Serious Threats Made Against our Movement by Leaders in the eThekwini ANC

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Serious Threats Made Against our Movement by Leaders in the eThekwini ANC

At the Executive Committee meeting of the eThekwini Municipality on Tuesday, 12 June, the Mayor and the Chief Whip made disturbingly undemocratic, authoritarian and threatening statements about our movement, and about S’bu Zikode. In light of our past experiences, and the current climate of intimidation and violence in KwaZulu-Natal, which includes the ongoing murder of our leaders, we take these threats very seriously. We are sending out an urgent call for solidarity, and for urgent action to be taken against the senior leaders in eThekwini ANC who are a serious threat to democracy, and our safety.

The Mayor, Zandile Gumede, said that there was a ‘third hand’ behind our movement. She also said that the City would not work with our movement and would, instead, work with the South African Shack Dwellers’ International Alliance – the South African branch of the international NGO that used to be known as Shack Dwellers International (SDI). The Chief Whip, Nelly Nyanisa, said that S’bu Zikode is “hellbent on making the city ungovernable”. She also issued a clear threat against our movement saying “We will deal with them.” This has all been reported in the Daily News.

Since our movement was formed in 2005, without a cent of donor funding or any NGO involvement, the ANC in Durban, and sometimes elsewhere too, including the Province, have claimed that we are a front for the ‘Third Force’. Our movement has always been a democratic project with elected leaders subject to the right to recall. We hold open public assemblies and regular elections and make most important decisions on the basis of consensus achieved after numerous meetings.

Our struggle for land and housing in the city is the same struggle that was waged by the United Democratic Front (UDF), the women of Cato Manor, including ANC leaders like Dorothy Nyembe and Florence Mkhize, and the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU). We remember that when the ANC was first unbanned in 1990 it had a poster saying ‘Occupy the Cities!’

No evidence has ever been provided to support the claim that we are a front for the ‘Third Force’. However, this claim has constantly been used by the ANC to legitimate repression against us, including arrest, assault, torture, the destruction of our homes and murder. In 2005 S’bu Zikode wrote an article explaining that the real ‘third force’ behind our decision to organise ourselves independently from the ANC, and to struggle for land, housing and dignity, was the oppression that we faced in our everyday lives.

There have been many occasions since 2005 during which the ANC at various levels has said that we are an illegitimate organisation and that they will, instead, work with SDI. In 2007 the Provincial Housing Department, at that time under Mike Mabuyakulu, told us to join SDI or face arrest. A specific threat was made against S’bu Zikode. We refused to accept this intimidation. Shortly after this threat to our leaders S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were arrested and subject to severe assault in the Sydenham Police Station. We successfully sued the police for damages as a result of this arrest and assault. It is completely undemocratic and authoritarian for the ANC to decide which organisation it wants to represent shack dwellers. Shack dwellers have the same rights to freedom of association as everyone else. We can form and support any organisation that we choose.

The claim that S’bu Zikode is “hellbent on making the city ungovernable” is nothing but the rage and paranoia of a corrupt and authoritarian elite confronted by a mass movement from below that has refused to accept oppression. S’bu Zikode, like all our leaders, follows the mandates worked out in open and democratic meetings and assemblies. In April this year our audited membership passed 50 000 members in good standing. There are still 13 branches to be audited, and we continue to open new branches and to welcome new members. The direction for our movement comes from our members. Our leaders are led from below. It often takes months of discussions, in numerous meetings, to arrive at a shared position on an issue. For this reason we say “We are all S’bu Zikode!”.

The ANC in Durban has a long history of illegal and often violent conduct towards impoverished people. Laws and court orders are routinely violated. We do not stand for making the city ungovernable. We stand for land, housing and dignity. For us dignity does not only require land and housing. It also requires that each person – no matter where they live, how much money they have, or where they were born – must be engaged with respect. They must be able to participate in all decision making relevant to themselves and their community. We therefore stand for participatory democracy.

We take Nyanisa’s threat to ‘deal with them’ very seriously. In the past we have been attacked after similar threats have been made against us by senior ANC leaders in the City. This includes the attack on our movement by armed ANC members, supported by the police, in Kennedy Road in 2009. It is well known that the then chairperson of the ANC in eThekwini, the notorious John Mchunu, ordered and planned that attack. This has been confirmed to us numerous times over the years by various people in the ANC, and even the police. Shortly before the attack Mchunu made clear threats against us in an ANC meeting, threats that were reported in the media. Based on similar sources it is our understanding that Nyanisa worked closely with Mchunu during that time. We therefore take this threat from her very seriously. What was said on Tuesday sounds almost exactly the same as the things that were said before we were attacked in the past, especially in the lead up to the attack in 2009.

Nyanisa is well known for sleeping in Executive Committee meetings. But we were told that that she was wide awake and with high energy when she made her threats against us.

It is clear that we are already being ‘dealt with’. On 19 November 2017 Sibonelo Mpeku, our chairperson in the Sisonke Village land occupation in Lamontville, was kidnapped and murdered. On 17 December 2017 Soyiso Nkqayini, our Youth League organiser in the eNkanini land occupation in Cato Manor, was assassinated. On 22 May 2018 S’fiso Ngcobo, our chairperson in the eKukhanyeni occupation in Marianhill was assassinated. There have been no arrests for the murders of Mpeku, Nkqayini and Ngcobo.

On Tuesday the final report of the Moerane Commission was handed over to the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Willies Mchunu. We have grave doubts about this process because in 2009 when Willies Mchunu was an MEC he strongly and openly supported the attack on our movement, and the attempts by the ANC to lie about that attack. He refused the demands for a Commission of Inquiry into the attack. However, we have high respect for Judge Moerane and we have high hopes that the report will deal with political violence in KwaZulu-Natal honestly and bravely.

When we were attacked in 2009 we were on our own. Today there is a lot of awareness across the country, and including within the ANC, of just how serious the problem of political violence is in KwaZulu-Natal. We are calling on everyone who is committed to a peaceful and democratic future in the Province to take a clear position against the conduct of the Gumede and Nyanisa, to affirm our right to organise freely, and to oppose all forms of political violence and intimidation.

We are also calling on the South African Shack Dwellers’ International Alliance to take a clear and public position against the violence and lies of the ANC in eThekwini, and the attempts to divide impoverished people into an ‘enemy’ that can be excluded and repressed and ‘the good poor’ that will be recognised be the Municipality.

Noting the statements by the President of the country, and the national Minister for policing, expressing concern about political violence in KwaZulu-Natal we have written to them both asking them to ensure that there is serious investigation into the murders of our members. They have both responded positively. We appreciate this and hope that these responses are accompanied by serious action. We also note that while the eThekwini Municipality is refusing to recognise us we have been invited by the national government to contribute to the deliberations about land in Parliament.

We will continue to organise and to struggle for land and housing. We will continue to expose corruption. If anything happens to any of our leaders we will hold the Mayor and the Chief Whip personally liable as a result of the reckless comments that they made in the meeting of the Executive. Because these comments have been publicly reported no one in the ANC in the Province or nationally can deny knowledge of them. There is a moral obligation on ANC members elsewhere to condemn these comments.

We also wish to place on record that a number of our leaders in Durban have received repeated telephonic threats in recent weeks. Anyone who agrees to put their name on a press statement immediately receives death threats by telephone. In a number of wards across the city our leaders in the branches are receiving regular death threats from ANC councillors and local party structures. We strongly suspect that this is happening because Gumede has given an instruction to attack Abahlali baseMjondolo.

We also wish to place on record that our leader in the Eastern Cape has received several death threats from an ANC councillor.

The two ANC councillors that were convicted for the murder of Thuli Ndlovu, our chairperson in KwaNdengezi, in September 2014 were closely associated with Gumede. The Mayor is not separate from the gangsterism that has corrupted the ANC in Durban and turned it into an oppressive force preying on the people.


Thapelo Mohapi 062 892 5323

Mqapheli Bonono 073 067 3274