Category Archives: introduction

But Repression Continues

A number of Bahlali are facing intimidation at work consequent to their open commitment to Abahlali baseMjondolo.

abm-work intimidation press release.DOC 30.5K

For updates on Abahlali and other shack dweller struggles in South Africa and around the world watch:

IndyMedia South Africa:
Robert Neuwirth’s blog:

There are also a lot of traces in text and image of Abahlali history online at:
Raj Patel’s Blog

And, finally, the Abahlali logo:abahlali logo SINGLE COLOUR.pdf   14.76 KB

Developed in a series of workshops over a few months the logo is now constantly mutating and developing in the hands of various embroidery and silk screen artists.

No Longer on Our Own

Left NGOs pose a serious threat to the politics of the poor when they seek to exploit this politics to legitimate their own projects, projects that often involve them being junior partners to Northern NGOs, donors and academics requiring the simulation of political credability and which seldom get beyond meetings about meetings. It is not uninteresting to note that the police remain entirely uninterested in these meetings… Key techniques for this kind of exploitation are to use access to funding to overtly and covertly set agendas, to work with simulated movements or co-opted individuals in movements rather than with the democratic structures of actually existing mass movements, to run meetings in a language not confidently held by most movement members, to make effective participation in decision making dependent on resources that movements of the poor do not have (email, transport, knowledge of certain jargon, knowledge of the terrain on which NGO activists operate etc), to engage in outright misrepresentation and so on. At times some of this is highly racialised but this is not necessarily the case. Class is well able to do the damage on its own. The Freedom of Expression Institute is a noble exception. The Institute consistently provides excellent support to movements battling repression but fights only for movements of the poor to defend or win access to voice. See their very good press statement on the increase in repression in South Africa below. Abahlali has received similar principled solidarity in the form of practical support for particular projects conceived and run under the direction of the movement from the Open Democracy Advice Centre, the Legal Resources Centre, the Centre for Housing Rights & Evictions, the Foundation for Human Rights, the Church Land Programme, Bishop Reuben Phillip, Lawyer Shanta Reddy, Freirean David Ntseng, geographer Richard Ballard, filmmakers Sally Gilles & Fazel Khan and a growing network of others. Abahlali has also worked very well with local community movements like the Westcliff Flat Residents’ Association and the Wentworth Development Forum as well as important regional and national social movements like the Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Treatment Action Campaign. Bahlali have travelled to Harare, Cape Town and various places in rural KwaZulu-Natal to share experiences with others confronting evictions from land and from shanty towns. This movement began with S’bu Zikode asserting that ‘We are on Our Own’. But that is no longer the case.

Freedom of Expression Statement on Increasing Police Repression:

New eMmaus Cracks

On Monday 2 October New eMouse became the 34th settlement to join Abahlali. It was the first area built as a formal housing development but now predominantly a shack settlement to join the movement. It has an interesting history in that the formal housing was built by the Catholic Church after people were evicted from Church land to make way for factories. There are some pictures available here.

eMouse Press Release:

eMouse IndyMedia pictures:

Tuesday, 3 October 2006


Press Release from the eMouse Development Committee
(Newly Affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo)

eMouse is in Ward 15 in Pinetown between the N2 and the factories behind the Marianhill Monastery. We were moved here, to New eMouse from Old eMouse 16 years ago. Before that we had been living in self built houses on Monastery land for generations. Although we had to fetch water from the river we were happy there. The houses that we had built didn’t leak. The first attempt to move us was in 1979 when a white man came in a landrover and said that we must go to KwaNdengezi. Some went but most of us said no. Then they tried to move us to KwaNdebeka. We fought against that too. We fought to get a place here. Then we were moved to New eMouse, close to old eMouse, in 1991. The land where we had been living was sold to industrialists and used for factories. The new land was not prepared for a housing development. The church built 97 houses. We had to pay for these houses. We had to pay R1800 for the two room fibreglass houses and R3800 for the 4 room brick houses. The houses were just dumped on the side of the hill. There was no drainage put in and from the beginning the water has just poured into the houses. Because of this, everything rots in the houses, even when we put the furniture up on planks on bricks. Most of us have very bad chest problems. The houses were very badly built. It was a quick job, a cheap job and a shit job. They wanted to get us out of the area where we had been living peacefully as quickly as possible so that they could make their money. On 17 February 1998 we were given the title deeds for the houses. In the same year the church handed the area over to the Municipality.

Beatrice Hlengwa Cracked kitchen

Both the fibreglass and brick houses have now cracked up. Some of the fibreglass houses, which are really just boxes with doors in them, have split right apart at the corners. The brick houses are breaking up inside and outside. Because we can’t fit our children and grandchildren into the houses they have had to build jondolos. There are now 3 or 4 jondolos for each house. The Municipality tries to stop us building the jondolos for our children. Sometimes they come and knock them down. Are they saying that we must all live in one house? Grandparents, children and grandchildren altogether? There has been no development at all since the end of apartheid. None. In the whole community there are 3 standpipes. Some of the houses have prepaid electricity meters. The sceptic tanks were never cleaned out and so many of us have had to put concrete in the toilets to stop the smell. There is no school, no shops, no police station, no clinic, no drainage and no tarred road but we must pay rates. The houses are so badly cracked that we have to sleep under plastic when it is raining.

The chipboard ceilings rotted away a long time ago. The asbestos roofs on the brick houses are breaking up and we worry about our children breathing in the fibres. We also worry about Campus Waste which is burning waste right where we live. It smells like it is poisonous. Few of us have jobs in the factories. When we do find work we are sometimes exploited very badly. Polymar Contact pays 50c for every lamp polished and a person working there from 7 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon will only make around R200 a week.
Splitting at the seams

We need our area to be developed. We need houses to be built for our children. It is not right to have 17 people living in one house or to have our children raise their families in jondolos. But our councillor, Dimba, the same Dimba who has threatened people in the Motala Heights Settlements with his guns, has told us that ‘this area is already developed’. How can it be that an area is developed because some people have title deeds to these cracked up houses which are full of water every time it rains and in which everything is always rotting? How can it be that this area is already developed when our children must live in jondolos? The Indians here are also suffering. So many of them still live in the tin houses.

The Municipality just want to stay in their offices. They don’t want to come to us and know our problems. We want them to come to the people. We want them to talk to us. All over the people are finished with the councillors. All over people are sick and tired of the councillors and deciding to represent themselves The councillors only come to us when they want votes. They are the new chiefs. They spy on us and control us. They do not speak for us. Anyone who asks difficult questions or who says what the people are thinking is immediately marginalised from the B.E.C. Some are even threatened for saying what the people want to say. When the Development Committee calls the councillor for meetings he just doesn’t come. The way forward is for the Development Committee to be independent and to represent the people directly. We need to break with the councillors who don’t represent the people. The Councillors just try and use the Development Committees to tell the people what to do. There is too much lying. We want the Development Committees to tell the Municipality what we need it to do. When Enviroserve wanted to set up another incinerator in our area Dimba said nothing and did nothing. But we negotiated directly with them and they stopped it. This works much better than going to the councillor and asking him to represent the people. Councillors just want to represent the powerful people above them. We have seen how communities that have joined Abahlali baseMjondolo are representing themselves. This is the way forward. This is real democracy.

The people in eMouse understand Abahlali baseMjondolo. Everywhere people have problems with the councillors and are deciding to represent themselves. Everywhere people are joining Abahlali because Abahlali is giving the power back to the people. If anything is happening to Abahlali we will all stand up and go. Our eyes are open now.

Today we announce to the world that we are finished with the councillor. Today we announce that we will represent ourselves. Today we announce that we are with Abahlali.

On Saturday Dimba was told that photographs of our cracked houses were loaded onto IndyMedia. We were immediately threatened and told that he would no longer sign the forms confirming the addresses of people living in eMouse. We will not be intimidated.

Last night we had a mass meeting in the eMouse Hall to launch our independence from the councillor and our affiliation to Abahlali baseMjondolo. We couldn’t fit everyone in the hall and lots of people had to stand outside. Speaker after speaker from the floor said that they don’t want to go via the councillor anymore. From now on eMouse will confront the municipality directly.

Sifuna izindlu! Sifuna esikoleni! Sifuna eclinic! Sifuna isitolo! Sifuna umsebenzi! Sifuna itransport! Qina umhlali! Sekwanele!

For print quality pictures of the cracks in the houses in eMouse please visit
(These are the pictures that so enraged Dimba that he is now refusing to sign important forms for eMouse residents. Clearly he thinks that we must keep our cracked houses as a secret to ourselves. We will not be intimidated.)

For further information and comment on the cracks between Councillor Dimba and the eMouse community please contact Mr Pewa on 0731533187.

Using the Constitution, Getting Assaulted and Shot at by the Cops

In August this year Abahlali used the Promotion of Access to Information Legislation to compel the city to make public its plans for shack dwellers. This audacious use of progressive legislation won the movement major media attention. The state didn’t like this. Abahlali were called in by the office of the Provincial Minister of Housing and instructed, in the most contemptuous manner, to cease speaking to the media. They noted their defiance in a press statement and proceeded to humiliate officials from the ministers’ office in two major radio debates. Then, working with community groups from Municipal flats in Chatsworth and Wentworth, they staged an impressive protest outside the International Convention Centre where various ‘stakeholders’ (government, business, the World Bank etc) were discussing housing for the poor. The t-shirts made for the occasion read ‘Talk to Us, Not For US!’ A few days later, on 12 September 2006, S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were arrested on trumped up charges and severely assaulted while on the way to a radio interview. Bahlali attempting to march on the police station were shot at with rubber bullets and live ammunition and defended themselves with bricks and stones.

Press Release for PAIA Press Conference:
PAIA_Press_Conference.doc  29.5 KB

Pictures of PAIA Application Delivery:,43,10,2732

Press Release Declaring a Refusal to Obey Inkosi:
Nkosi_press_release.doc  27.5 KB

S’bu and Philani Arrested, Protesters Shot At:
Press Release: Democracy_in_Tatters.doc  36 KB
Article by Niren Tolsi in the Mail & Guardian:
IndyMedia – Pictures outside the Sydenham Police Station:
IndyMedia – Pictures outside the court the next day: