Thembinkosi Qumbela was Never an Umhlali

Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA Press statement
18 December 2011

Thembinkosi Qumbela was Never an Umhlali`

On Thursday 15 December 2011 The Mercury published an article titled 'Senior IFP leader crossing to the ANC did not tell his party'. In this article Thembinkosi Qumbela, who was elected as the IFP regional deputy secretary two weeks ago and has now left the IFP to join the ANC, claims that he “had been an activist of Abahlali baseMjondolo” and has “decided to leave everything (IFP and Abahlali baseMjondolo) and return to the ANC. Anyone who is serious about being a politician should be with the ANC.”

Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA wishes to distance itself from the lies Thembinkosi Qumbela is spreading that he has been an umhlali. We are a membership based movement, with an annual membership fee of R10. All members are issued with a membership number and a red AbM membership card. Qumbela has never, at any time, been a member of our movement.

We remember Qumbela back into 2005 when he was leading "service delivery protests" in Cato Manor and Cato Crest under the name of the South African Shack and Rural Dweller's Organisation (SASRDO). One of these protests tried to block the N2 to stop former president Thabo Mbeki from addressing a rally at the King's Park Stadium. Qumbela was arrested and spent some months in Westville prison.

We opened our first branch in Cato Manor this year and in 2005 we had no members in the settlement. But watching the large protests that Qumbela organised from a distance we had thought he was a man of great integrity as he led a struggle against the failure of eThekwini municipality to engage meaningfully with the residents of Cato Manor and to provide decent housing and services. We got to know him and admired his courage but he did not, at any stage, join our movement.

He did approach our movement for support when he was facing death threats and arrest from the ANC, the same party he now sees as offering an opportunity for him to become a politician. But he decided to join the IFP and SASDRO became linked to the IFP. Virginia Magwaza-Msibi was the keynote speaker at a big meeting that they organised to discuss the COHRE report on evictions in Durban at the YMCA in 2007. Qumbela did once attend a funeral of a victim of a shack fire in Kennedy Road as the family were IFP supporters. Of course we welcomed him as that was the family's choice.

Later in 2007 we were asked by different people whether Abahlali had opened a new office in Cato Crest. We were told that there was a red container with 'Abahlali baseMjondolo' written on it. We then discovered that Qumbela had been using our name to run his own Spaza organization. We realized it was some kind of an NGO or charity.

Today we can safely say he has betrayed a lot of people who have been behind him. He is now pushing his own individualistic gain. He has used the suffering and struggles of people who supported him during the dark days of his real struggle against the disrespect and oppression of the eThekwini municipality to the poor to become a politician in the ruling party. This is not the first time that he has tried to use the suffering and struggles of the poor to become a politician. We remember that after leaving the ANC, he joined the IFP, he then joined the then NADECO and he then rejoined the IFP again as he has now joined the ANC. This multi-crossing between parties raises a lot of questions about his integrity. We leave those question with his new home – the ANC.

It is misleading and purely lies for Qumbela to introduce himself to the ANC as an umhlali. He is just trying to prepare a good name and position for himself in his new party. But we ask ourselves as to what will happen to those he has been leading? Who are they going to trust if such leaders are now worried about their own future. We just hope that the people of Cato Crest have now learnt a new lessons about local politicians.

Qumbela is not the first person to have falsely claimed an association with our movement. In the past NGOs have claimed to be working with our movement when they were not. One international NGO with millions of dollars in funding even publicly claimed that we had joined their network of associated shack settlements when we had not. One academic even wrote a paper claiming that she had been an insider to our movement when she had certainly not. She had given a lot of money to some people in Kennedy Road, people who were never AbM members, and she had run around after our movement but she had never been inside our movement. In fact she was based at an NGO that we had publicly refused to work with. When so many different organisations and people are competing to be able to say that they represent the poor in a country in which the poor are not allowed to represent ourselves these lies are inevitable.

We continue to organise ourselves and to represent ourselves.

Further information please contact
Abahlali office on +27 31-3046420

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