Category Archives: Jacques Depelchin

Jacques Depelchin: An Open Letter to the highest moral, religious, juridical, political and business authorities of South Africa

An Open Letter to the highest moral, religious, juridical, political and business authorities of South Africa

by Jacques Depelchin

This letter should have been written a long time ago because there have been too many instances when I remained silent when speaking up in solidarity with AbahlaliBaseMjondolo was what my conscience was telling me to do. The excuses for the silence are the usual ones: nowadays it is impossible to respond to calls for solidarity coming from too many members of humanity, worldwide, being threatened, assaulted, criminalized, killed for simply saying they must be treated with respect, dignity, justice. Most of the facts regarding this particular issue can be found on the following site: What has triggered this response can be found here: [Abahlali] Nqobile Nzuza is Dead & She was Killed by the Police in a So-Called Democracy

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Abahlali baseMjondolo Slum Dwellers Movement — One Year Later

September 27, 2010

Dear Mondli Mbiko, Coordinator, Kennedy Road Development Committee in
Dear Mzwake Mdlalose, Chairperson of the Kennedy Road Development
Committee in Exile and Deputy President of AbahlalibaseMjondolo
Dear Bandile Mdlalose AbahlalibaseMjondolo Secretary General,
Dear Maikelo Ndabankulu, AbahlalibaseMjondolo Spokesperson

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We have just read your report on One Year After the Attacks on the KRDC.
You all deserve many thanks and many congratulations. Most of all for having
survived attacks which, clearly, were meant to wipe you off the physical
and political map. On both grounds, your report provides ample evidence.
Thank you so much for describing in detail what happened and how you
organized your resistance. Your physical and political survival make us proud
to be in solidarity with you. For making us proud we must thank you too.

You make us proud because, through the report you have given us all invaluable
lessons not just in politics, but also in the little things of everyday life which, even
the ANC used to know how to do, but, somehow, seems to have forgotten. Your
report teaches us lessons of empathy with those who suffer, solidarity with the
weakest. Your report reminds us of so many other lessons taught by so many
people who, like you, are resisting dehumanizing treatment in other parts of
the planet. Truly you are showing how to reclaim the commons, history, Africa,
humanity. That is, for us, in these times, when humanity is facing challenges it
never faced before, your greatest lesson.

You make us proud because, through your non violent actions and reactions, you
are showing the superiority of your approach to politics, an approach to politics
which says that everyone counts, especially the poorest of the poorest, especially
the weakest of the weakest. Your report shows how solidarity works, what it
means for leaders to be at the service of people, with humility.

However, we would like to share a word of caution. Our common history tells
us that every time the weakest and the poorest have managed to win a battle,
those who have lost will come back with withering vengeance. Just look at
what the people of Haiti and Palestine are enduring, on a daily basis, simply
for having done what they were not expected to achieve. And so, the more
you are successful at what you are doing, i.e. showing those who claim to know
better that they have lost touch with the people, the harder they will come
back at you. They shall resort to multi faceted violence. They cannot bear the
idea that you, of all people, who are not supposed to know politics better than
they do, can possibly be their mentors. Even though your behavior is full of
humility, they feel humiliated. Humiliated arrogance may, at times, depending
on circumstances, explode with atomic force.

You all seem to have a great gift: giving the greatest of lessons on democracy,
justice, dignity, solidarity, without appearing to do so. With humility, dignity
and respect, without calling them names, or insulting them, you are asking the
government officials to listen to you.

Again congratulations and many thanks for being who you are, for helping us
learn how to reclaim humanity, history, Africa, the commons.

Jacques Depelchin

On Christmas Day, but it could be any day

On Christmas Day, but it could be any day

by Jacques Depelchin

Reading about what has happened at Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban makes me wonder. More like wondering and wandering from society to society, from places in history and geography. Has capitalism become the greatest laundering scheme, the greatest organized gang?

Going back to some of the most predatory roots of capitalism, one finds children split from their families by the slave hunters. That was the beginning of the splitting of humanity. A splitting apart long before Chinua Achebe saw it with the arrival of the colonizers in Things Fall Apart. In spite of the endless onslaught, healing has been going on, more often than not unseen, unheard of among the pharisaic promoters/distributors of pacifying rewards.

Healers are always close by if one can see/hear/feel them
Spirit, breath, pen is all it takes
Ayi Kwei Armah helps those without go to
Healers in forests, healers in deserts,
They are everywhere
same as

Is it true, so goes one story,
That abahlali can turn up in your bank
Dry up your account?
Make the owner feel how it feels to be without money
In a land of honey
For the Richest of the richest
Who make money
Out of nothingest
Have decided to get rid of Abahlali
Before they desertify their bank accounts

For centuries the splitting went on
cooked in history books through
names always chosen by the same chefs:
Slavery, abolition, enlightenment, civilization
Capitalism, progress, Christianity,
Colonialism, apartheid, peace, development, competition, globalization, terror
some of these names were once sorted out by one of the greatest chefs of all, under the name la grammaire des civilisations (later, in 1994, translated in English as A History of Civilizations).

La grammaire des civilisations does not mention the splitting of humanity
despite the genocidal sequences of the 20th century whose names have not been forgotten, but are fading fast…just like humanity:
Herrero, Armenians, Congo Free State, Nankin, Holocaust, Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Indochina, Rwanda, DRCongo.

In the eastern part of DRCongo:
Violence, rape against women, babies
followed by unthinkable atrocities.
Committed just for the sake of might is right always.

And so, now, in the hearts, veins and brains of the land of Sobukwe, Biko, Madiba,
Splitting of humanity has been taken to a new level
reminiscent of darker and darkest times

Questions arise:
Germany in 1933? Kolyma/gulag tales?
Nankin? Kassinga? My Lai?
Hiroshima/Nagasaki by other means?

Questions arise:
For what?
In the name of what?

In the name of the richest of the richest
At Kennedy Road/Durban
The answers came:

Showing the poorest of the poor
They are nothing unless they submit
To the most powerful, the most brutal
If they do not submit
They shall be silenced
Forever if necessary

Healing, once said S’bu Zikode,
Is more powerful than any lethal force.
Is the GAH (Gang against healing)
Trying to prove all of the AbahlalibaseMjondolo wrong
AbM is like a young baby, born in 2005
Being raped till it submits to might is right

Questions arise
Will the sun still rise?
We had been promised a new dawn
Re-baptized renaissance
Quickly evaporated
Has everything been inverted?
Will the sun still rise in the East?
Is the West willing to set?

Accelerated, from splitting to the next stage
With the help of the nuclear mentality
Reducing humanity to dust
Hoping that healers
Shall be pulverized in the process.

Questions arise:
Where is the world headed for when
Apartheid has been relayed by former victims
To make it sweater on the
Richest of the Richest
and harsher on the
Poorest of the Poorest?

Questions cannot be silenced:
Could it be that splitting has now entered its most lethal phase
Gone beyond the point of no return
Saying no to Reconnecting with the Disconnected
As called for by Ayi Kwei Armah
In his Eloquence of the Scribes?

Keep listening
To answers coming
From the quiet ones
Keep listening to
Abahlali relaying
The silenced ones

These words almost did not see the light of day
It moved out of sight on October 18 2009
With apologies
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, December 25, 2009

In solidarity with Abahlalibase Mjondolo (AbM) 4

Click here to read Jacques Depelchin’s first three letters on the attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Dearest Friends,

Like many people in South Africa and around the world, I am still stunned by what has been done to the people living at the Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban.

From 2005, AbM seems to have managed to overcome many obstacles, but, or so it seems, it has not been able (yet) to overcome the biggest one, namely appearing to be giving a lesson in emancipatory politics to the ANC.

Since assuming power, it seems that there are members of the ANC who seem to have forgotten the role played by ALL the people, but especially, the poorest of the poorest, in propelling the ANC to power. This forgetting could have lethal consequences, not just for the PoPs, but also for every citizen in South Africa and beyond. In the history of emancipatory politics, from slavery to today, the enslaved, the colonized, by definition, must never ever free themselves. Should they try and, worst of all, succeed, those in power shall quickly “put them back into their place”. In retribution, more often than not, this trespassing act, or so considered by those in power was followed by the most severe of punishments, preceded, if necessary, by torture. Since 2005, AbM has been giving lessons on emancipatory politics to a party in power which, directly or indirectly, claims to be the only one to know how to bring about emancipatory politics. Other historical examples are too numerous to list, but let us start with one of the most notorious:

Toussaint-L’Ouverture and the Africans of Santo Domingo of which AbM could claim to be a descendant since the poor of today are being treated like the slaves of the past. The sin of Toussaint and his comrade in arms was to succeed where the slave masters insisted they could not possibly do. For the slave masters, by definition, enslaved Africans could not possibly organize their own emancipation. For them, such a feat required the kind of intellect and organizational skills which the enslaved could simply not have, by virtue of being Africans and enslaved.

From the available information, it seems that the greatest sin of AbM has been to outsmart the ruling party in an area (politics) in which it considered itself unbeatable, unchallengeable. The behavior of the party clearly shows that some within the ANC felt that AbM had to be put back in its place. Ever since 2005, various methods have been tried and they have all failed. AbM and its leadership became more popular as some within the ANC became more agitated at not being able to outperform AbM in an arena the ANC considered to be its own turf. And to make matters worse, the AbM outdid the ANC using politics in a way the ANC has systematic failed to do, i.e. consult with the people all the time, not just at election time, and, all the time respond to the needs of the people, while treating them with the respect due to equals.

In Haiti, the success of the Africans was followed by withering punishment, individual and collective, and still unfolding to this day. It was crucial for the French state (and its allies) to do everything for Haiti never to be a functional state. As Peter Hallward showed in his book, the Africans were forced to pay compensation to those who lost their property (slaves and plantations). The payment took place from 1825 through 1946. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pointed out that that compensation money had to be restituted, France balked at paying back what had been calculated to amount to 20 billion Euros. Meanwhile, France had passed the Law Taubira, making slavery a Crime Against Humanity, but stipulating, at the same time, that such a recognition did not imply reparations. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide insisted that restitution was not reparation.

Those who have vowed to continue the fight started by the Africans more than 200 years ago are still being harassed and tortured as demonstrated by the current military occupation of Haiti by the UN, and the kidnapping of people like Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine simply because they keep calling for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (Pierre-Antoine was “disappeared” in Port-Au-Prince in August 2007).

Other examples are the Native Americans in all of the Americas, but, in particular, in the US. For having resisted the occupation and then the stealing of their land, the Native Americans have paid, and continue to pay a price difficult to imagine for anyone who has not visited any of the Reservations to which they have been restricted.

For now, let me stop here and bring out more examples later on.

Again dear members of AbahlalibaseMjondolo we shall never thank you enough for standing up for those of us who do not have your courage. Thank you for spelling out patiently, non violently, persistently the principles of emancipatory politics. Thank you for your prescriptions on the South African State. Thank you for your fidelity to humanity.

In solidarity,

Jacques Depelchin

Statement in Support of Abahlali baseMjondolo

Statement in support of Abahlali baseMjondolo

9 October 2009

The South African shack-dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) is an egalitarian, democratic organisation dedicated to the self-empowerment and self-education of thousands of disadvantaged people. We the undersigned support the resolve of AbM activists to play a leading part in the determination of their own future, and to help make, rather than suffer, public decisions about housing, land, and development. We condemn all acts of violence and intimidation against AbM members and the residents of South Africa’s informal settlements. We condemn any participation or collusion of the government and police in the recent assault against AbM leaders and their families, and in the destruction of their homes and offices. We call on the government to do all that is required to repair the damage done in recent weeks, and to protect AbM activists and settlement residents from any future violence; we note in particular the repeated death threats against AbM President S’bu Zikode and Vice President Mashumi Figlan. We call on the ANC to respect and facilitate, rather than discourage, popular participation in the governing of South Africa.


* Bruno Bosteels, Spanish Literature, Cornell University
* Noam Chomsky, Linguistics, MIT
* Jacques Depelchin, History, UFBA/CEAO Salvador, Brazil
* Nigel Gibson, Honors Program, Emerson College
* Greg Grandin, History, New York University
* Peter Hallward, Philosophy, Middlesex University
* Naomi Klein, writer and activist, Toronto
* Ernesto Laclau, Politics, University of Essex.
* Todd May, Philosophy, Clemson University
* Corey Robin, Political Science, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center
* William I. Robinson, Sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara
* Alberto Toscano, Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
* Slavoj Zizek, Philosophy, University of Ljubljana.