Are we Free or are We Being Blinded?

Click here to read the Rural Network statement.

26 April 2010
Unfreedom Day Press Statement of Abahlali baseMjondolo

Are we Free or are We Being Blinded?

Again, like in other years, Abahlali baseMjondolo will be mourning the sad state of our country 20 years after independence from the apartheid government and 16 years after the so-called,'freedom', which is really the freedom of the few. The majority of the people that live in this country are poor. They still living in the shacks that they have been living in even before we got the liberation, which raises the question of who this liberation that every one on the 27 April will be celebrating is really for?

Once again Abahlali this year will have the big reason not to celebrate this Freedom Day. In a really free country there would be freedom of association for everyone. But in South Africa this right is denied to the self-organised poor. Abahlali has been denied this right by those who believe that freedom only came because of them and that, therefore, no one has a right to organize the people without them. The world should remember that on the 26 and 27 September 2009, the Abahlali leadership and many ordinary members who are mainly Xhosa speaking people were chased out of Kennedy Road by a group of armed men. Later 14 Abahlali members were arrested and five of them are still in prison. We don’t know how long they will be kept there as the Investigating Officer and State Advocate say that they are are "still doing the investigation" even though it has been six months since this attack happen. The leadership of Abahlali is still living in exile in their own settlement, their own city, their own province and their own country.

Is this the freedom that our brothers and sisters died fighting for? The answer is clear and it is no. If a person is going to be threatened in order to intimidate her to withdraw her case against a person that attacked her, and if her children are going to be threatened by a politician that is abusing her power of working in the Provincial Parliament and is also a member of ANC, like it happened a week ago to Nozuko Hulushe who is an active member of Abahlali baseMjondolo who lives in Kennedy, then it is clear, again, that there is no real freedom in the country.

Is this a free country when grassroots organizations that have done everything that is required in terms of the Gatherings Act to organise a march find that their march is banned by Mike Sutcliffe just because he has power to do what ever he wants? Is this a free country when the police service who are supposed to protect us shoot to us? Is this a free country when the ANC can just decide to 'disband' our movement? Is this a free country when women are not safe on the streets after dark? Is this a free country when our children are chased from the schools because we don't have money? Is this a free country the people that live in the informal settlements are being dumped in the ’Transit Areas‘ which are situated 37 KM away from the City? Is this a free country when street traders are driven from the cities? Is this a free country when the taxis that are majority owned by black people will not be allowed to operate in the city center and only government buses will be allowed to transport commuters in the city? For example in the City of Durban the Public Taxis will end at Warwick.

In forty five days the world will be enjoying the so called,”African World Cup”. The question is will the poor enjoy or benefit? The answer is No. Who will benefit? The same people who will be celebrating the Freedom Day on the 27 April. The poor are being denied the right to sell near the stadiums and forced to sell their things far, far away from the stadiums. The taxi operators are also in trouble. Who will buy there? How will poor people be transported? Has the BRT replaced the black led transport industry? Can we really say that anyone in Blikkiesdorp is free?

We call upon all poor communities that live in the shacks as well as in rural areas to wake–up as we are heading to the local government election in 2011. The hyena that wears the skin of the sheep will be entering your communities to do door to door campaigning for their vote. Once you have voted for them you won't be able to speak to them. In order to speak to them you will have to make an appointment that is not shorter than a month. When that day comes you will be lucky if the meeting is not cancelled. And while you are waiting for that day to come the rats and the shack fires will be busy troubling you or the sheriff will be busy serving the eviction summons or the farm owner will have given you an ultimatum of ten days to evacuate his farm. Do not put your faith in the hyenas. Put your faith in yourself. Put your faith in your neighbour. Organise yourselves – build your own power.

This year Abahlali and Rural Network will be having our Unfreedom Day at Babanangu in Northern Zululand. All poor communities as well as all people that have a concern for our democracy that is under threat are invited to join hands and to defend it so that one day we will be able to celebrate the real democracy and freedom that is being enjoyed by everyone. The event will start at 10:00 a.m.

For more information contact:

Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesperson on: 079 745 0653
Mr. Mbhekiseni Mavuso, Rural Network spokesperson on: 072 2792 634