An Invitation to Meet the Third Force – 12 December 2005

Monday, 12 December 2005

Media Advisory: An Invitation to Meet the Third Force

Durban. The Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shackdwellers') movement, one of the most vibrant and important social movements in the new South Africa, has been repeatedly and unjustly accused of being masterminded by 'outside agitators'. This allegation has been repeatedly levelled by the Mayor of the eThekwini Municipality, Obed Mlaba.

The Mayor was recently asked to provide details about the Municipality’s proposed housing policy for its poorest residents, and to respond to a series of concerns raised by the Abahlali Base Mjondolo. A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday December 7th. On Tuesday 6th December, without reason or warning, the Mayor cancelled a meeting with the Abahlali Base Mjondolo, even after the movement had followed every instruction, and obeyed every protocol.

Tonight the movement will meet at the Pemary Ridge settlement to discuss their options, and to develop concrete plans to make the Mayor listen. The media are invited to see for themselves the truth of Mlaba's allegations, and to attend this, and any future meetings of the Abahlali baseMjondolo. The movement stands firm in its rejection of the racist and patronising assumptions that it cannot think, strategise and act for itself.

The Abahlali baseMjondolo receives no outside funding and is entirely driven by the mandates produced at its scrupulously democratic meetings. Each settlement has at least one meeting per week and the movement has at least one meeting per week.

Despite its record of peaceful protest and internal democracy, Abahlali baseMjondolo has faced illegal repression from the eThekwini Municipality. On Thursday 10 November 2005 the Municipality sent a fax illegally banning a proposed march on the Mayor organised by the Foreman Road Development Committee, the elected representatives of one of the poorest shack settlements in Durban. The respected Freedom of Expression Institute issued a statement condemning the ban as "a flagrant violation of the Constitution and the Regulation of Gatherings Act". The statement went on to explain that the reasons given by the Municipality for banning the march were "absurd" and without any legal basis.

On the day of the scheduled march, three thousand people met in the Foreman Road settlement, and decided to march, peacefully, in protest against this attack on their basic democratic rights. It has been widely reported that the police responded with extreme force and that at least two police officers fired live ammunition. A number of protestors sustained serious injuries. Journalists and academics have stated that police officers threatened them with violence if they reported what they had seen and that cameras were confiscated by the police.

The Municipality responded to the demonstration with a high profile announcement of a new housing development on Moreland land in North Durban. All requests for information concerning this development have been refused, and Moreland has distanced itself from the Municipality’s announcement.

For directions to the Pemary Ridge settlement, and further information

Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Foreman Road Development Committee, 073 565 6241
Lungisani Jama, Foreman Road Development Committee, 082 259 5443
Philani Dlamini, Foreman Road Development Committee, 072 962 9312
Fikile Nkosi, Pemary Ridge Development Committee, 084 250 1446
Moses Mncwango, Jadhu Place Development Committee, 076 225 0260
S'bu Zikode, Chair, Abahlali baseMjondolo, 083 547 0474