Remarks at Abahlali’s 10th anniversary, Oct 3, 2015

Remarks at Abahlali’s 10th anniversary, Oct 3, 2015

Nigel Gibson

Phansi Nigel Gumede, Phansi.

I am the other Nigel from the other side of the world who has supported Abahlali since its birth.

“Celebrating a Decade of Struggle,” how can one celebrate a struggle? Let us reflect on that

Struggle is hard, painful, and dangerous, and it doesn’t pay the bills, isn’t it easier just not to struggle?

I heard of knew of Currie’s fountain as a young activist in London through Steve Biko’s I write What I Like. It was the name of a struggle location and profound bravery by young Black Consciousness movement activists who, during a time when nobody thought apartheid would end, wanted to rally here to celebrate the FRELIMO victory in September 1974.

Thirty one years later Abahlali came into existence in reaction to a broken promise, a betrayal of the ideas of freedom and justice that had been essential to the decades long struggle against apartheid and colonialism. Abahlali was born over ten years after the end of the struggle had supposedly brought a new freedom for all.

Abahali’s press statement gives an answer to the question I asked above and it is worth repeating. It reads: “Oppression constantly vandalizes our humanity. Resistance restores our humanity.”

In these two short sentences we find a connection to great thinkers of freedom and humanity. For, as Karl Marx puts it, human power is its own end; the leap to freedom is from necessity. Freedom is necessary, it is the very essence off the human; it is the power to create and determine social change.

The statement continues, “Dignity cannot be delivered. We insist that each person is a person and must count as a person.”

Freedom emerges in and through the community—the community as social struggle, and as social movement. And it is in through the struggle that the dehumanization, objectification, criminalization, and xenophobic hatred encourage to keep everyone in their place is challenged and understood; that the wretched of the earth as Frantz Fanon says, long denied personhood become human in the social struggle. It is the community of the struggle that generates not only physical but intellectual courage; a courage that makes the demand for freedom and dignity for all, the most simple and yet profound.

For ten years, through the trials and tribulations I have been hugely fortunate to witness and also be inspired by your deeply powerful movement and I celebrate with you, this movement, it thought, activity, history and future.

Viva Abahlali