The First Annual Thuli Ndlovu Lecture

The First Annual Thuli Ndlovu Lecture

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Delivered by S’bu. Zikode

Ndlovu family, mama ka Thuli, Thuli’s daughters Slindile and Freedom, Comrades, friends and colleagues. Today we gather here not to mourn but to celebrate Thuli Ndlovu’s life. Today we also gather here to remember and to celebrate the life of Nqobile Nzuza, the life of Nkululeko Gwala and the life of Thembinkosi Qumbela.

All four comrades were murdered in cold blood by senseless killers who have no heart for human life. Comrades both Thuli and Nqobile were murdered in the month of September. Thuli Ndlovu was murdered on the 29th of September 2014 and Nqobile was murdered on the 30th of September 2013. Comrades it was on the 26th and 27th of September 2009 that our movement and our leaders were attacked by ANC associated thugs after winning a case against the then Slums Act at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.

September is supposed to be Heritage Month but September is a dark month for our movement. It is the month in which we are forced to remember the repression that we have suffered. It is the month in which we remember all the comrades who have been killed, shot, beaten, tortured in police custody, driven from their homes, forced out of their jobs, harassed in various ways and slandered.

Today we are launching the annual Thuli Ndlovu Lecture as part of our commitment not only to remember but also to honour the high price that our heroes have paid for their commitment to ubuhlali. It is important that we reflect and learn from these courageous cadres of our movement.

We do not count to this society. We are not recognised as human beings. Our suffering does not count as human suffering. Our lives do not count as human lives. Of course we struggle for land and housing, for access to schools, water, sanitation and electricity. Of course we struggle against corruption. Of course we struggle for the right to participate in all decision making relating to our lives and communities. But we also have to take the responsibility to dress ourselves in human clothes, to minister to our own suffering and to honour our own dead. Our struggle has to be our home as well as our weapon.

Over the last ten years many of the most powerful leaders in our movement have been women. Women have stood strong in the struggle. Today as we honour the strength and courage of Thuli we also honour the strength and courage of all the women who have stood strong in the struggle and who continue to stand strong in the struggle. The strength of our movement cannot be separated from the strength of the women in our movement. We are all well aware that when men are given the responsibility to lead they are mostly given that responsibility by women. Today we say to Zuma and Nxumalo Wathint ‘Abafazi Wathint’ Imbokodo!

Thuli was senior leader in our movement. She was a humble and a down to earth person but she took her work very firm. She represented Abahlali bakwaNdengezi with all her heart and energy. In meetings she would smile and make her point firmly. She was never charismatic when she articulated issues at Abahlali, but always humble and firm. The Goliath of our day thinks that it can take advantage of people that humble themselves. It sees humility as weakness. It could not be more wrong. The humility of our leaders is an important foundation for the strength of our movement and our struggle. The vanity of our oppressors is one of their main weaknesses. The role of the leader in our movement has never been to order and control. It has always been to create a space where people can reflect and act together in the strength that comes from togetherness. A good leader is one that works to empower the members and to create a home for them. For us the leader is the tool of the people. For our oppressors the people are the tools of the leaders.

Thuli’s assassins could not believe that such a humble person could destroy their empire built out of our suffering and the dispossession of our right to land, to decision making and to life. Comrade Nkululeko’s leadership also empowered the oppressed and was therefore intolerable for the top officials in the ANC and the Municipality whose wealth and power comes directly from our oppression.

Today we note with great anger that our lives count for nothing in this society and that the poor are treated as if we are beneath the law. Today thousands of shack dwellers and other poor people are without land. We are without decent homes. Our children struggle to access decent schools. We are denied water, electricity and sanitation. We must face constant fires. In some settlements there are also floods. Instead of assisting us the state sends out the police, the private security guards and the land invasion units to disposes us from the land that we have occupied, the services that we have appropriated and the homes that we have built for ourselves. Democracy has not meant the rule of the poor and it has not meant rule for the poor.

We are working to build the power of the poor outside of the state. Our movement believes that land, cities, wealth and power must be shared. We want to turn the state into a tool of the people as a whole by building the power of the people outside of the state.

Comrades we can safely say that the late comrades have left Abahlali a better movement than they have found it. Today we have twenty seven branches in this province and many supporters outside of these branches. We are a movement of political consciousness. We continue to insist that our lives matter.

The ownership of land in KwaNdengezi has been clarified. The illegal and violent evictions by Nqola have been stopped. Nqola has been arrested and charged with murder. In Cato Crest the land occupation has been won by struggle in the community, in the streets and in court. Comrades live in peace as we speak. Their souls did not die in vain. Bahlali we can draw very important lessons from ubuhlali as lived by our late comrades. One lesson is that when we take our place in our society humbly but firmly we make real advances and win real victories. Another lesson is that an informed inkani breeds land for peace. Most important is that the real struggle for justice rejects the politic of fear and shall reign over the shadow of fear and death.

Today we celebrate that the warlord and gangster Nqola and his comrades are facing charges of murder and attempted murder. But in Cato Crest Mzi, Dlomo, Nxumalo and Mnganga got away with the murder of our comrades. It is a dangerous time that has turned leaders into dangerous monsters.

Comrades I want to end by insisting that if Durban and KwaZulu-Natal are to be a home for everyone, a caring and a welcoming province then our city authorities will have stop discrimination against the people born from other provinces and other countries. The City will have to do away with the politic of blood and fear. The City will have to learn to engage shack dwellers and other poor as equals, as citizens, and to do away with violence acts. The City will have to replace governance by the police, private security guards and the land invasion units with peaceful and meaningful negotiations. The City will have to come up with a clear and clean housing allocation policy. The City will have to come up with a clear and democratic housing list. The City will have to come up with democratic housing allocation Committee. The City and the provincial government will have to release land first and allocate serviced sites to families before a house can be build.

The fight to put the social value of land before its commercial value continues. Every September we will honour Thuli Ndlovu, and all other comrades that have given their lives to the struggle, and suffered repression as a result of their commitment to the struggle.