The eThekwini Municipality Chooses Intimidation Over Negotiation

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement


The eThekwini Municipality Chooses Intimidation Over Negotiation

Yesterday Abahlali attended the meeting scheduled with the eThekwini Municipality’s ‘political principles’ as per the invitation of the MEC for Human Settlements in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Ravi Pillay. However there was no possibility for negotiation. Intimidation was the order of the meeting.

Ravi Pillay chaired the meeting. He welcomed all present and made an apology on behalf of the Mayor and his deputy Cllr Nomvuz Shabalala. He also apologised for Nigel Gumede who chairs the Department of Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee in the Municipality and who also did not make it to the meeting.

The meeting was attended by top officials from the MEC’s department including the Head of Ministry and General Managers in the Province and all structures of the ruling ANC from branch level as well as the South African Civic Organization and the South African Communist Party. It was also attended by local businessmen and police officers from the crime intelligence unit. We find it very revealing that when we face the ruling party in a formal meeting they are together with business and the intelligence unit of the police. It is clear that the ANC prefers a partnership with business to a partnership with the poor, and that the police are there to protect the ANC and not the people.

Crime intelligence will never investigate an illegal eviction or the beating, shooting, torture or murder of one of our members. But if we organise a legal march they will be watching us every step. They are there to enforce the domination of the ANC and not to enforce the law.

In his opening remarks the MEC made it very clear that the meeting was to discuss the Marikana Land Occupation in Cato Crest in Ward 101. Those representing business were the first to be given a platform to speak. They said that for the last past three weeks they have witnessed ongoing land invasion in the area and that they were concerned about their businesses profit. They said they want to know who is sponsoring this land grab and who is behind this land grab.

Nothing was said about the fact that in Cato Crest the misallocation of RDP houses is still going on in a broad day light. In the past three weeks there are three new built RDP houses that have allocated to one family of an Area Committee member. That Committee is under the ANC. The general members of the community declined that to happen and the Ward Councillor has failed to solve the issue. Those of us who are demanding land and housing for all are taken as criminals while those who are corrupting the few houses are built are taken as good comrades of the ruling party.

Abahlali responded by making a very clear point that we found ourselves in a wrong meeting given what had been decided at the last meeting with the MEC and the task given to the MEC to organise a meeting with the political leadership of the eThekwini Municipality. We further made it clear that if we knew this meeting was only going to discuss Cato Crest we would have brought the Cato Crest branch to answer to all issues raised on their settlement and we explained that we cannot speak on behalf of the Cato Crest in their absence.

We further reminded the meeting that the Cato Crest matter was still in court.

Then almost every ANC representatives stormed Abahlali with attacks. They said that we are being “funded to instigate riots and instability in the country” and to “cause chaos”. They personally attacked Ndabo Mzimela and falsely alleged that he was selling land and said that he was a self-imposed induna in Cato Crest.

The MEC did not protect us against these attacks just like how Mayor James Nxumalo did not protect S’bu Zikode when Nigel Gumede was threatening him at a Full Council Meeting in 2011. They further claimed that Ndabo has an RDP house in his rural Hammarsdale home, and that him and all those who invade land must return to their homes in Inanda, KwaMashu and the Eastern Cape. This is the language that they have learnt from senior leadership of the ANC in the city and province who suggest that KwaZulu-Natal should only be for the Zulu speaking people. Our politic on this question is very clear and it is in line with the laws of the country: KwaZulu-Natal must be for everyone that lives in the province without regard for where they were born and grew up or what language they speak – South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

On all these attacks we said nothing. But they were very worried by our silence and non-responding on these attacks. They went on to say that only the thirty one people cited on the court order in the Cato Crest case are known to them (before this meeting they even denied that these people were known to them) and they demanded that Ravi Pillay send the metro police and land invasion unit to tear at least three hundred shacks. The MEC had to lecture his comrades on the law and the Constitutional Court ruling. He even made reference to the Grootboom case. But his comrades were not impressed with the law and court processes. They just wanted the MEC to immediately go and tear down all the shacks. They also stressed that they are in the taxi business and that road blockades are bad for their business. They kept speaking about the ‘mushrooming of informal settlements’ as if this is caused by a conspiracy rather than being a response by the people to the fact that they remain without land and housing twenty years after democracy. The ANC is still unable to understand that while the government is failing to democratise access to land the organisation of land occupations from below is a form of land reform from below.

These attacks were called by the MEC as developing a good “Social Compact”. He did nothing to stop his comrades attacking us and intimidating us with such hostility in a meeting called by him. There is a long way to go to educate the ANC on the politic of free debate and democracy rather than intimidation, and the politic of non-violence instead of the politic of blood and hitmen that the ANC has chosen in Durban.

We still believe that the MEC will organize a relevant meeting for relevant people without allowing intimidation at meetings of this nature. We still believe that the MEC has good intentions.

This is not the first time that we have gone to a meeting with senior politicians only to find ourselves subject to intimidation rather than invited to discussion.  The first time that we were invited to meet with senior politicians was in September 2006. We were invited to a meeting by the MEC for housing. That meeting was conducted by Mxolisi Nkosi, the HOD in the Department. It was nothing but intimidation. It was said that one of our comrades was an agent of a foreign country assigned to provoke unrest and undermine democracy. It was said that S’bu Zikode was a shack farmer. We were warned to cease speaking to the media and threatened that some of us, who were named, would soon be arrested.

In October 2011 we had a meeting with the Mayor and Nigel Gumede, the Head of Human Settlements in the eThekwini Municipality. At that meeting Nigel Gumede openly threatened S’bu Zikode with violence.

In June last year there was a meeting between the ANC, the SACP and others about the Cato Crest crisis at which the same kind of allegations were made against Nkululeko Gwala as those made against Nadbo yesterday. Gwala was assassinated shortly after that meeting. On the same day as the assassination the chairperson of the ANC in eThekwini gave public permission for the murder.

There is a crisis of land and housing in every town and city in South Africa. For almost ten years we have organised ourselves so that we can empower ourselves to partner the government to resolve this crisis. There have been times when we have had good negotiations with officials. We recently had excellent negotiations in Howick.

However it is clear that today, as it was in 2006 and as it was in 2011, the ANC in Durban prefers a politic of intimidation and violence to a politic of negotiation. We have survived many, many arrests. Many comrades have beaten while in detention. Many comrades have lost jobs. Many comrades have been driven from their homes. A number of comrades have been tortured. The intelligence services are always close to us. Many lies have been told about us. There have been all kinds of dirty tricks. Two of our members have been murdered. Repression has sometimes damaged our movement but it has never destroyed it. We have not been defeated. We have continued with our struggle.

We have twenty three vibrant branches in and around Durban. We have the strength to continue this struggle in the streets, in the courts and in the media.

Whenever one comrade is singled out for intimidation and lies we stand firm with that comrade. In 2011 we said that we are all S’bu Zikode. Today we say that we are all Ndabo Mzimela. An injury to one is an injury to all. If another one of our members is murdered we will shut this city down with daily road blockades at rush hour. We will also continue to vote against the ANC.

However if the ANC is willing to turn away from the politic of intimidation and blood and to negotiate a real partnership to solve the crisis of land and housing in this city we remain ready to return to the negotiating table.


MaMkhize Nxumalo – Chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo 078 4332719

Zandile Nsibande – Abahlali Women League 074 7675706

Thembani Ngongoma – Abahlali Spokesperson 084 61397720