Category Archives: Interviews

Interviews with Nonhlanhla Mzobe, Jerome Bhengu, Mnikelo Ndabankulu & William Bogege, November 2005

Interviews by Jacob Byrant
November 2005

Transcribed Interview with Nonhlanhla Mzobe

Princess Nonhlanhla Mzobe is thirty years old and has lived at the Kennedy Road informal settlement her entire life, where her Granny, uncle, and uncle’s wife also lived. Now she lives on her own, across from the volunteer-run preschool that she helped to found, working there for ten years. She now works for Durban Solid Waste, and serves on the Kennedy Road Development Committee as the Health chair. She also founded and runs the Clare Estate Drop-in Center. I interviewed her on the afternoon of November 15th at the Kennedy Road Development Committee’s office, and several other friends and committee members dropped in casually to chat with us.

J: How did your family come here?

N: The reason we came to stay here was that my uncle got a job in the municipality, and it was too far from Pinetown, where my Granny stayed. I went to school in Pinetown and stayed with my Granny there during the week, and stayed here on the weekends and during holidays. The place is not good, but people stay here to be near jobs. Back then when the shacks were few – about 10 or 15 – the place was better, not so crowded, but it was just the shacks. But we want proper housing, because you can’t live in shacks your whole life.

J: Are there things that you like about living here?

N: It’s near the jobs, and we’re not paying any rent for the housing. If you’re working, you can do your own things with your money. And you can’t start a new life; I’ve been here for 30 years. Before I taught preschool for ten years, but there was no payment because the children’s parents had no money, not even twenty rand, or five rand. But I kept working there because I saw that the children were suffering, and they were going to Indian primary schools without knowing any English. I wanted to teach the children how to say that they need to go to the toilet, or that they’re hungry, just some things so that when they go to school they won’t have any problems. And I wanted to help kids not get raped or play with dirt. In the preschool there is no dirt, it’s clean, otherwise the kids will just play in the dirt or in the road, and there were many accidents. Sometimes a priest would come and give the children porridge, but otherwise if the child stayed at home the mother might be working or might be a drunkard and not take care of him. Now I’m a Project Manager at Durban Solid Waste. I look after the other people who work there, manage how they do their jobs, check their time sheets and things like that. If there’s something wrong they tell me, and I talk to the management. I’ve been working there since 2004.

J: How did the committee start?

N: At first, it was just my Granny and the old fathers, and they would call meetings under the tree and talk about things. I remember when I was about ten or twelve there was a white man, a big boss from the municipality, called black jack, who told the Grannies that they mustn’t give anybody else permission to build shacks. He said that they should leave the shacks for their children, who can go to school and get a job and move into a [formal] house, but not to let anyone else build shacks. But our parents weren’t educated, and they didn’t know how to keep records. They couldn’t stop more people from coming, because those people would get angry and yell and bring a gun to the committee. People came and came. If you have space, you would build a house or an extra room and call people to come and pay rent. By then, not many of the shack owners were working, so they would use the rent they charged to buy food.

In 1995 I became a committee member. I was teaching the children how to model, and there was one white woman helping us organize a fashion show. I was teaching them to be drum majorettes, and we were organizing fashion shows for the community. I don’t do it any more, my uniform was stolen. And you need uniforms to do drum majorettes –you can’t be drum majorettes if one person is wearing red and another person is wearing black, you know. I was a drum majorette at school, that’s how I learned leadership.

J: Have most of the committee members been there for as long as you?

N: Some of the committee members are old committee members, like me, and some are newer committee members

J: How do you elect the committee?

N: To elect the committee, we call a mass meeting, usually 400 or 500 people come to the community hall, and we say “now we’re going to elect a new committee” and we ask them who they will nominate for the development committee. First we take nominations for positions, for the chairperson and deputy chairperson, for the secretary and deputy secretary, and for the treasurer. The rest are standing members. After people have nominated all of the people that they want to, we vote for who will be on the committee. At the first meeting of the new committee we give all of the members a position – like health, or safety and security, which Jerome [Bengu] does now. There’s also a position for development, which includes housing.

If the committee is doing well, people will say that they don’t want to elect a new committee, but we must tell them that our time is up and that they can elect a new committee if they want to, [otherwise] that would not be fair.

J: Do committee members receive anything?

N: Hey! The committee doesn’t receive anything, it’s all voluntary.

J: But you get respect?

N: Ja, but sometimes not, people swear at you, or tell you this thing or that thing.

J: When did people get angry at the municipality?

N: The first time we went all the comrades [at the department of housing] were disciplined, you could go and meet the man at housing, and tell him that you wanted a house and things. But people would say next time that the man who you met with wasn’t there, or that he was at a meeting, and we got frustrated. So we went to the councilor to go with him to meet the housing department to talk about land nearby where we could build houses. The councilor mentioned Elf Road, and then the ganda ganda came and those people were leveling the ground there, and people were happy with the committee. But then the committee said: why if they’re making houses for us don’t they tell us? So we sent some people to go and ask the men who were working there . . . they say that they’re making a scrap yard, not housing, and the people started to be angry. So the [Kennedy Road] people marched down to the road [to get ready to block it] and Councilor Baig called me and said “hey Princess, what’s going on?” And I said “Baig, you never come down here to see for yourself, why don’t you ever come down and see for yourself what’s going on?” But he said he can’t come, the people are crazy, let the police do their work. The police hit them, and sent dogs, and take the fourteen [who were arrested]. We marched on the police station the next day and the police came and blocked us in like at Foreman Road yesterday. They [the fourteen] were starting now to go to court, and we met Richard [Pithouse], but the people didn’t like Richard and they chased him away, but he introduced himself to me. People said “hey Princess, your man is here” or “your umlungu (white person) is here!” Then we started the good relationship and then we met Raj, then Fazel, and the lawyers.

We started planning for the second march once the fourteen were out, and we made a party for them – “welcome heroes!” The second march was for Councilor Baig, but there was no response, no nothing, no one told us what was going on. We marched, called Baig, and gave him the memorandum.

In the third march, there were people from Cape Town, all the informal settlements around here, Chatsworth people. We made a coffin for Baig with a Teddy bear, and we said “this bear is Baig.” We carried the coffin in the march, and said “Baig, you’re dead, rest in peace, rest in peace. You just bring Breyani, you don’t care if people live under a tree or if they’re suffering, rest in peace. Then people from housing started to come and fix the toilet – I think it was broken for ten years – and started meetings to promise us this and that. At the last meeting, the mayor promised us that they would build houses here, and for other informal settlements. If they take too long . . . [we will march again]. We told them they must not just give the people housing, but give the people taps, and electricity.

J: Why did the people chase Richard away?

N: They didn’t know if people are going to help them or not . . . we are tired of white people coming saying that they were going to help and then breaking their promises. It’s hard to trust people.

J: How did you trust him?

N: It just happened, but it was only me that trusted him.

J: Did you talk with the people who came to march from Cape Town, and from Chatsworth?

N: Oh, there were also people from Pietermaritzburg. We talked with them, the people that came, and we let them talk too. Everyone talked. We held a meeting in the park before the march, and we let everyone talk there. There were so many people there marching. After the second time, the [municipality] wrote “the people are crazy,” but after the third time, the deputy mayor came.

J: What’s the way forward?

N: We’ll wait until the 22nd, and meet with the mayor, we’ll know then.

J: What went wrong at Foreman Road yesterday? (She had said earlier that she thought it had gone badly)

N: I won’t pin it on anyone . . . we told them after the meeting with the mayor (the previous week), that we should wait to talk to them (the municipality, in the next meeting). And when you meet with the mayor, you can take the minutes to court as proof, and say “he promised us this” and show them the minutes. Foreman Road thought that we lied to them, they said that the 24th would be too late. In myself, I said that we should wait for the 24th and then, if we need to, march again. Foreman Road forced S’bu to go there. We went for the Rally, he told them that they would die, that the police would hit them . . . .you can’t march without permission! If you do things you must plan – plan one, plan two, plan three. I think there was a misunderstanding, but at least they tried.

J: Why don’t you think they made a better plan?

N: They didn’t listen, they said that the offer for housing didn’t include them. But Mlaba mentioned there would be housing for Foreman Road, we should have waited for the 24th – there was no plan B. The first time we blocked the road, there was no plan B, we just did it because of anger. Then we sat down and talked about what we’d done right and what we’d done wrong. Some people who know, like Richard, how to march and to do this and this and this. Now different people from different places [are working together]. Richard knew all the things for how to march, and all the forms that you need to make and things you need to do so that no one gets arrested. Now if it’s Kennedy Road, no people get arrested, no nothing. First you must call a mass meeting and tell people we are marching for this thing and this thing. We tell them “listen to the marshals, don’t hit the cars, the police, don’t touch anything.” But people from Kennedy Road can’t lead people from Foreman. I’ll repeat again: “don’t hit the police, don’t get ahead of the marshals, you can sing and shout and whatever you want, but it must be a peaceful march.” Then the people will do a proper march. People will listen, and stop and go.

J: What do you think of the ANC?

N: The ANC is good, it’s the people. The first step for the ANC is the BEC. I’ll talk with our BEC . . . committee members for our BEC don’t talk about development, they talk about politics — won’t help the people now they only fight for the positions. I was a BEC member, now we have a drop-in center, there is a good thing. I made it for the entire community.

When I started the drop-in center I had no money, was not working, and I had my children. There was a man who was sick with no wife and no kids living by himself. If there’s a person who’s sick, we make him a meal, clean his house for him.

Transcribed Interview with Thembiso Jerome Bhengu

Jerome Bhengu is 38 years old and has lived in the Kennedy Road informal settlement for the last five years. He had worked at the docks in Durban but resigned in protest at the companies’ refusal to formalise the employment of their laborers. He now runs a cigarette and snack shop with his wife, and they live together with his daughter and grandson. He was only able to attend school through to standard seven, but educated himself with books that he salvaged from the trash and with newspapers and now speaks near-perfect English. He has been a member of the Kennedy Road Development Committee for three years and is working to found a non-profit organization, the Crime & Health Strategic Movement. He is also active in the Shembe church. I interviewed him in his home which, on the rainy days, also serves as the shop.

Jacob: How long have you lived at Kennedy Road?

Jerome: I’ve lived here for five years. Before I lived at Hammersdale – but we came here for the jobs, and it was full of crime and people just suffering. I grew up there, near Pietermaritzburg. I started serving on the development committee last year. My purpose was to help them, they have problems, but I think the more we get together, the more we can help them. I need them [on the committee] to be able to find jobs – I can have ideas of how to create jobs, not for me but for themselves, I can show them how to help themselves.

Jacob: What do you think of moving to Phoenix?

Jerome: I have criticized Fazel and his team [a negotiating team elected by the KRDC], how are we supposed to just move to Phoenix? We are working here. Fazel is talking as if this is a union, but we are not workers, if you’re in a company you can toyi toyi and come back in a few days. But if we move we move for life. And what about the children who are going to school here? [Customer is very surprised to see a white person in the shack] Apartheid has made us not to understand each other.

The government fears losing ratepayers [from Clare Estate] . . . the value of the houses includes the view and the environment. The threat of crime and killings means that the value of the property declines. We [the residents of the informal settlement and the neighbours] are scared of each other – we need a transformation of things, we need to understand each other. If no one comes up with a plan, we will just fight each other until we die. We are not criminals. A few of us, maybe five are criminals.

We shouldn’t be living like this. If Steve Biko was the leader, maybe we wouldn’t be living like this – but he was so aggressive. You see S’bu is growing very big – but there are problems coming. He may be taken out by the councilors . . . I’ve told him many times, he needs to be careful. Our people like S’bu, but they [at Jadhu Place yesterday] wanted to hit him. They were so angry because they said we persuaded them to be in the march, we were lucky to get out alive. But people are not as angry now as before the meeting [at Jadhu Place]. People are still a little bit angry, though, because they got hurt [by the police].

Jacob: What’s it like to be on the development committee?

Jerome: They can’t understand – the other committee members – what it means to be a committee member. They need to have some skills. Like, leadership skills. With everyone with his portfolio, they don’t even understand these jobs, they are not capable of the jobs that they have. The only person who understands leadership is S’bu. The others they don’t even understand which alternative they should take – at Kennedy Road, or at the Shack Dwellers’ Association. They need some training.

On Politics

Jerome: The IFP? It’s a sad story. We’re trying to prevent our kingdom from being ruled by other nations, like the Xhosas. We don’t need parliament, we love to serve and be served under the King. The IFP leader was using them, he knew our leaders were getting paid so they come and bribe us.

ANCs are more aggressive, they don’t want any other party to exist. The ANC is starting to fight us. Most of us are going to die. They are going to kill us. The ANC are the traitors. I was an ANC member, they said that we should kill the [apartheid] councilors, that we didn’t want these want these small township [houses]. At the end of the day, now that they’re in power, they build these small, small rooms and call them houses. I think their time is over. Knowing the way that we are . . . we need to be free to be what we are. The problem is that we have customs, but we can’t practice our customs in this kind of place. I have to be a Christian even though I don’t want to be one. We can’t communicate with our king. The IFPs have been killed because no one could understand what their grievances are – not the IFP itself [that has been killed], but the idea. You must go deep down to understand the solution. The ANC doesn’t want to provide us with jobs, but where else could we find more jobs? Isn’t this creating more criminals?

This is our country and it’s where we need to be free, which is why now things [like inequality and crime] are getting more out of hand – and there’s more that’s going to happen. We need to stop this, but the government doesn’t know how to control the situation.

Mbeki thought this [protesting] could only happen under apartheid, and that it would never happen to him. If they kill one of our people, we’ll be obliged to go and do the same to him. And there will be more, like at Foreman Road, things are starting to get out of hand . . .

Jacob: Did you participate in the marches?

Jerome: Ja I had a big role . . . but I see where the problem lies. You still got apartheid, and you cannot force Yakoob or the municipality to change right away.

Jerome: Now there’s a new session of our development committee . . . it began in September, but we need to have new portfolios.

Transcribed Interview with Mnikelo Ndabankulu and William Bogege

Mnikelo is 19 and William is 21. They’re both young leaders of the Foreman Road Informal Settlement.

Jacob: What’s it like to live at Foreman Road?

Mnikelo: What I can just tell you is it’s nice in Foreman Road but it’s difficult to be in the shacks. If we can have better houses like our neighbours, the coloureds, than it can be nice. The problem is the houses . . . if we got the houses, we can be super-happy. We’ve got a lakker relationship with our neighbours, if we lived at Phoenix we’d have to budget and come and visit you.

Jacob: What else is nice?

Mnikelo: It’s nice there because we’ve stayed here for so long. We’ve got these friendships because we’ve been living there for so long.

Jacob: Do you get along with the neighbors?

Mnikelo: We’ve got a big relationship! Like the Indian named Mkhize, who works for the independent newspaper. When we have fires they phone the fire brigade for us, or the cops, they phone them when we are in trouble. Fires are a big problem that we have in the shacks

Jacob: What are some of the things that you don’t like about living there?

William: Fires, and it’s too dirty there.

Mnikelo: It’s too dirty and it affects the children, because it’s dirty and there are rats and mosquitos.

Jacob: When did you first want to start marching?

Mnikelo: We started to march after 10 years of empty promises from the government. From 1994, the president was Nelson Mandela, they announced that people would have houses, would have land. The ANC said “a better life for all,” but I don’t know, it’s not a better life for all, especially if you live in the shacks. We waited for the promises from 1994, up to 2004, that’s 10 years of waiting for the promises from the government. If we just sit and wait we’ll be waiting forever. We got tired of that, so we started toyi-toying

Jacob: Who was making the promises, the national government, the councilors?

Mnikelo: Everyone, the ANC as a whole from the cabinet up to the councilors say the same thing: “vote ANC for a better life.”

Jacob: What inspired you?

William: I think it was the burning of the shacks. There were many people dying, we lose a lot of things in the fires – we lose our people, we lose our clothes, even our IDs.

Jacob: Did you start toyi-toying before Kennedy Road, how did you meet up with them?

Mnikelo: With Kennedy Road, we are together, we want the same thing. We both want land and housing, for Ward 23, we are marching as a ward because we are united. We are marching in wards and not for Kennedy Road or Foreman Road. When there is a march we are always part-and-parcel of that march. When Kennedy Road is marching we are always there, if Foreman Road is there Kennedy Road is marching.

Jacob: How did you meet the people at Kennedy Road?

Mnikelo: We always know each other from the ANC rallies. They will pay for a bus, that will load Kennedy Road, then Foreman Road. Let’s say there’s an announcement that there’s 4 buses in Ward 25,

Jacob: Did you go when Kennedy Road blocked the road with the burning tires?

Mnikelo: No, it was an illegal march so we were not informed. It was heat of the moment, because they were so sick and tired of broken promises. When they make legal marches, we are always there.

Jacob: So, you marched in the . . .

Mnikelo: 2 marches giving the councilor a funeral, and then a march on Bachu from Quarry Road. And then the same ous were there marching against Mlaba.

Jacob: Is there a development committee at Foreman Road, like at Kennedy Road?

Mnikelo: There’s a development committee at Foreman Road, and they’re in charge of development. There’s also an area committee, so if somebody steals someone’s something, or there’s a problem, they sort out that thing. The development committee is always there for development only

Jacob: How do you create the development committee?

Mnikelo: The development committee has been elected by the community

Jacob: Are you satisfied with them?

Mnikelo: Yes, we’re satisfied with them, they’re getting so popular now – you can see them on E-TV, in the Mercury, they are telling the whole world that we are suffering at Foreman Road. They’re there to tell the government that the people of Foreman Road want houses. We’re super-satisfied with them.

Jacob: Are you on the development committee?

Mnikelo: Yes, I’m a member.

Jacob: Who was mobilizing people for the march against Mlaba?

Mnikelo: It’s not a one man show, it’s everybody’s job. Everybody wants to march, everybody who’s got time to mobilize. Like when we supplied the pamphlet, everybody was happy about this, and was willing to work not because they were told but because they want a way forward.

Jacob: What about Abahlali baseMjondolo, when did those meetings begin?

Mnikelo: It began when the marches began. If we want to march in numbers, we must have an umbrella, we must show the government that they must act quickly.

Jacob: After the march, there was a lot of conflict at Foreman Road. What was happening?

Mnikelo: That’s not a serious issue, it’s just that people didn’t understand. It’s not a serious issue. They were just fighting for the permit, because they need to go to Mlaba.

Jacob: What’s the goal? When will you stop struggling?

William: After we got what we need – land and houses. And we want the land next to our shacks, we were promised by the mayor in 2000. We don’t want bushes there, we want houses. They mayor promised us that land, and we want him to fulfill his promises.

Jacob: If he promised it to you in 2000, why do you think it’s taking so long?

Mnikelo: The government is always making empty promises. If they’ve got an election, they’ll come and make you promises, but then they’ll just sit in their offices and they won’t come around anymore.

Jacob: What are some ways to force the government to fill their promises?

Mnikelo: Well, we march on them, and we tell them that we won’t vote for them unless they fulfill their promises. Thabo Mbeki is the president because of our Xs.

Jacob: You don’t want houses in Phoenix?

Mnikelo: We are the residents of Ward 25, we want to remain in Ward 25.

Jacob: Even if they made jobs for you there?

William: We’ve got jobs here, we don’t want to go there.

Mnikelo: We get little income, but we have no transport costs.

Jacob: What have you learned from the struggle? How has it changed you?

Mnikelo: We’ve learned that you must demand services by marching on the road. Everyone is doing that – the teachers, even COSATU. It does something to the councilors’ dignity, to have a funeral even when you are not dead. The people are not satisfied with the service from them, and they cannot go and say “I have been the councilor from Ward 25” somewhere else, because those people will say “your people have been marching against you.”

William: Marching is the only way to force government, I don’t think there’s any other way.

Jacob: What are some threats to Abahlali baseMjondolo, or challenges or obstacles?

Mnikelo: Only if the government doesn’t give us permits to march, that will be a problem. We know the proper channels, we know how to do the marshals and the t-shirts, but at the end of the day, if you don’t get the permit, that’s going to be a big problem.

Jacob: That’s a problem from the outside, but could there be any problems from the inside?

Mnikelo: Actually we are united there is nobody who’s willing to go behind somebody’s back, if the government gives us permits to march, that’s the only problem.

William: I think everyone who lives in the jondolos wants proper housing, I don’t think they like living in the shacks, so we are united.

Jacob: What about other problems from the outside?

Mnikelo: If they want to stop our march, they must gives us what we want.

Jacob: What else might they do to stop the march?

William: Oh, you know when we were going to Kennedy Road for the march on Baig, we saw the pamphlets on that morning that said that the march was for the IFP. But we went there because we knew that that was just a trick.

Jacob: How did you know?

Mnikelo: Because we knew that these ous were not IFP members. Since we’ve been living in the shacks, we’ve known that these ous, they were members of the ANC. Then that morning they were IFP members – why? It’s just because they didn’t want us to march. That was just a waste of time — the ANC is our party, but we can’t support them if they’re not delivering. But we won’t vote for the IFP, we must force this one to do what we want, because the government must do what we want. We must march against them to give us services. We won’t be IFP members until we die, we can’t say that ANC is good if they’re not good, we must speak out

William: To say what is in our minds. You can’t pretend as if they are good if they’ve got these mistakes. We can’t say the ANC is good if they’re not giving us houses. We must show them that we are not happy – why? Because of land and housing.

Jacob: When did you meet Richard, and Fazel, and Raj?

Mnikelo: Richard was there on the day of the illegal march at Kennedy Road. Fazel and Raj I saw at the second march. They are always with us, on bad and good days.

Jacob: Do they help the struggle?

Mnikelo: Yes, they’re super-helpful, these guys spend their time and money to help us – they just want to help us. They’ve got land, housing, they have what we are fighting for.

Jacob: What do they do for the struggle that you can’t do for yourselves?

William: They brought a video for us for the last march, it showed our people that they are not the only ones who are [protesting]

Mnikelo: and I don’t think anyone in the shacks have videos, all these equipment, generators. Hey, these guys are great man. They print t-shirts, and pamphlets.

Jacob: What do you think that they want?

Mnikelo: They just want us to have a better life like them. They’ve got houses, they’ve got toilets, they’ve got land. They want us to be comfortable like them. Better life for all! — they want us to have a better life like them.

Jacob: What’s the way forward, what’s next?

Mnikelo: We’ve got a meeting with the mayor. They’re always giving us empty promises, and we’re always aware that they’re bluffing, so we’re ready to march again. We’ve got meetings with Mlaba himself – he says “trust me,” but he must have a deadline. If we see no results from that we’ll continue to march until he gives us what we want.

Jacob: Who’s going to the meeting?

Mnikelo: The development committees of Ward 23 and Ward 25.

Jacob: Are you going to go?

Mnikelo: I’m not sure, but I’m willing to meet him, because I want to tell him straight: this is what we want.

Jacob: Is there anything else that you want to say?

Mnikelo: We can be glad as now we’re struggling, we can be glad as everyone in the world can see that we’re suffering. Because everyone can see, the premier (of KZN) must come and support us, the president must come and support us. If they tell us that we’re going to build houses, they must not just tell us, they must come and build them.

Ally Brundige: Interviews with Abahlali Youth, November 2006

06/11/2006 Vuyisiwe Mvula, (F 27/matric), Jadhu Place Settlement.

When did you first come to Jadhu Place?

I started staying in Jadhu Place in 2001, on May 6. When I was staying at Jadhu Place the Chairman was telling us we were getting houses. Each and every month we were paying money for the ANC membership and SANCO membership cards but even now we didn’t get the houses.

I came from the Drakensberg to look for jobs because I have my matriculation. I decided to stay at the shacks. I didn’t have a relationship with anyone here. I have met many people who have spent many years there, more than 15 years, and are still looking for development. Right now, we still haven’t gotten it. That’s why we’re communicating with Abahlali because they are talking the language we are talking. We are sick and tired of the promises.

How’d you first get involved with Abahlali?

I started as a member [of Abahlali] in December 2005. To us Abahlali, we stand alone. There is no one standing in front of us. We are talking ourselves. No one can tell us what can be done because we are sick and tired of staying in the shacks.

What are the problems facing youth?

Unemployment and politicians. In politics they are focusing on the politics [and not the people]. Our problem is pregnancy of young people and HIV and AIDS.

Why join Abahlali?

We are going straight to the municipality to make meetings with them, to march. We mobilize people to go straight to the community and say, “Tell us what you want from the municipality”. They express their feelings with their suffering.

I like to work with different people: teamwork. I was tired. I needed to speak to the official government myself, especially the Housing Minister and talk to him face to face…. Some people are telling us they talk to him for us. I’m sick and tired of talking to someone because there are only promises. That’s why I joined Abahlali because we’re speaking ourselves.

Are youth selfish?

Yes, I agree. I think they are uneducated, especially when you come from a rural area. You didn’t get that time of going to school. Youth of South Africa, most of them (the black ones), they think there’s no need to use the resources because they didn’t get training. They’re wasting money and using alcohol. 75% of the youth are using alcohol and drugs.

Abahlali is trying to deal with the (alcohol and drug) abuse of the youth by making some groups and activities, singing, and volunteering in their community. Abahlali advises activism in different things, also in making projects for employment. Sewing and catering for those who don’t have jobs. We’re not concentrating only on housing. We’re doing different things.”

How do you make change?

To us Abahlali, we pressure them. We go to them and tell them what we want. They see the crowd.
Does the government care?
Some of them come to work with us (step by step because we are a new movement).

Do you vote?

No, I did not make my vote because we are sick and tired of voting and never getting the promises. We told the government we would hold our votes because he didn’t give us our basic needs (especially housing). No one in Jadhu Place voted because all the people staying here are Abahlali.

What needs to happen?

I’m on track because I’m getting more experience and I’m communicating with more people from different provinces and different countries. When I went to Cape Town, I experienced different things. To be a member of Abahlali, you experience different provinces. I feel connected to young people and women and to struggles of other people as well.

I’ll never get a relaxing time. I keep busy because I’m working always. I work with different peoples. I go to the community. I volunteer with different things: HIV/AIDs, HSRC Research, and Abahlali. I’m always busy.

Are you a leader?

When God gives me the chance, I’ll be a leader. In Jadhu Place, they look at me like a leader. I give when they come to me even though I don’t have 1 cent. They look me up and down and see that I’m serious. I didn’t tell people lies. When I don’t know, I say I don’t know. We respect each other.

Why is Abahlali so powerful?

We respect one another. It’s a democracy because there’s no one who tells us what to do. We are making it happen at every point.

Why do others join?

We are going to the community and telling people what Abahlali is and then they decide [if they want to join]. The people who are sick and tired of speaking about politics come to Abahlali and express their views. They are getting to be strong, to be Bahlali, because they’ll say something and then we’ll do it. When we decide something we go straight to the community and tell them what’s going on.

What’s the role of young people for the future?

The role of young people in South Africa is to be educated. If we’re not educated, we’ll end up on a lower level. When we’re educated you’re on the right track: you can start a business.

What should the government do to make South Africa a better place for youth?

The government can give the youth bursaries and events for the youth from grade 8 and lower. As well as housing. We don’t get a real life without a house. For Jadhu Place, we have a school for the youth but this school is not educating in isiZulu. It’s taught in English. The library is too far for us. We need free education because we are poor people. We need basic needs [provided for]. We want housing. We want to get a real house where you have electricity, water, and sanitation. When we get that we’re on the right track. Then, for the youth, we’ll make a grounds, a hall, a library and work as well. We need to have money. We’ll do everything for government when they give us these things.

What message would you like sent out to others about Abahlali?

To tell the people of South Africa, that we’re staying on our own. Don’t make promises and lies if you are a leader to your country. We need land and housing this year. When we get housing we’ll be free. To be free, we’ll feel South Africa is a democratic world. We will get everything we need in South Africa.

What does it mean to you to be an active citizen?

To be an active South African citizen, means that we’re doing everything that needs to be done. There’s no one who can tell us what to do. We’re independent.

09/11/06, Philani “Star” Ntanzi, (M 20/matric 2005), Foreman Road Settlement (tape recording).

What first got you involved in Abahlali?

Actually, it was last year. If I’m not mistaken, it was between August and September when the Kennedy Road Committee approached us to support them on their march against the Councilor Baig. They were still alone. So they came here to Foreman Road and they told us that they need our support because we are still fighting for the same thing. We still need the houses. Also them, they need houses. We marched with them. Then, on the 13 November, we at Foreman Road also decided to do a march to Mlaba, the Mayor. Then, we also needed support from them. It all started then. After that march, we decided to come together. We were all fighting for the same thing so [we thought] “Let’s combine together,” and that’s where it all started.

Where has it been your experience with Abahlali so far?

Abahlali is recognized everywhere. All people talk about Abahlali. Everything seems to be all right although we are still struggling because we haven’t gotten the things that we want. We’re still hearing the promises, and at the end of the day we are still suffering.

What are you fighting for?

That’s obvious. We’re fighting for land and housing. Councilor Baig came to Foreman at the time that he was campaigning for votes, and he told us, together with the mayor, “If the ANC wins, there’s land there. If you vote for the ANC we will definitely build houses there.” But ever since the ANC won, they have been ignoring us.

Actually, they are trying to move people from there now. They haven’t told us anything; they just told us, “We’re relocating you. We’re not upgrading there” – [the land] where they had promised us [houses].But actually, most people are working around this area, so it would be difficult for them to move there [to the new site]. It’s a rural area. There’s no hospital. There’s no police station, so if the people move from here to there, they’re actually going to struggle more. And they will lose their jobs. There are no jobs there. Whereas here, people are working here and earning small amounts but they are able to pay the school fees for their children. There it will be difficult. The promises that they made us still haven’t been fulfilled. That’s why we’re still unhappy with the municipality and Abahlali will take it forward.”

Is the government doing enough for young people?

He is trying. I can not say “he’s doing well or he’s not doing well”. He is trying, but he is still one step behind. Most of young people are just sitting there. There’s nothing for them to do. There’s no job opportunities. There’s nothing going on for them. This just leads to young people eventually to [become] involved in drugs and crime. So he is trying because there are some youth development efforts like Umsobomvu. They’re trying to help youth to have some job opportunities so, yes, he is trying but not that much.

What needs to happen for young people? (If you could make the decisions, what would you do for young people?)
I would try to put an organization [together], which would be driven by youth. This organization will be based on youth culture and will involve youth and ask them what they want, how they feel, what needs to be done, what the government should do for you So that they can participate and the government can really understand that they are the future of the country.

Does the government reach out to youth?

No, it doesn’t. Maybe it’s still in the process. But for now, nothing has been done so far.

As a young person, do you agree that young people are selfish or care only about material things?(cell phones etc)?

I don’t agree because now it’s a new generation. Young people need to be happy with their lives. They need to be happy. By getting all the phones, it’s a new freedom for them. They have to express themselves. That’s why others are saying ‘they’re selfish or what what.’ They have to do what they want. They need to express themselves.

What’s the role of young people in making South Africa better for the future?

Young peoples’ role is to question the government and to explain to the government that what he’s doing is not right… He needs to be careful with the people especially the poor people. They mustn’t just be ignored and then only be remembered when the election campaign is going to happen. Because that’s what the government is doing right now. They just ignore the poor and then when it is vote time, they come here and go to where people are poor and try to offer something that will bring them on board and at the end they just leave them like that.

Trying to make change, what’s the most effective way to do it? How do you bring about change? Is politics effective?
I think two things: Social organizations organizing and then politics, because it’s where the government actually is … in social organizations, maybe we have to make marches against them so that they can listen to us because if we’re just sitting there like that nothing will happen. You can raise your voice but no one will hear you, but once you start putting people in the street, it’s when the government will really understand, “Hey these people, they really need this thing.” And two, politics. Politics is where government is. Actually, if we don’t talk politics, there’s nothing that will happen. Government will just ignore you. It means, “Oh, everything in the country is going well. People are not complaining. “

To be an active citizen what does it mean to you?.

To take part where people need help most. To be active, is where you can actually help the people who really need your help. To help the people to understand what they want, issues, proper channels to follow rather than just to sit down and not do anything.

Are you an active citizen?

I am. In my community, I am still fighting for the people. I can say that I’m active because they always put the responsibility on me and they say, “You still have the potential to go there, but us we are old now, there’s not too much energy. You are still young . You are still active. You have to go. You have to challenge these people in order for our things to be done properly.”

What’s it like to have been a young person in Abahlali?

It’s great. At the beginning we didn’t understand the struggle. And that’s where Abahlali came. And then Abahlali taught us that being in the struggle is like this and you have to know your rights and you have to follow the proper channels. Now, we really understand. At the beginning, when Abahlali were not here, we used to be treated so badly by the politicians and the police. They used to come where we live in the settlement, Foreman Road. They used to beat us. They’d not even ask but just come to us and then they’d beat us. But now if the police came, we’ll ask the police “Under which act?” Hawu! It’s something that we know now that the police won’t take advantage of us. Abahlali has helped us a lot because we know the things we didn’t know at the beginning. It’s so good to be in Abahlali.

What story would you like to tell?

On the 27 February, we were marching to Mlaba outside the Minister of Housing Mgwela Gula. It was about quarter past eight, and we were still waiting for buses. And then we heard that Sutcliffe, the Durban City Manager had not released the permit so the march was illegal because we hadn’t been given the permit to march. We were organizing the people to come in numbers, and we didn’t tell the people the march was cancelled because it was illegal. We knew at the end we would get the permit because there was nothing wrong with what we were doing. Then the police came. They came early in the morning at about six o’clock. I was one that was active in the march. They came to us and they questioned us, “The march is not legal.” And we told them “don’t worry about us.” They told us we have to go to our shacks inside. But we denied them because the road was full and no people were going. They told us that we were trying to block the people going to work, but…people wanted to march. There was no one who had been prevented from going to work. And then they told us tell the people the march is illegal. We couldn’t tell them that because we know our rights. … They started trying to catch us and we ran into the shacks but we came out again. It was just hide and seek between the police and us. We were playing, but actually it was not fair play. They caught me. They had marked the activists who were the most energetic. I was one of them, and I was at my house. I closed the door, but they saw where I had gone. They came there and opened the door and grabbed me. I was at my house. I was alone and the door was closed. But they arrested three guys from Foreman road, M’du Hlongwa, the Secretary of Abahlali, and me. They beat us and said, “Who are you?” “Who are you that you thought you were going to give the people houses?” Then they tried to talk their stories. Most of the police don’t like us. They beat us there, and we were charged with illegal gathering. I was alone at my home and charged with illegal gathering, but how can they charge me with illegal gathering when I was alone? The next day we went to court, but the case kept on being postponed. At the end, we got the lawyers and the case was dismissed. That’s one story I remember, when we were arrested. There are so many memories.

Why don’t the police like you?

The problem with the police is that they have friendship with the Councilor. That’s why they don’t like us. Actually, we were the ones that were pushing the slogan “No House, No Land, No vote. “ The police didn’t like that slogan because they wanted the people to vote for their friend, the Councilor. And the councilor kept pressuring them saying that we, Abahlali were intimidating the people not to go to vote, but it was the police who were intimidating us to force us to vote. And the councilor was intimidating us, saying that we have to vote.

What’s behind the slogan?

It was ‘No Land No House No Vote’ and then ‘House First, Man Behind’. If you give me a house now, then let me be sure I will have to vote for you. Then, Abahlali demanded that they write a statement answering how many houses they’ve built, where and when and how. If they didn’t do that, we were not going to vote. It all started from then, the pressure from the police. Even now, they don’t like us but now they have no choice because we know the law now. We are not complete in our knowledge of the whole law, but we know a little bit of the law so they cannot do everything they like to us.

Will you vote in the future?

If it continues like this, I won’t vote because I have to vote for something that has changed my life. At the moment, there is nothing that has changed my life so why would I vote? To vote would mean that I would be wasting my vote, I would be putting a person on top of me, on top of my head. I would be his tool, just working for him while he doesn’t give me anything.

Will you vote in Abahlali’s Annual General Meeting?

[Laughter.] Definitely. Sure. Why? Because it’s Abahlali. It’s Abahlali: it’s real not something that’s promised. Abahlali is a social organization that is trying to help poor people with what the political parties have promised us. It’s something that’s totally different. I have to vote for Abahlali.

Do you feel connected to other youth ?

I feel connected because we as young people, if we sit down, we really talk about these issues. We have to be aware of what is happening in the country. We have to take action with what is happening in the country…I am aware of what is going on.

Are young people leaders?

Young people are leaders because without young people, the country will stop. Without young people, there’s nothing that will be going on. Young people come fresh-minded. As young people, we are still growing this country. We know where things went wrong, what we need to do, what channels we need to set in order for things to be right.

How does race come into play?

Race is another problem. Since 1994, people are free, but people, especially black people, are still suffering. The police have been beating us. They are trying to trick us because they thought we didn’t know our rights. I heard the conversation of some black policeman in Sydenham, and they said the reason some other policemen do this to us is because they knew black people were not well-educated and they didn’t know their rights very well. They knew there was nothing they would do against them. That’s still racist.

Other problems facing young people?

Job opportunities. There are no jobs here. Young people are still suffering. Some are involved in drugs, crime. Nothing seems to be going their way.

How has being part of Abahlali changed you?

It’s changed me because now I know that most of the politicians are liars. They can promise you (something) but at the end of the day they will not fulfill that promise, they will just leave you and say, “Who are you? Just go away. You have done what we wanted from you. Just leave us.” We cannot trust politicians. But at the moment, I’m still learning.

How does it make you feel to be part of Abahlali?

It’s where I belong. It’s where I started. And it’s where I’ll end.

What does ‘uMhlali for life’ mean to you?

It means I will live uMhlali, eat uMhlali , and sleep uMhlali. I will be uMhlali. I cannot change from uMhlali until I die. It’s only death that will separate Philani from uMhlali.

Do you have anything else to add?

Young people should realize that they have to stand on their feet. They should not rely on politicians and the promises of the politicians. They have to be themselves. They have to take the actions against what they don’t like. Because if they just keep their suffering there and are not doing anything, nothing good will come.

Stand up and speak for yourself because there is no one who will speak for you if you’re just sitting on the corner not doing anything!

Politicians [should realize that] it feels bad to be ignored, as we are the poor from the poorest. I don’t know where it will end because they are the ones who told us, “Vote for me, and I will do this and do this and do this.” As Abahlali we didn’t ask them what they should do for us, we were just sitting in our homes not doing anything. Then they came to us saying vote for me and I will do this: I will build houses for you; I will make it so you don’t have to pay at school; I will give you jobs.” Then what happened to their promises? We’ve been neglected now. We’ve realized that to be poor, it’s really hard in South Africa. Especially in South Africa, it seems that the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer. If you’re poor, you’ll be poor for the rest of your life unless you can see that this is not where I belong. And then we have to take legal action.. That’s what Abahlali is doing.

Abahlali will continue taking action until people get what they want. Because Abahlali will remain forever. There is nothing that can scare Abahlali. Abahlali are the ones that stand for the poor people. They are the ones that have a real understanding of poor people’s needs, of how it’s like to be poor. Abahlali understand the life of the poor much better than some people who have researched the poor without ever knowing how it feels to be poor.

08/11/06, Mazwi “Raymond” Zimonde (M 15, Grade 9-Protea Secondary School) Joe Slovo Settlement (tape recording).

Why did you first get involved with Abahlali?

Firstly, because there were so many problems in Joe Slovo. They promised us housing. I think in 2003, one man came in my house and he said “You’ve got free housing.” Then he came back and said “You can’t have the house because we’ve lost your form” but they said that “next year you will get the house”. Okay, so I wait and I wait and I wait. And somehow I found Abahlali because I thought maybe these people can help because next year we don’t want to leave here in Joe Slovo. We went to Abahlali and Abahlali fought for us and we’re still in Joe Slovo. That’s why I joined Abahlali.

How did you first hear of Abahlali?

One lady from Joe Slovo was in the paper fighting for the same thing. Mnikelo Ndabankulu and Philani Zungu [a leader of Abahlali] saw the lady in the paper, and they asked for her number, they got her number, and they came back to her. She told us “Hey, I found these people who say they are Abahlali.” Abahlali are good people. They are nice people.”. That’s how we saw them. Philani called and said “Come and join Abahlali,” and we did because they government was taking us far away.

Is the government doing enough for young people?

No, nothing really is being done for young people because here in Joe Slovo we just have to sit in the house and do nothing all day. Some young people go and do crime because they don’t know what to do. No ground. No house. Living in a shack like this. What else do they have to do? Go for crime. Go for drugs. So I chose to join Abahlali.

What needs to happen to make Joe Slovo and South Africa a better place?

I don’t see anything happening. At the moment, all these people are fighting. Now, we’re left like this in the shacks. I think we’ll stay in the shacks forever if it wasn’t for Abahlali….If we keep fighting maybe something can happen, but I don’t know.

What are you fighting for?

I’m fighting for the same thing: Houses and umhlaba. If I get my house, my umhlaba, and the water, everything you see, …I’ll be a happy man that day.

When you’re old enough, will you vote?

I’m going to vote. Maybe next time, I’ll vote for Zikode, I don’t know.

Why vote?

I’ll vote because they say if you are a South African citizen you have to vote, so they can know that in South Africa you are alive. So I would have to vote.

What does it mean to be an active South African citizen?
I’m proud of being a South African. South Africa is a nice country, but there are some people who are doing bad things. I’m proud of being a South African.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be an active citizen?
It’s a tough one, because I’m very young. But I’m with people like Sihle and he’s telling me what happened in 1994.

Some people say youth today are more selfish than other generations agree?

No, I don’t agree. See, I don’t have a house, but I’m doing it for my mother and my father. I’m going to join Abahlali because of my mother and my father and my younger brother. We are not selfish.

Do you think its true that the youth only care about materialist things cell phones etc?

No, I don’t. I carry the cell phone for personal things. I don’t carry this cell phone for fun.

What do young people care about?

First of all, my family, my friends and my colleagues

What are the issues facing young people?

HIV, drugs. You see these days, that’s what we’re facing and what we’re fighting against.

Do you feel connected to other young people?

Not really. Young people, many of them, they care only about drugs and girlfriends.

How’s Abahlali different?

Bahlali are different because in Abahlali, we all meet together. You don’t see Abahlali fighting. There in Abahlali, I make friends. Her in Joe Slovo, even in school, I don’t have any friends. I just sit alone. But when I met Abahlali, I met people like Md’u and Philani, so I have friends. I even met you. That’s how I connect with Abahlali. When I go to Abahlali, I feel happy you see because when I’m here in Joe Slovo, I just sit sad. I can only come to Sihle but when Sihle’s not here I just sit alone.

What are your memories of Abahlali? What are the victories with Abahlali?

I think the first victory was here in Joe Slovo because they were telling us that “next month you are going. Next month, we’re not going to come back here and see you [still] here in Joe Slovo.” But Mnikelo and Philani went and said, “The people of Joe Slovo are not going anywhere unless you give them housing where they stay.” In my house, they came and showed us RDP housing and told us, “this is your house,” but they came and put another lady inside. When I met Abahlali, that thing stopped. So that was a victory.

What’s been Abahlali’s impact on you?? Abahlali, it’s a good thing because I feel good when I see every one of them. There’s something special about them.

As a young person what would you want to happen for South Africa, if you could make the decisions?

Firstly, everyone must have water in his or her houses. Every youth must have something to do- some fun, because we don’t have a place to play. Everyone must get a free house. You know housing is very important. Without housing, nothing. When you are living in a shack like this, people look at you and they say “This one, he is mad.” I’d say, “Build a house for everyone. Give him water. Give him electricity.” That’s all I can say if I were to make the decisions.

What in your view is the way to get power and be powerful?

One time, Zikode told me if you want to do something, you write it down and submit it to a meeting because it is important to show people what you want. .. It’s up to Abahlali how they want the country to go because the government can’t do anything for us. We have to be in power. We have to tell the government this is what we want.

Why is it important to be with Abahlali and to be struggling?

It’s important for my own good. If I don’t go to Abahlali, who knows, maybe I would be in an mjondolo forever. If I go to Abahlali, no one can touch me, no one can remove me from my home. Whenever I’m with Abahlali, I think it’s home.

08/11/06, Sihle Sidisi (M 26), Joe Slovo Settlement (tape recording).

What made you first get involved with Abahlali?

I’ll mention three things. Firstly, I heard about Abahlali because before there was a part of the political parties. They promised us this and that, this and that but they wouldn’t give us what they said. We see that in this mjondolo. I’d say in 1992, I started staying here. They promised me many things. But there’s nothing that they produced. One, I don’t have water here. They’re supposed to put in a community tap. Two, my cabin is like this. I can’t afford any small luxuries. So there’s a difference between needs and wants. First the needs: shelter, clothes, food, and water. So this political party went across with the needs and now they want the wants [for themselves]. That’s why I jumped to Abahlali because I saw their programs and their progress. That’s why I joined them.

How’d you first here about Abahlali?

The first year is this year. This is my first year with Abahlali. I saw that in the movement of Abahlali here in Joe Slovo, there was a lot of woman. There were no men. There was a want for the men of Joe Slovo to join Abahlali. I jumped into the part of Abahlali to give them that diversity to say we are not the same gender. We are both in Abahlali now. And, more especially, I was the first one to be a youth in Abahlali. So for everything that we are supposed to participate in or take part in they also need the fresh men to run wherever they want to go.

What does it mean to be a young person in Abahlali. and in South Africa?

To be a young person, I love it. If I could do it my own way, I would like to be a youth forever. Because when you are a youth you can experience many things. At the moment in our generation, in our youth, you can find that most of the youth are involving themselves in cruel things. They are going to drugs and crime and everything that’s against the law. So, for me as UMhlali, I want to be exemplary to them to show them you can live without everything that shortens your life. Because when you do these things that oppose the law, you’re just shortening your days. When you go to the Bible, it says respect the man and the woman, your mother and your father in order to have a long life.

People say that young people are selfish today. Do you agree?

I agree with them because many of us as the youth like the things that you take for free without working . [For example,] when I want Raymond’s cell phone, I take the knife and I point it at him because I want his cell phone. They want the things easy. …It’s not like the old system. In the old system, they would listen to the elders. When an elder says, “Stop going this way,” they won’t ask why. They’ll stop it. For us, they’ll say “You mustn’t go this way.” We’ll say “Why must we not go this way?” They’ll tell you the reason “this and this and this and this.” It wasn’t there in their youth time. Now, it’s our time. So when you tell me, “you mustn’t go there,” I must go and see what’s inside what you are trying to protect me from. That’s why our life has become selfish because we think for us. We don’t think for our parents or our nation.

Why have things changed like this?

It’s changed most especially because of a lack of respect. Each and everyone we’re not respecting ourselves. We’re not respecting our parents. It means we’re not respecting anybody because when we see the aunty outside, and we see it’s the same elder as my mom, I’m not respecting her because I’m not respecting my mom at my house. “

Have things improved since the end of apartheid?

At that time, there was apartheid. We were out in apartheid. It was a bad time; we were blocked with a board. But now as Africans lead the country, now we are free. But I just see that there’s concrete now, a concrete block for us. It was better at that time to be blocked with a board, because we could fight to demolish that board, but now when it’s concrete and it’s not easy to fight and break that concrete. Why I say that is because the people that have power won’t respect the lower people. When I vote for him, he says “Okay, I was staying with you but now I’m adopting the stage of the other people.” Then they come to tell us to vote after they’ve ignored us. They come back and say, “I’m a candidate and I’ll do this and this and this,” and they just promise everything. So I’ll say it was better in apartheid, though I didn’t live in apartheid that long but the time I saw was better than this one.

Do you vote?

Yes, I was voting. I was voting because I was brainwashed. The old people said “Eh, you know what, apartheid was doing this and this and this. Now it’s better to vote and vote for your colour in order to break from the chains that they wore before.” That’s why I would vote. To vote for my colour and my nation. Now, I’m free because I’m out from the whites. This country is for us as a black people. But when the politicians leave us and change over their ways and took their things for themselves, now I’m feeling it’s better to go back to where we come from. So at the moment, it’s hard to say I’m not voting or I’m voting. Now, they’re doing everything. They’re starting to come to us and tell us everything. I want to see the process of what they’re doing. After I see that they’re doing what they say, that I can vote for.

Is the government doing enough for young people?


What should they being doing?

Firstly, the government said that they would create jobs. But there’s no institution that says I want all the children who come from school, having finished their grade 12, and they can go forward and do what they want to do in this institution. But [with Umsobomvu] when you go there, you need huge money but they know exactly that we don’t have money. In other words, when you’re rich you get richer. When you’re poor, you’re very poor.

In 1993, they said when you’ve finished your grade 12, you will have a license in your hand. In 1994, they finished that thing. Now, you can try your own to get the license, but now when you want a job they want the license and the computer skills and everything that they’re supposed to give us in our schools but they don’t give us in our schools. They give everything to the private schools, which are for the rich.

Some of the government is lying to the youth. Because now, they’re starting this programme Umsobomvu but this umsobomvu you need funds when I’m starting my company. When I’m applying for the funds from umsobomvu they say you must give us the thing, something worth 20,000 for when I’m failing to pay them. As for me, I don’t have anything to pay them worth 20,000 so I don’t know because it’s hard. They oppose what they’ve said.

If government isn’t doing it, how do you make change?
I think that the Abahlali movement is the only movement, which is fighting for their rights straight to government. Because the government said, I’ll build you houses, I’ll give you free water, I’ll give you free electricity, free education, free health when you’re going to hospital. I’ll treat you for free. But all those things, they’re not doing well. So now, Abahlali they want the houses first. They want the infrastructure first. They promised us that they’d build a house. They must build a house. Because, you see, the people came from the farm to Durban to the city because they wanted to be a short distance to their work. It’s not easy if I’m working here in Mbongeni but I’m staying in KwaNgoma. The bus rate is about 80 to 90 rand but how much they’re paying me is about 40 R a day… That’s why I built my cabin here, my mjondolo in order to be a short distance to where I’m working. The government said they’d build the houses. But as before, in apartheid they’d build a hostel so for all the men staying in the hostel it would a short distance to work. So now, when we build mjondolos, we are building so that they’ll be a short distance to where we are working, where we are schooling, where we are doing all these things. So now, instead of doing that, they’re demolishing our mjondolos. When they’re demolishing our mjondolos, they won’t tell us when they are demolishing our mjondolos, where you are going. Which means, I must know my rights. There is a procedure for government. Because, they [apartheid] appeared in Joe Slovo and they were cutting the mjondolos. When we were fighting with apartheid, we were fighting alone. There was not this organization Abahlali basemjondolo. We’d build one afternoon and they’d come in the morning and drop it again. We’d build one afternoon and they’d come in the morning and drop it again. Now, this government is going back to what they did, the whites, in the old South Africa. It’s going back.

What’s Abahlali doing to make change?

Abahlali, now, the movement is different. When I see [how it was] before and now and the future, I see the difference because now in Abahlali I can talk with the councillor. Before, we were not allowed to talk to the councillor . When you wanted to talk to the councillor, we were supposed to chat with the area committee member first, and the committee members would gather and discuss what you said, and from that they’d tell the BEC member and the BEC members would discuss and then now they’d go to the councillor. You see it would take a long period of time to talk to the councillor. Now, when we have a problem we go straight to the councillor and tell the councillor this and this and this and this. When the councillor fails to deliver, now it’s easy to tell Abahlali “You know what, my colleague? This is my problem and I’ve seen the councillor and he replied like this, so what am I supposed to do about my problem?” So Abahlali gives me the strength, the courage to solve the thing. When I phone Abahlali and say, “I don’t’ have this and this and this,” they say just wait and they come and they deliver. “

What makes Abahlali effective?

We are moving forward because we are asking the City Manager what we want to ask now, and for us what we want from them as a city. Because when they think and plan for 2010, they said there will be no mjondolos in the city, but I don’t know because they give us double stories. …On the radios they say 2014. Now we don’t know which is which. Yes, we want the houses, but to us, as Abahlali, they said you must move. This place is for the municipality or this place is for somebody else. So now, it’s hard to communicate. Now the councillors they won’t help us with anything that we want. Some of our mothers they want the stamps for the grants. When they go to the councillor the councillor says “I don’t know you.” But how can you get the stamp when you want to register a child for the grant, and the councillor says “ I don’t know you”?

Do you have a message to other young people or to the government as to what young people should do to move South Africa forward?

At the moment, to youth, don’t drink. If you want to drink, you must limit the drink. You must stop the drugs… The youth are buying these drugs and using these drugs. After that, we as a youth must unite and do fun [activities] like sport and exercise and going to the pool to exercise ourselves. We must learn from people older than us how to fight with the government as they were doing before with the apartheid government. We must ask them, what can we do to take that information and change it, so our generation will use it. Three, every youth is accepted in Abahlali. This is Abahlali’s movement. We’re not fighting for anybody else. We’re fighting for us. For our future.

17/11/06. System Cele (F28), Kennedy Road Settlement (tape recording).

How’d you first get involved in Abahlali? When did you first come to Kennedy Road ?

I was born in Ntuzuma and my family came to stay here in Kennedy Road in 1987 so from 1987 I grew up here. My father was a member of the committee, and he was a pastor. They were having meetings with the municipality people and fighting for the space where we were living so the municipality promised that they would build houses here for them. So they came, I don’t know whether it was an organization or a company, called the Urban Foundation, they came and built a hall and these toilets, and they said that there was progress here and that we were not going anywhere. And they did make a survey and put markings to mark your site, so they were promising us that we weren’t going anywhere. Later on, they changed. They said this space was unstable. The land is moving and if you build a house, it will crack. They saw that we didn’t understand that and after a while they said no, there are gases in the air here because you live near the dump. The gases are dangerous to you and your children you will have to move away. We asked them why all of a sudden… we hadn’t seen anyone here but they said no they had sent people to do the research. But we didn’t see anyone doing the research. So my father passed away in 2004, in January. We started a project called a Cleaning Campaign with the PDI. The PDI gave us green bags to sort the rubbish. When we were cleaning, the rubbish was down by the hall and the municipality wouldn’t come to pick up the rubbish because they said the plastics were the green ones, and they didn’t take the green ones- they take only the yellow. So after that we started to march because the rubbish was full down by the hall. We tried to contact our councilor, and our councilor didn’t even attend our meetings. There was a group of people who were against us who say we don’t belong here, we must move from here, we are thieves, and we are stealing from them, all this stuff. Our councilor was involved with all those people. He doesn’t like us. He didn’t attend our meetings. We tried to call him to talk to him about the rubbish. He didn’t’ come so that was the day we decided to march. We picked up the rubbish and put it in Kennedy Road so that the councilor would come and talk to us. He didn’t come because he didn’t recognize us. We went down to M19. We burned tires there. Then, the police asked why are we angry. We told the police the whole story. Then they tried to phone our councilor. The councilor said I don’t know those people. They’re just criminals so just arrest them. So the police started shooting rubber bullets. They beat 14 comrades including two young teenagers who were supposed to write their exams. They took them to the police station. We tried to march to the police station but the police blocked us there. So they took them to Westville Prison and we were thinking those Bahlali were Nelson Mandela because they were arrested for the people. After that march, that was when Raj and Richard and Fazel saw it in the papers and came and said okay guys we would like to work with people like you. Now, the government says Richard was after us making us do these things but they saw it in the paper and then they came to see what was going on and what we were fighting for.

The thing that makes me join the struggle is that from 1987, since I moved here, we’re living in shacks. Whenever it’s raining, water is coming into the houses, as you can see that spot over there. In the kitchen, water is coming down everywhere. I’m sick and tired of this life.

We have no jobs here. I have four kids, and I’m realizing they’re not going to be kids forever. They’re growing up. So they will need a home, a real home. So if we’re stuck like this in the shacks, I can’t call it a home. I need to have my own home with my children. So that’s why I joined the struggle. I’m not fighting for anyone. I’m fighting for myself. Whenever I do anything to pick up the struggle, I’m not telling myself I’m doing it for our President, S’bu, or for other comrades or just to show off. I’m fighting for my children. I’m fighting for my life. Because this is not a real life we are living here.

Is the government doing enough for young people?

No, I don’t think so because right now as I was telling you I have four children. The government doesn’t care about the youth because it’s important to be educated. But right now I’m struggling for them. I’m collecting grants for them. Three of them are going to attend school and I also only have grade 11. I don’t have my matric. I was finishing school but it is very hard for me to pay for my matric. It’s too expensive for me. And there is an age limit in school. Because of this, I can’t finish my matric. So the government doesn’t care about the youth. I’m still the youth because I’m 28. And with this age limit, there’s a little apartheid. Because since having my children I’ve learned my mistakes. Now, I’m realizing that it is wrong to rush into the stage of being a mom and all the stuff. I’m realizing I should have finished school first. So if I go back to school, I won’t put bad flu into the other children. I know why I’m going to school. I’ve learned my lesson. I know that it is bad to have children before marriage. When I go to school, I know what I want now. So I think this is wrong. The government doesn’t care about youth.

This is one of the things that make the youth do whatever. They know “now I can’t go to school. I’m over 18. So what must I do? There are no jobs.” So the youth just turn to drugs. Go stealing.

But I can tell you there is a future for the youth if the government can focus on the youth. The youth have a lot of energy. A lot of spirit. They can make anything possible.

What would it mean to focus on the youth?

First of all, education. And to receive more skills. The youth have the energy. More skills so the youth can see where they’re going. If the youth are doing nothing, no sports, nothing, that’s what makes the youth go stealing because they are lonely. There’s nothing they can do. They go to do other things because there’s nothing to keep them busy.

Even at school, there’s a problem with the school fees. If children don’t pay the school fees, they won’t get their reports. That’s abuse to the youth. Especially when the child knows exactly that he or she has passed, but the problem is school fees. The government doesn’t care about the rights of the children. They said that our children would have the right to free education when our parents voted in 1994. I’ve also voted (I don’t know whether its three times) but I can’t see anything promised according to the youth. They’re doing nothing. There’s no free education for the youth. I don’t see anything done. For those who like to pick up their skills, they have to pay money and go to some company.

Why did you vote then?

I voted because, you know the ruling party is ANC, because it is the leading party. I voted in hope because they promised and promised. I know since 1994, when our parents voted, they didn’t fulfill their promises, but whenever I go to vote I tell myself maybe this time there’s going to be a change. Also, you know when you vote they put a mark on your ID. Some say, “eh if you don’t vote, there will come a time when you have no say because you didn’t vote.” That is a reason that makes me really go to vote. Because they say if you don’t vote, there will come a time when they will check whether you did vote or not.” But really, really, I can’t see anything that we are voting for.

If you were in charge, what would you do?

I will focus on the youth. I don’t say adults are not important but I’ll focus on the youth because the youth is the next generation. Do you remember the other day in the hall when the other comrade said “Inkunzi isemitholeni”? In English, it says “a bull comes from a calf” which means to be an adult you started from a child. The child is very important. To be an adult, you come from the child and the child has a fresh mind. I’ll focus on the youth because the youth has important inputs. They have skills. They have energy. They are so clever. So I would make sure if I was in charge that the youth have free education and [the chance] to pick up their skills in every area that they need. And I would do it for free because it is important for the youth to know all these things because the adults are going. And our going parents didn’t have the chance to be educated. So now everything is according to technology and youth are fast so I would focus on the youth.

Are youth selfish and more materialistic than older people?

No, I don’t think so. The reason that some of the youth focus on the cell phones and all that stuff is because it is the only thing that they can do to keep themselves busy. There are no free computer centers or studies. Nothing. The youth love technology and the computer is a part of it. You can find data, there’s the Internet, all that stuff. If there were computer studies for free, the youth would focus on the computer. So I don’t think it’s their fault that they love cell phones and all that stuff because they are just ignored.

The youth are not selfish. Even at home, when a child is having a friend who is taking drugs, the youth doesn’t like to be accused of the things they don’t do. You mustn’t say, “Hey, don’t go with these people because it means you, you take drugs too.” You must talk to them politely in a way that makes he or she understand what is wrong with that stuff so they will try to convince his or her friend that “guys this thing is not right because what what what.” Don’t say “no, you are going with these people so you are like that.” This is not the way. For those selfish youth, it starts with the parent. The parents don’t know how to talk to the youth. Because a child grows in stages. Parents must understand when a child is coming to a certain stage that, okay, you mustn’t shout. You must sit her down. Talk to her nicely and don’t pretend you didn’t reach that stage of being a youth. You don’t want everyone to shout at you. Make an example from yourself because you did mistakes too. Tell the child, I’ve been there. “You mustn’t do this because it doesn’t help. I’ve done it myself.” Don’t point to the neighbour. Tell them, “My child, this is wrong. Take it from me. When your father and I were young we made a mistake and I fell pregnant. I don’t want you to fall in this hole just like me. I want you to pick me up as I am nothing now. I want to show the world that even if I failed to finish my education and become a famous I did managed to raise you and teach you the right thing.” If you’re shouting at a child, the child will resemble you. Parents have input to children being rude.

You can see the difference between a child growing with parents who always shout and a child growing with parents who don’t shout. For me, I am an example. I had friends who loved to go to clubs and where things were happening. But after school, I would come home running quickly because I knew I would get a whip. Those friends don’t have children, none of them, because their parents talked to them nicely. Me because I was scared by the time, I had a chance to run away and meet my boyfriend I was even afraid to come back and by that way, I fell pregnant because no one was telling me this is wrong. This is right. They’re always telling you “the baby comes from the plane.” Those children whose parents talked to them nicely know how to prevent the baby, know whenever I go out I must do this but not do that. They knew the rules but they were free. And so even when my child goes out she knows what’s right and what’s good. By the time you shout at the child and beat the child, you are the reason she does the stuff. Once you beat the child, she gets used to it. Whenever she does wrong, she knows they’ll get the whip and it will be over.

What’s it mean to be an active citizen? To be involved?

It means- I’m a strong lady. I can stand on my feet and fight for myself. Not waiting for someone to say “Can’t you see there’s no development? Come out!” So I’m proud of being an activist. I can fight for myself not waiting for anyone to talk for me. I talk for myself because I’m the one who’s suffering.”

What has being part of Abahlali meant to you?

Well, to me, being uMhlali is a very good thing. I’m very proud of it. I’m talking to other comrades who are scared even to wear the red t-shirt. I’m wearing it whenever I feel like it. I know there are some people we’re living with in the shacks who don’t like the red t-shirts and whenever they ask me some questions about it, I’m not afraid to answer them. I’m proud of being uMhlali because I know even if they don’t like use they’re also Abahlali because we still live with them here in the mud, here in the poverty, but it’s just that their eyes are not open yet. They still believe in these deceiving councillors but in the meantime they will realise that there’s nothing in the councillors.

What does it feel like to wear the red t-shirt? What does
it mean to be a part of Abahlali?

I feel like a hero because everywhere people are talking about the red t-shirts. Even if I’m not wearing a red t-shirt, I can hear some people in the community “Hey these people Abahlali, eh they’re very strong.” I’m famous as a part of Abahlali. People are talking about me everywhere. I’m proud of it. And the other day I heard the people saying “Eh, those are the ones who marched and one lady was beaten by the police and they broke her tooth. Hey I wish to see that lady.” I didn’t say “Here I am.” I just listened to them talk and talk and talk. And other people said “It’s a shame because these people were not fighting, they just needed service delivery.” “They’re not against ANC.” So I can hear some people debating about us. Eh, I feel like a hero. I say, Abahlali are too powerful and I feel like a powerful lady. I am powerful.

What happened in that protest when you were beaten?
The protest was going to start from Foreman Road. The municipality didn’t want to give us permission to march. The chairperson from Foreman Road told the people that the march was not permitted and the people argued saying, Hey, we told our bosses we are not coming to the work, we are going to march. Whether there’s permission or not, we are going to march. Black or blue, we are going to march. So it’s not like our leaders forced us to march. And we were going in peace. That day there was no way to come out of Foreman Road because the marshals were summoned to collect the people who wanted to go to the march but some of the people didn’t want us to march. And there was an argument but we chased away the people, the friends of the councillor, who threatened us and tried to stop us. So we had to go through Loon Road, and we were not fighting with anyone at that point, we were just singing. The police told us to stop. We stopped and waited for our leaders to come from the back. The police didn’t even give us 5 minutes notice. They just took out their sticks and their guns and they started pushing us. By the time we tried to run away, they tripped me, and I fell on my knee. By the time I tried to get up, the policeman hit me and I fell on my face and broke my tooth. He grabbed me and put me in the van. They put us in the police station and said “Where do you come from? Kennedy Road?” They said “Eh, The people from Kennedy Road they’re the ones who influence all the shackdwellers from everywhere. It’s because of Kennedy Road that all the people living in the shacks are joining this thing of yours with this bad attitude of yours.” So we stayed there I don’t remember how many hours, then they removed us. Then Richard came and took me to the doctor. We’re still attending the problem of my tooth.

Why did the police act that way?

I think they’re siding with our councillor.

What does democracy mean to you and does South Africa have a democracy?

Yes. Democracy is good but it’s used unnecessarily because some people don’t understand the way democracy works or they do understand but like to be always negative. In a democracy everybody have a right to do whatever, so some people don’t care. As long as I know I have rights, my life doesn’t affect your life. They’re over doing it. If I slap you, I say “it’s my right that if you make me angry that I slap you.” But actually it’s your right not to be slapped.

Is Abahlali democratic?

Abahlali is democratic. Whenever we’re having meetings, or maybe we have an invitation, we don’t just say “Go S’bu because you are the leader”. No, they open it to everybody to choose. If I say “Ally” and someone says “No- System,” we must use democracy and vote to see how many are saying Ally and how many are saying System. Our leaders don’t make the decision. We are the ones who make the decisions. We act to have the different views of Abahlali so we can come to one decision.

What have you learned in Abahlali?

What I have learned is that when you’re fighting alone, you can’t win a fight. Although, we haven’t gotten what we want, I can see the way we are powerful. I think we will defeat the municipality and our councilor. To be strong, we have to come together. I’ve learned that unity is powerful. You can’t fight alone. For example, if you collect some wood, one piece, you can just break it, but if you make a pile, you can’t break that pile because there are too many pieces now. So I think we are strong. To be united, is powerful. No one will defeat us.

Do you feel connected to other young people?

Ja sure. Because I’m a person who loves to joke. And I love to talk a lot. Whenever I’m with people, I feel free.

What’s it like to be a young person in Abahlali.?

It’s great because Abahlali has an active youth. Whenever there’s something to be done, the youth are there. So it’s fun. It’s like we are a family, one big family.

Anything else to add about Abahlali and its future and the future. of South Africa?

I wish that Abahlali will grow more and more and more. And they will grow more because Abahlali started here but I won’t stop even if they give us houses because they say we’re the one who puts bad influence on the shackdwellers. Even when I get a proper house, I won’t stop to be an uMhlali until all the shacks are finished. Until then, I won’t stop and the struggle continues. I don’t think they’ll be able to finish the shacks because here they’re doing corruption. Whenever they build houses, their workers are selling cement so they build cracking houses. And the people come back to build another shack because they say it was even better to stay at the shacks than to stay in a house still getting rain. Like, in Nazareth they built houses with toilets inside but with no water. How can you use a toilet inside a house with no water? It’s unhealthy. I think they won’t finish the shacks because they are greedy. They go out to other countries to collect donations in the name of poor people. When they come back with that money, they put it in their stomachs. They’ve forgotten about us.

In the information we asked for from the Municipality, they estimated the end of shacks in 2017 but what about the things they said in the newspapers that by 2010 the shacks will be finished? Once they stop being greedy, that’s when they’re going to finish the shacks until then they won’t. And Abahlali will grow more and more to put more pressure on them. And we can’t stop until we defeat them because right now their chairs are too hot because Abahlali is marching to the media and all that stuff.

20/11/2006, Zodwa Nsibande (F22), Kennedy Road Settlement (tape recording).

I came here in 2002. It’s been four years being involved with the Kennedy Road struggle, and one year being involved with Abahlali.

How’d you first get involved with Abahlali?

I was just a community activist with the Kennedy Road Community Development Committee. I felt that there must be some things to be done and I should be part and parcel of the changes.

What did you first get involved with?

I was just attending the meetings. Whenever they were having the meetings, I was always there.

How did Abahlali get started? How did you first hear of Abahlali

If you go down by Kennedy road on your left there’s an open space that the Councillor Yacoob Baig promised people and the Kennedy Development Committee that he was going to build some houses there. We saw that there was some upgrading that they were doing and we thought they were starting to build houses, but they said no the councillor has a bigger plan with business owners. It was how Abahlali started because we marched and we decided we must form a movement to march against the location of our homes being sold off to business.

Since then what has Abahlali been doing? What’s it been about for you?

Since then, Abahlali has become big because now there are many shackdwellers who are allied with Abahlali because they see that there is hope in being involved with Abahlali because Abahlali only wants land and housing. We don’t want to be recognized. We don’t want any positions. We want land and housing only.

How has it affected you being a member of Abahlali? What have you learned from it?

I’ve learned to be great. You have to give back in whatever you are doing. You must be united.

What’s it mean to be an active citizen in South Africa?

It’s a person who wants to make changes. Who wants to see changes but who wants to be the changes and to be part and parcel of the change.

Do you think politics is an effective way to make change happen?

Ja. Politics has an effect on changes because now if you want to fight for justice, they act as if you are just opposing them because you are now exposing their weaknesses.

Are politicians and the government doing enough for young people?

According to them, they are saying they are doing enough but according to me, I can’t say they are doing enough. Because according to the statistics, 70% of youth are not working so they are not doing enough. 70% is a huge number.

What should the government be doing for young people?

Provide some skills. Youth need to acquire some skills so they will be able to find a job. Again, they must stop privatizing things. Whenever you look for a job they only ask “do you have any experience?” Where can you get experience because you are young and you are coming from school. If government is owning the businesses, I don’t think they’ll be asking for any experiences.

Why did you come here? To look for a job?

I came here for my tertiary level. I studied IT. On my third year, this year, I was supposed to do my third year, but this year, I had an accident I got burnt so next year I will do my third year.

What memories or stories do you have about Abahlali?

On the 27 of February this year, when we took the municipality to the high courts and we won the case.

You’re smiling: how come?

Because no one had ever thought that people from shacks can take the municipality, recognized as the biggest municipality for the whole country, to the courts and win the case. It’s a victory. Because people from the shacks are the lower classes so the people in the municipality don’t treat them as South African citizens.

Why don’t they treat them as South African citizens?

Maybe because we are living in shacks. I don’t know because we are the voters but if you’re living in the shacks, people don’t take you seriously.

Are you proud citizen?

I’m proudly South African. I’m proudly KZN.

Do you vote?

Yes because it’s my democracy. I vote to make democracy work. It’s important to vote but for local government I didn’t vote because I feel that by voting for a person who I don’t believe in, I’m just giving that person power, power to oppress us. So I didn’t vote for the local government. But provincially and nationally, I always vote.

What would it take for you to vote in local government?

If the councillor can make change, then I will vote.

If you were a councillor what would that change look like?

It’s important to come to the people and hear from the people what they want. You can’t give them all they want, but at least you must give them some. You mustn’t just sit there at the office and act as if you are leading the people when you don’t even know how they are feeling or if they have any crises you are not there you are just sitting there on your own. You just come to them whenever you need them to vote. The people want land and housing, electricity, water, and sanitation.

Do you feel connected to other young people in Abahlali, in the world etc?

I can say I’m connected, but not the way as much as I would like. I’m still working on that.

You just went to the conference for women? What was that about?

It was a women’s school whereby they invited professional women to empower young women like us about how we can be proud of ourselves, what are our rights as a women, and give us the guidelines about what we can do. I feel empowered and proud to be a woman. It inspired me to see those women. It made me want to be like them. If they can be like that in that position why not me? What can stop me to be like them? You must start small and grow and grow. You mustn’t let people defeat you.

How does it relate to Abahlali?

It can relate because there are many women in Abahlali who have been oppressed. Since Abahlali are fighting for land and housing. The person responsible for the house is the mother. If there is no mother in the house, that house is nothing.

Are you empowered as a young person in Abahlali?

Ja. They make sure that the youth is doing the most so that they can learn how to do things.

People say that youth don’t care. That they’re selfish. They just care about materialistic things. They want cell phones etc. Is that true?

Yes, that’s true. That’s what we want. We want to have money, to have capitalistic things. Because we feel that in order to be recognized, you must have something material.

What else do youth care about?

Fun. Youth want to have fun.

What needs to happen to make Durban a better place for the future?

The government must change its policy. These policies are the ones that are causing the country to be like this because these policies are making the rich richer and the poor poorer. If the government can change its policies, maybe it would be a better place.

What’s the role of youth in making change happen?

More work for youth. More youth can be developed. Then, the crime will decrease. The crime is high because people have nothing to do. If they have something to do, then that means there won’t be as much crime either. Crime statistics would be lower.

Do you consider yourself a leader?

I can’t say that I’m a leader because being a leader gives you a headache because everyone wants you to be perfect. If you are a leader, they want you to be perfect. I don’t want to be a leader.

But aren’t you doing a lot of work for Abahlali?

I just want to learn new things. That’s why I’m always doing the work.

Anything else to add?

The other thing I’ve gained from Abahlali is the legal action. Abahlali taught us about the law. We didn’t know how to exercise our rights but since I’ve been Abahlali I know how to exercise my rights.