housing crisis in Durban. The largest post-apartheid social movement in South Africa with over twelve thousand paid up members, AbM has been organising against forced removals, evictions, and police brutality by the state for the past eight years. Their politics, which centers on the idea of ‘The Right to the City’ is rooted in a belief that the location of housing is critically important in any democratic society and people should be able to decide where they live. They believe that shacks should be upgraded where they are and people should not be forced to leave their homes and communities and to move to the outskirts of the city away from jobs, schools, hospitals and other key resources to which all people should have access.

In 2009, AbM was successful in over-turning the Kwa Zulu Natal Slums Act, which would result in thousands of shacks demolished and forcefully remove people to transit camps. The constitutional court declared the act unconstitutional which was a major victory for shackdwellers but not without repercussions. Since then the state has been extremely repressive and authoritarian and has often tried to criminalise AbM’s attempts to have their demands taken seriously by the state.

The eThekwini Municipality’s Land Invasion Unit has routinely evicted people and demolished shacks without court orders and many members of AbM face intimidation and assault as a result.

AbM has always taken a firm stance on xenophobia and remained extremely principled especially during the outbreak of xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008.

They are not affiliated to any political party or Non-governmental organisation, and have always insisted on their right and ability to speak for themselves, and articulate their own demands.

S’bu Zikode, Chairperson of AbM, has described the politics of AbM as a “living politics,” which is “the movement out of the places where oppression has assigned those who do not count.’”

The Recent Attacks on AbM

In June this year, Nkululeko Gwala was assassinated in Cato Crest, one of the shack settlements in Durban. A few months before that, Thembinkosi Qumbelo was also gunned down in the area in Durban.

At the beginning of September ANC Councillor Mzimuni Ngiba called ANC members in Cato Crest to a meeting to plan and discuss evictions. S’bu Zikode was the main subject in this meeting, just as Nkululeko Gwala was the main subject of the meeting called by the ANC in the area on the 26th of June. Gwala was assassinated on the same day.

In a statement released by AbM on the 2nd of September, they said: “Ngiba has declared war on Abahlali members. His comrades insist that they have fought and died for this country and that it is therefore their turn to rule even if that means that they must rule without regard for law.

Three people were shot by rubber bullets on the same day.

Since then, the situation has become worse. On the 21st of September, four members of AbM in Cato Crest were shot with live ammunition by police and the Land Invasion Unit who arrived to evict people and demolish their shacks. Nkosinathi Mngomezulu was shot three times in the stomach and remains critical.

On the 30th of September, Nqobile Nzuzua a 17 year old girl was shot dead, in the back, by police during a protest at Cato Crest. A few days later, one of AbM’s spokespeople, Bandile Mdlalose was arrested and was denied bail for several days before she was released yesterday (07/10) on R5000 bail. The court has ordered her not to set foot in Cato Crest.

The government has declared war on its independently organized poor citizens in Durban and political assassinations, assault, arbitrary detainment, evictions and shack demolitions have become a routine way for the state to respond to people in shack settlements. Abahlali has always maintained that they are willing to negotiate with the state, but they have never been treated with dignity and respect afforded to most middle class citizens in South Africa.

Over the last few days, AbM has been organising road blockades at key points around the city in order to draw attention to their cause. Yesterday, they set up eight road blockades, more than they have historically done before, because of the seriousness of the situation.

Three people are already dead, many have been assaulted and even more have been evicted and have had their homes destroyed. S’bu Zikode has had to flee his home because he is being sent death threats daily.

What can we do?

There is no doubt that this should not be happening in a democratic state, yet this has been routinely ignored by mainstream media operating within the elite public sphere in South Africa.

In a statement released on the 7th of October, Abm called on all comrades in South Africa:

“To take urgent action in solidarity with us and against the repression we are facing. We call on all comrades to support our call for the authorities in Durban to cease their violent repression of our movement; to clearly condemn the violence of the police, the Land Invasions Unit, the party thugs and the assassins and negotiate rather than repress the organised poor; to act against those that have perpetrated this violence and embrace a democratic politic, a politic of negotiation.”

It is of utmost importance that more people know about the situation in Durban so that the mainstream media will start to take this more seriously than they are now.

We hope to see you there.

Concerned Staff and Students of Rhodes University and Unemployed Peoples Movement