Today’s Abahlali General Assembly to Discuss the National Crisis of Violence Against Women, Migrants, Children and Impoverished People

Sunday, 8 September 2019
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Today’s Abahlali General Assembly to Discuss the National Crisis of Violence Against Women, Migrants, Children and Impoverished People

Our country is in a deep and very painful crisis. Millions of people see no future for their lives and we face terrible violence from the state and each other. Husbands attack wives. Neighbours attacks neighbours. Fathers attack their own children. The state destroys our homes with violence every day. No one is safe. Nowhere is safe.

As impoverished people we have been living in a constant state of emergency for years. We have lost 18 comrades in a few years. Most of them have been killed by the municipal Land Invasion Unit of the eThekwini Municipality. Some of them have been killed by the South African Police, some of them have been killed by the Metro police, some of them have been killed by the izinkabi hired by ANC councillors.

In most of our major cities the municipalities have special armed units that are being used to govern impoverished people with militarised violence. In Durban the City has even bought armoured vehicles designed for use in colonial wars to govern the poor. In Cape Town the soldiers are on the streets. We can see the future that is planned for us clearly – it is a future in which the impoverished are ruled by militarised forms of state force. It is a future in which the solidarity that we have spent years of working to build among the oppressed is attacked by other poor people encouraged and sometimes organised by politicians who see our unity as a threat to their power.

We also face terrible structural violence. This winter season over 15 babies have been burnt to ashes by shack fires. The state and the public have been quiet because shack dwellers lives count for nothing. We are not counted as human beings or as citizens. These deaths have never been seen as a crisis. Our children are not counted as children. We grieve for them on our own.

Since our movement was formed in 2005 we have worked to build democratic women’s power in our movement, in all the struggles that we support, and in society. For us it is has always been clear that this is the best way to achieve full equality between women and men, to make sure that women’s issues are at the forefront of all that we do and to keep women safe. We have always taken a clear position that we will not accept that any man can be a comrade in a meeting and an oppressor at home and that we will support any woman facing oppression in her home, as much as we would support a woman facing oppression from the police.

Since our movement was founded we have also made sure that it is a home for all of the oppressed without regard to the province or country in which they were born, or the language that they speak at home. Politicians have put us under huge pressure for this but we will never deviate from this. Since 2008 we have also worked very closely with migrant organisations and we always include migrant organisations in our meetings and rallies. There has never been an attack on migrants in any of our land occupations, or even any area where our movement is strong.

Today we note that those who attack migrants are very often the same people who are dangerous to women too. We note too that those who carry out violence on the streets often bring it home, to their own families. If you can harm and kill a migrant man what could stop you from perpetrating that same violence against your loved ones, including even your own children?

We have never stopped educating ourselves about the danger of hate and xenophobia. This is a permanent part of how we organise. In fact, in all our community meetings before we can talk about the politic of land, housing and dignity we talk about ubuhlali and ubuntu. The foundation of our movement is an affirmation of respect for human life. We talk about the kind of society we are struggling to build. A society where justice, equality, respect and dignity become the order of the day.

On Friday we held a very good meeting in our office with our comrades from the Coalition of the Poor and migrant organisations and other formations and individuals to strengthen the struggle against xenophobia in Durban. Representatives from all the major migrant organisations were present. There were about fifty leaders at the meeting. Leaders from the hostel dwellers were also there and the taxi organisation and the Durban Central police also attended and participated. The meeting went very well. This work is ongoing.

Today’s General Assembly will be used to discuss how we, as a movement, can take forward the struggle against violence and the best ways for us to defend migrant communities, women and everyone else who is vulnerable to violence, including our LGBTIQ+ comrades and children.

The solution to our crisis is build a more democratic world, a more peaceful world, a world in which everyone’s human dignity is respected and everyone is safe. We need a world in which land, cities, wealth and power are fairly shared. Every attempt to turn the oppressed on each other, whether on the streets or in our homes, must be opposed. Every attempt to build solidarity must be supported.

We will also use today’s meeting to celebrate and reflect on the progress made on the installation of electricity in the New City land occupation. This project is currently taking place and it is democratic and participatory. The New City settlement is one of the seven land occupations in which the legal right to access the land was confirmed in in court after several severely violent evictions.

The meeting will also be attended by Councillor Mfeka of Ward 14 who has worked closely with community. What has been significant about the New City project is that the councillor there has taken an independent and democratic view of how to work with Abahlali. The community has democratically elected a Steering Committee. They have also elected a Community Liaison Officer (CLO), all without any interference of the councillor.

In the past people appointed to these posts have been imposed by councillors on communities and normally are party political deployees. They have worked against the communities and for the corrupt interests of the ruling party. We will use this opportunity to share with other communities the success in New City for learning purposes. We do hope that other ANC councillors and officials also have so much to learn from this experience. If we can build more democratic forms of engagement with the state from below development can become something that will benefit communities rather than politicians. This will be a big step forward.

The meeting will take place at Hindu Surat Hall, 137 Prince Edward Street, Durban. We will start from 10:00am


Mqapheli Bonono: 073 067 3274
Nomsa Sizani: 081 005 3686