The UPM will Protest on Monday With or Without the Permission of the Makana Municipality

Saturday 27 April 2013
Unemployed People’s Movement Press Statement

The UPM will Protest on Monday With or Without the Permission of the Makana Municipality

In July 2011 Jacob Zuma was given the freedom of Grahamstown and Raglan Road, the main road leading into the township, was renamed as ‘Dr Jacob Zuma Drive’. Before Zuma came to Grahamstown the Mayor, Zamuxolo Peter, told the people that they must stop demonstrating and struggling because the President is coming. He said that the President will meet them and that he will give them sanitation, electricity and houses. He said that if there are protests they will make the President angry and he will decide not to bring development to Grahamstown.

But Zuma came and went and nothing was done. In 2012 people continued to put pressure on Peter and he was forced to go back to the people. This time he didn’t tell them that they must remain quiet because Jacob Zuma was coming to sort out their problems. This time he said that the reason why people were poor was that we are not educated and that if we want electricity and houses we must go to school so that we could get jobs and then afford these things. He said nothing about the state of education in the Eastern Cape, the rate of unemployment or the colonial history that made the poor to be poor. He made it clear that he thought that our poverty was our fault and that we deserved to be living as we are.

Every time that people organised, protested or expressed their anger and pain they were told that they were being used by white academics who wanted to overthrow the ANC, install the DA in power and return the country to apartheid. The idea that people who are poor and black cannot think for themselves or organise themselves or even recognise their own oppression is a colonial idea! But here is the ANC repeating exactly the same insults to our people as the colonialists! Jacob Zuma is given the freedom of Grahamstown but the freedom of the black poor is denied and we are insulted.

On Tuesday last week the Unemployed People’s Movement held a mass meeting in the eThembeni shack settlement. At this meeting the people said that they wanted written commitments from the Mayor in terms of when sanitation and electricity would be provided. They also said that the deadline for providing these services must be the end of June or, at the latest, the end of July. They elected a delegation to go and meet the Mayor. They met the Mayor and the Municipal manager the next day.

The Mayor and the Municipal Manager said that there is no problem in providing these services but they are busy with the freedom of the city by which they meant that they are busy with the changing of the name of Grahamstown to Makana. Our delegation was told that we must come back on Wednesday next week. We went there on Wednesday this week but there was no Mayor. We then signed and submitted a permit to picket on Monday. That was bared. They even refused to acknowledge in writing that they had received the application to protest. We were told that we must give them seven days notice if we wanted to organise a protest. This denial of our right to protest has no basis in law. Last time we wanted to organise a protest – it was against police brutality – it was also banned. That time we were told that one of our comrades was on a national list of dangerous people provided by Crime Intelligence to all municipalities and that no protest where anyone on that list might speak would be allowed to go ahead with the riot police being present. We had to go to court to have that protest unbanned. When it went ahead there were riot police from across the province.

The people are determined to demand the written commitment from the Mayor to provide these services. We refuse to allow the Municipality to deny us our right to protest and so we will be protesting, peacefully, with or without their approval, on Monday.

At the same time car guards and car washers have been harassed in the streets. A sign went up in High Street saying that car washing is banned and the car guards and car washers were being seriously harassed. The municipality was trying to force them off the streets. A meeting of the car gaurds and car washers was held and it was decided to collect rubbish and drop it outside the banks and the municipal offices as a form of protest. This was done on last week Thursday. The protestors were arrested but the UPM mobilised to challenge the police on the arrests and eventually they called in the Municipal officials to resolve the situation. It was agreed that there would be a meeting the next day and everyone was released from custody. At the meeting on Friday it was agreed that the car guards and car washers could continue to work while another meeting was arranged. On Tuesday there was a meeting with the police and the municipality and they were told that they could continue to their work but they must work for the police as informers and that they will be paid for this by the state. They were told that they must tell the police who is breaking into cars and who is selling drugs to Rhodes University students.

About five years back two guys, who were also car guards and car washers, were beaten by Hi-tech and white students at Rhodes after it was said that they were selling drugs and breaking into cars. These two guys were killed. Recently another car guard was beaten by Hi-tech and dumped at the Matyana River. No one has been arrested although this man was savagely attacked. Hi-tech is seriously brutal. Some students made a film about this. It is at:

Unfortunately the film doesn’t address the question of racism but it does show the thuggery of Hi-tec.

It is clear, therefore, that the car guards and car washers will only be allowed to engage in their survivalist activities if they agree to serve the interests of the middle class.

Between 1811 and 1812 the Xhosa people living between the Fish River and the Sundays River were driven off their land by Colonel John Graham. Their homes were burnt, their crops destroyed and there was indiscriminate murder. John Craddock, the governor of the Cape Colony who had put down anti-colonial rebellions in Ireland and India before coming to Africa, wrote back to London that the Xhosa people had been driven off their land with ‘a proper degree of terror’. The people driven off their land were not poor. They had land and they had cattle and they had gardens. This is why Abahlali baseMjondolo always stresses that the poor were made to be poor by the same system that made the rich to be rich.

No one in their right mind wants to live in a town named after a murderer. But the Mayor wants to change the name of this town without doing anything to change its neo-colonial nature. Most black people continue to live a desperate life here. Unemployment is sky high and so is corruption in the municipality. The Mayor will not give us toilets, electricity, houses or even allow us the right to organise and protest freely and yet we are told that we will be freed by changing the name of this town from Grahamstown to Makana! In fact they intend to use Makana’s name to disguise the fact that they are nothing by a comprador bourgeoisie managing a town in which most black people are living hopeless lives.

For comment on the legalities of the right to protest please contact Jane Duncan on 082 786 3600

For comments on other matters please contact:

Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462
Ben Mafani 083 5410 535