Category Archives: biography

Lindela ‘Mashumi’ Figlan

Lindela 'Mashumi' Figlan

Lindela Figlan was born on the 27th of December 1970 in J.B. Location in Flagstaff in Pondoland in what was then the Transkei bantustan.

His mother was from the Radebe family and she kept the home. His father was secretary of the congress that went into revolt on Ngquza Hill in 1960. More than 4 000 men occupied Ngquza Hill. They were determined to fight for their land and for their dignity. The apartheid state sent in the military and there was a massacre. The courage of the men on Ngquza Hill is always remembered in Pondoland today. The songs from that struggle, like 'Asiyifuni idompas', are still sung today. When Lindela was a young boy the police used to come to their home from time to time, kick in the door and kidnap his father. Sometimes they would take him to a place known as Betani where they would force him to dig potatoes with his hands saying that they did not want to risk damaging their tools. When he came home his fingernails would be red.

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Mnikelo Ndabankulu

Mnikelo Ndabankulu

Mnikelo Ndabankulu was a founder member of Abahlali baseMjondolo and was elected as the movement’s spokesperson on 23 November 2008. He previously held this position in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He lives in the Foreman Road settlement where he is Deputy Chairperson of the Foreman Road Abahlali baseMjondlo Committee. He is 25.

Mnikelo has been involved in all of the movement’s major mobilisations from planning to action. He has often been subject to police harassment and on 28 September 2008 he was arrested on charges of ‘Public Violence’ and ‘Attending an Illegal Gathering’ when he went to visit 13 comrades who were being held at the Sydenham Police station. He has recently been closely involved in the struggle to keep Foreman Road electrified. The comrades there are able to re-electrify everyone within two hours after police de-electrification. Continue reading

Zodwa Nsibande

Zodwa Nsibande

Zodwa Nsibande was elected as the first General Secretary of the Abahlali baseMjondlo Youth League on 16 June 2008 and re-elected on 16 June 2009. She is also the National Administrator of the movement working out of the office in the Kennedy Road settlement. She is 25.

Zodwa has been involved in all the activities of the movement but has played a particularly important role in the annual Back to School Campaigns, the University of Abahlali baseMjondolo, resistance to evictions, resistance to xenophobica, solidarity with comrades who have been arrested, Haiti solidarity, UnFreedom Day Campaigns, the 2008 City Wide Shack Fire Summit and preparing for the movement’s Annual General Meetings.

Zodwa was born in eNhlalakahle in eMdlovana (Greytown) in 1984. Her grandfather worked on the railways and her grandmother worked for the Municipality. Her father was an ambulance driver. Her mother, Zandile Nsibande, moved to Durban in 1991 and found work as a sewing machinist in a clothing factory in Tongaat. In 1997 she moved to the Kennedy Road settlement after she was retrenched.

Zodwa moved to Kennedy Road in 2003 after completing High School in eMdlovana to be able to further her studies. She studied Information Technology at Durban Commercial College. In 2005 she and her mother were part of the group of activists that founded Abahlali baseMjindolo. In 2006 she was very badly burnt when a paraffin stove exploded and had to drop out of her studies in her third year.

For Zodwa:

“The Youth League is a space where young leaders of Abahlali baseMjondolo are being groomed so that when their time for leadership comes they can take on their responsibilities. Leaders are not born. They are made in struggle. They learn through long experience in struggle. A leader must know how to listen to everyone, to create space for everyone to speak, to belong and to be respected. A leader must know how to be led. A leader must be able to face repression with courage.

What is important in development is human development whereby a person must grow in mind and social development whereby a person must move from a shack to a house. We have seen the shift in human development. We created this shift ourselves in our movement. My wish is to now see the shift in social development. We are still struggling to see this shift.”

Mazwi Nzimande

Mazwi Nzimande

Mazwi Nzimande was elected as the first chairperson of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League on 16 June 2008. He was re-elected to the position on 16 June 2009.

Mazwi is 18 years old and in his final year at Protea Secondary School in Chatsworth Durban. He lives in the Joe Slovo settlement which is between Chatsworth and Lamontville and is an additional member of the Joe Slovo Abahlali baseMjondolo Committee.

He has been involved in many struggles against evictions and police harassment and has worked in solidarity campaigns for Abahlali baseMjondolo activists who have been arrested. He has qualified as a people’s electrician at the University of Abahlali baseMjondolo and has worked closely with Philani Zungu on Operation Khanyisa. He has been particularly involved in appropriating free access to electricity in the Joe Slovo and Pemary Ridge settlements.

Mazwi was born in Umzinto on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast in 1991 and moved to the Joe Slovo settlement in 1997 at the age of 6. His parents were involved in the founding of the settlements and are both domestic workers.

For Mazwi:

“The Youth League is important because everyone always talks about freedom of expression but we as youth, as poor youth, wanted to know what qualifications we need in this society to be able to speak freely? It was clear to us that this was a right for the rich, not for us. Therefore we have taken this freedom for ourselves. We meet and discuss freely. Now freedom of expression is working for us, now it is real for us. Now that we are organised as the youth we have not only created a space where we can be free with each other. We are respected now. Even the elders listen to us. It has changed my life a lot to be in the youth league.

The most important thing about Abahlali baseMjondolo is that it is the only movement that I know that has a manifesto that has been created by the people, not an individual or an NGO. You don’t need any qualification to be our movement. Everybody who is ready to struggle against poverty is welcome. It does not matter who you are.

We don’t recruit members. People come to us. In fact it is the government that recruits for us.”

Sibusiso Innocent Zikode

Sibusiso Innocent Zikode

A short biography

S’bu Zikode was born in 1975 in the village of Loskop, near the town of Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. He was raised by a single mother who was often away from home as she worked as a live in domestic worker. As a school boy he was very involved in the scouting movement and he graduated from the Patrol Leaders Training Unit at Lexden in Pietermaritzburg in 1990. He attended Bonokuhle High School in Loskop from 1992 to 1996.

In 1997 S’bu registered as a law student at the former University of Durban-Westville but, due to an inability to pay his fees, had to abandon his studies later that year. After that he was worked as a security guard and then as a petrol pump attendant. In 1998 he met Sindy Mkhize, his life partner.

In 1999 S’bu and Sindy moved to the Kennedy Road settlement as they could not afford the rent for formal accommodation. Later that year he was promoted to the position of administrator at the petrol station where he had been working for some years. In 2001 S’bu became the first democratically elected chairperson of the Kennedy Road settlement. He declined to stand for re-election in 2002 but successfully stood for the position of deputy-chairperson in 2003. He was re-elected as chairperson in 2004 and held the position every year until 2007 when he decided not to stand for re-election.

Between 2001 and 2005 he worked very closely with many government housing programmes and he was a reservist at the Sydenham Police station from 2001 until 2004 and became the Director of the Clare Estate HIV/AIDS Drop-In-Centre in 1993.

At the end of 2004 the Kennedy Road Development Committee declared that 2005 would be the ‘Year of Action’ and a number of protests were organised in that year. In October 2005 S’bu was a founder member of Abahlali baseMjondolo – a democratic membership based and directed shack dwellers’ movement. He was elected as the first President of Abahlali baseMjondolo that year and has been relected as President each year since then.

Abahlali baseMjondolo has started and run crèches and gardens, organised for women’s rights and the rights of people born in other countries, strongly supported the rights of all children to access schools, campaigned for live saving basic services to be provided to shack settlements, organised against police brutality and hostility to poor communities and successfully used the courts to oppose unlawful evictions by the state and private land lords. The movement also negotiates with the government and NGOs to upgrade and develop settlements where they currently are rather than have shack settlements razed and their residents forcibly moved to out of town relocation sites. The movement strongly believes that that our cities should be democratic spaces in which all people, rich and poor, are welcome.

Anglican Bishop Rubin Philip has written that:

the courage, dignity and gentle determination of Abahlali baseMjodolo has been a light that has shone ever more brightly over the last three years…Your principle that everyone matters, that every life is precious, is very simple but it is also utterly profound. Many of us who hold dear the most noble traditions of our country take hope from your courage and your dignity.

Along with other high profile members of the movement S’bu’s commitment has cost him his job. In February 2007 his boss at the petrol station, a close friend of the mayor, caved to political pressure and S’bu was forced out of his job. He has also been subject to slander by politicians and unlawful arrest, detention and assault by the police.

Abahlali baseMjondolo now has more than 10 000 paid up members spread across 53 settlements in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. In 2009 the movement joined with the Landless People’s Movement, the Rural Network and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign to form a national alliance of poor people’s movements, the Poor People’s Alliance. On 9 February 2009 Abahlali baseMjondolo signed a breakthrough deal with the eThekwini Municipality that will see 3 settlements being upgraded where they are and 14 receiving services.

S’bu is a regular commentator in the media and has published a number of articles in newspapers, magazines and academic journals. His work is prescribed reading at many universities around the world. He has also been invited to speak at universities and many social movement, NGO and church events. In 2007 he was invited to address a conference of architects in Istanbul, Turkey.

In 2009 he won a scholarship awarded for academically promising students with exceptional records of social commitment and, again, registered to study law. He and Sindy now have four children.