The Road Blockade and the Birth of a Movement

The police reported that there were more than 6000 ‘illegal’ protests in 2005. The vast majority of these protests were aimed at local targets, most were organised in shack settlements and many took the form of road blockades. This tactic was used with particular effect in Cape Town and has recently been used to good effect from the Orange Farm settlement in Johannesburg. The state responded to the 2005 national outbreak of road blockades by sending in the National Intelligence Agency to find the Third Force. Much of the NGO left responded by dismissing these protests, protests from which they were entirely alienated, as ‘spontaneous’ and continuing to obsess about which individual (with no mass constituency) made which (entirely futile) gesture of proposing what strategy for ‘the left’ at some or other NGO forum. Both views assume a lack of serious political thinking in the settlements from which these road blockades were being organised. Because the Kennedy Road blockade led to the emergence of a large and sustained movement it has now assumed something of a mythic character.

Here are some accounts of the blockade ranging from the first eyewitness account published in a local newspaper the day after the blockade to a more careful exploration of memories of what became Abahlali’s originary event. Because it has so many formal and informal spaces for collective reflection on experience thinking in Abahlali develops rapidly but this is a useful series of snapshots of how some people were thinking at and soon after the begining of this struggle.

Fred Kockott’s eyewitness account of the road blockade in the Sunday Tribune here.

A brief overview of the blockade and the events leading up to the formation of the movement from Richard Pithouse writing in Monthly Review.

Also, you can download a paper by Jacob Bryant based on careful interviews about memories of the road bloackade and the development of the movement, and Transcribed Interviews with Nonhlanhla Mzobe, Thembiso Bengu, Mnikelo Ndabankulu and William Bogge also by Jacob Bryant.