SABC and police shut out Abahlali baseMjondolo

Press Statement: SABC and police shut Abahlali baseMjondolo
out from ”Asikhulume”

Durban 2006-02-12:

We, representatives of the Democratic Socialist Movement
(DSM) hereby direct our strongly felt protest against the
manner in which the SABC’s live broadcast of “Asikhulume”
was organised today. Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement South
Africa, the organisation uniting shack dwellers across
Durban, had been invited to be part of the panel discussing
this show’s topic: the housing crisis. We DSM members
arrived at the broadcast venue, the Cato Crest Community
Hall, at 17h50, to closed doors guarded by the SAPS. We
witnessed how the police violently blocked Abahlali
baseMjondolo (AbM) from entering the venue when they
arrived at the requested time; 18h00. Abahlali’s
chairperson S’bu Zikode brought with him the written
invitation he had received from SABC, allowing the
organisation a delegation of 60 people. Despite showing
this to the police, he and other Abahlali-representatives
were beaten and tear-gassed by the police (we identified
the policeman who beat Zikode with a knobkerrie as Hlophe)
before S’bu Zikode alone was eventually let inside the hall
only to be referred a place in the audience and denied his
seat at the panel. By contrast, the police let inside the
crowds of ANC, IFP and NADECO-supporters that were also
gathered outside the venue. We witnessed how they were
selectively let in after their respective party officials
negotiated with the policemen at the door from inside the
hall. We could also see that the hall, which the police
claimed was full, had at least 30 empty seats when the
broadcast begun at 18h30.

Abahlali baseMjondolo were singled out for victimisation by
both the SABC and the SAPS and this was reinforced by the
officials from the ANC, the IFP and NADECO. Abahlali were
denied the opportunity to make their voices heard in the
crudest manner; beaten, tear-gassed and locked out in the
rain. This is an infringement of the constitutional right
to freedom of expression.

This shows that the media continues the repression of the
Abahlali-movement, and the poor masses in general, that has
been started by the government on all levels through, for
example, the bullets and dogs of SAPS, the Metro police,
municipal managers like Michael Sutcliffe (who banned the
November 14 march of AbM) and University managers like
University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Prof. Makgoba, who currently
attempts to evict residents of the Banana City “informal
settlement” from campus. Tonight the SABC acted as another
tool of the state. The fact that party officials were
allowed control over who was let into the programme also
calls SABC’s objectiveness into question.

The exclusion of Abahlali baseMjondolo from the media is
especially shameful as they, along with millions of other
poor working class South Africans, are also being excluded
from the urban areas by forced removals, excluded from
access to housing, electricity, water, sanitation,
education and decent health care. Public space is instead
being taken up by commercial interests while the poor are
supposed to be both invisible and mute.

We can only conclude that the SAPS and the SABC, as well as
the officials from the electioneering ANC, the IFP and
NADECO, are very scared of Abahlali baseMjondolo: a
peaceful group of 60 men, women and children in red
t-shirts. With the local elections coming up, these proven
organs of the state are apparently not prepared to risk
that the voice of the independently organised mass protest
movements reaches the public. The fact that both the
ruling- and opposition parties were accepted exposes that
they all stand for the same politics which poses no threat
to the status quo where the rich get richer and the poor

To compensate the Abahlali baseMjondolo and the South
African public who was denied to hear their side of the
story, we demand:

– That the SABC do another live broadcast of “Asikhulume”
on the same topic – but this time at the Kennedy Road
Community Hall where the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement is
– That the SABC make a public apology to AbM and the
– That the SAPS make a public apology to AbM.
– That there be an investigation into whether police were
bribed or in other ways influenced by party officials not
to let AbM inside.

Bonginkosi Mkhize (tel 072-3386434) and Liv Shange (tel
082-4074959), Democratic Socialist Movement

No Democracy in Durban

By Richard Pithouse 12 February 2006

The Abahlali delegation arrived in good time in their red shirts. ANC heavies were at both doors and they simply refused to let anyone in a red shirt enter the building. Even Zikode, invited panellist, was prevented from entering. The police were at both entrances and actively endorsed what the ANC goons were doing. The other three panelists were allowed in, people in ANC t-shirts were waved through and a few IFP people were let in. NADECO people were also excluded (although their speaker was allowed in). The significance of this is that the politics that developed from the Cato Manor road blockade (just after the Kennedy Road blockade last year) developed in a different direction to that of Abahlali. The leader, Thembinkosi (I don’t know his surname) spent 6 months in Westville prison, refused a bribe of a house and car and R40 000 to stop the rebellion there and then, finally, turned to NADECO as a way of opposing the ANC. However they have made it clear that NADECO was just a route to express opposition and that they are looking for a more militant political home.

The 60 Abahalali people protested outside the hall. The police were quite aggressive and brought out the tear gas etc. But the show went on air with one of its 4 invited panelists prevented from entering the building. After a while the police allowed S’bu to come to the front. He showed his written invitation and politely asked to be let in. He was then assaulted by the police – hit with batons and punched. The protests intensified and people managed to get through to the glass doors and start banging. At that point they had to let S’bu in. Just like the cops had to release Stanely Naicker during the UKZN strike. One other person, Colin, slipped in as the door was opened but although there were empty chairs at the back no other Abahlali people were let in. People looking through the side windows said that Obed’s smug expression faltered a little as S’bu strode into the hall and was given the microphone. He was able to speak for about 3 minutes and then there was a torrential cloud burst that put the programme off air.

The 60 Abahlali people then went to Independent Newspapers to tell their story. A Councillor from eMandeni (Robert Mdetse) went with them to confirm what happened as an independent witness. No one was particularly interested. At one point I (the only white person) was told (by black people) that I would be the only person allowed in to the building. But eventually we got S’bu and Mnikelo in to tell the story and, after a lot more dancing and singing, we eventually got a photographer to come out and take a picture.

There is only democracy in Durban for as long as dissent poses no challenge to power. The second that there is a really challenge political thugs like Sutcliffe and Mlaba use the tactics of Botha and Mugabe to try and crush it. This is the reality that we need to face up to if we are going to be effective agents of progressive of change. People who deny this reality are with dangerously stupid or dangerously ignorant.