9 April 2020


Despite the declaration that no evictions would take place during the National Lockdown by the South African government, working class people continue to be viciously displaced and evicted. Both before and during lockdown, those who challenge the state, landlords and thugs are brutalised, beaten and threatened.

Members of social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo have been particularly targeted, as seen by the repeated violent evictions, carried out without court orders, during the last weeks at Ekuphumeleleni and Azania settlements in KZN. 

The evictions were carried out by a private security company (Calvin & Family Security Services) which repeatedly fired live ammunition at unarmed people. There were a number of serious injuries. A journalist on the scene was forced to leave the scene. At gunpoint, residents were also forced to delete video and photographic evidence of evictions and violent attacks. On one occasion, even the military and police along with the private security firm carried out the evictions.

On Monday, Abahlali baseMjondolo took eThekwini Municipality to the High Court seeking to interdict them against continuing the ongoing evictions, and requested to rebuild the shacks that had been destroyed. The City refused and, under the guise of charity, offered alternative accommodation in the emergency camps set up for the homeless in Durban during the lockdown. Beyond the questionable livability and temporary nature of the conditions of the camps themselves, this alternative does not guarantee that they would be able to return to the land on which they had been living, where they were part of a community, and which is close to where they work and where their children are at school.

The lockdown is being used by the state to outmaneuver the people and all of us who know that our power comes from our ability to take to the streets. Under lockdown, the state has a monopoly not only on force, but on movement and the application of the law.

The government’s inability to act on their word and ensure that municipalities and private property owners suspend evictions during the current lockdown comes as no surprise. The perpetrators of these violent acts are too often a collaborative effort between the police, the anti-land invasion unit, private security, or members of the ruling party. We remember the assassination of Thuli Ndlovu at the hands of two ANC ward councillors all too well!

What is more, the continued violence against the poor in our society invisibalises and normalises the brutality. A recent news report notes that the “eThekwini municipality in KZN has seen at least 140 [political] assassinations over the past 10 years”. Beyond this criminality, even the most basic laws are routinely violated.

The right to live with dignity is a global issue. Even in cases where so-called “democratic, progressive” governments are claiming a ban on evictions during the Covid-19 crisis, the ban only exists on paper and in word; not in reality. In the United Kingdom, an estimated 20,000 renters are being evicted, leaving them to try and find safe accomodation in the midst of the pandemic. In the cases where renters are not being outright evicted, they are merely being given an extra month to find their next shelter as household incomes have rapidly declined and inflation rises.

As revolutionaries, we see this as a fundamental character of class society, whose antagonisms are kept in check by wielding violence. The government will here and there admit that individual agents of the state that have acted with violence should be condemned but they will always hide the truth that, as V.I. Lenin put it, “The state is a special organization of force: it is an organization of violence for the suppression of some class.”

Why? To protect and bloat those few who own the wealth of a nation and rule it. There continues to exist an underlying structural bias in the world we live in: human rights are consistently subordinated to private property rights. When it comes to private property, the landowners will do what is in their private interest and the corrupted municipal officials will bend to keep filling their pockets.

In the development of class societies generally and under capitalism in particular, private property has been deemed holier than human beings time and time again (whether it be in the demolition of Sophiatown in 1956 or its sanctification in Section 25 of the Constitution in 1994). As revolutionary communists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels explained, “private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.”

We give our full support to the comrades in Abahlali baseMjondolo who are leading the fight for land, housing and dignity! In the immediate, we condemn all those who uphold private property above human lives! We call on an immediate end to all evictions! We demand that action be taken against the thugs who enforce violent evictions and the warring landlords who have an interest in the displacement of the poor and renting working class and unemployed.

But the violence of the state and the interests of the land owner can only be totally destroyed through revolution. In the long term, only the suppression of the ruling class and their interests (gained through struggle) led by a united working class, conscious of its class interest, can we begin to wield ourselves into a political force capable of demolishing the state as we know it and draw us closer to a classless society free of violence and suppression.

If we did not know it before, Covid-19 has surely ripped the blindfolds off and laid bare the vicious character of modern capitalist society: where, even in a lockdown crisis, we do not even deserve the most basic shelter, the most inadequate dwellings.

The power will be ours by force!

Issued by Oupa Ralake
General Secretary
Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party

For more info contact, Vuyolwethu Toli
National Spokesperson
Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party