Category Archives: Lizzy Lyons

Amandla Awethu: Direct Action by Civil Society in eThekwini

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“Amandla Awethu”: Direct Action by Civil Society in eThekwini

Lizzy Lyons
College of Santa Fe

Fazel Khan
School of Sociology and Social Studies
Social Policy Programme

The School for International Training
Reconciliation and Development
eThekwini, South Africa
Independent Research Project
Fall 2005

“Civil disobedience is not our problem.
Our problem is civil obedience.”
-Howard Zinn

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible
will make violent revolutions inevitable”
-John F. Kennedy

“We are prepared to talk, but if that doesn’t work we are
prepared to use our strength. We will do whatever it costs us to get what we need to live safely”
-S’bu Zikode
Chairman of Abahlali baseMjondolo

“Amandla! Awethu!” shout the people of Kennedy Road shack settlement. “Power is ours!” Today, on the streets of South Africa, there is a war being waged by the people against their government and corporations in hopes of securing their basic needs. These people—who suffer daily from lack of housing, electricity, and water—have decided they will not wait patiently anymore for their basic needs, their human rights, to be fulfilled by others—instead they are taking “Direct Action” to try and attain security of these needs. The year 2005 has been a “Year of Action” and this paper humbly hopes to document some of the many actions that were taken this year to secure basic services for the people of eThekwini, South Africa. This is a continuing struggle by the poor of South Africa and because a struggle is not static this paper documents a glimpse into the direct action techniques taken thus far; the future shall hold new actions taken by people, like those found in this pages, who have stopped waiting and have decided that the power is theirs.

“It is a ‘struggle’,” explained a young activist, describing all the actions happening on the streets of eThekwini, “because that is what we are doing here in the jondolos… struggling to survive”. Many of the young activists interviewed shared that the greater community of eThekwini upsets them because it doesn’t understand their struggle. Hopefully, by giving the reasons stated by the actors involved will help the greater eThekwini community gain insight into why people have chosen to take these actions and can help to legitimize their actions for those who do not understand the rational for direct action as opposed to voting and other indirect actions. Additionally, by sharing all the different actions that are happening on the streets it will hopefully serve as a wake-up call to all those who just watch the protests and who are not aiding them so they can achieve their minimal goal of securing to themselves their basic needs.

There are three sections in this paper: the housing section, which looks at the protests and marches tactics of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), the Shack Dwellers’ movement; the electricity section looks at the silent direct action of illegal reconnections at Kennedy Road; and the water section briefly touches on the disconnections at Pemary Ridge and conditions at Kennedy Road, both settlements are collectively affiliated to AbM. These three cases show the most common tactics of direct action in the past year and some of the most immediate results that each of these actions has produced thus far. By looking at the reasons the actors gave for taking actions it is possible to understand the conditions that forced these direct actions that many may consider illegal, but were taken out of necessity to fulfill the basic needs of the actors. This paper is written from interviews with activists involved in the different actions, participant observation of Abahlali baseMjondolo, and newspaper articles. The conclusion will touch on issues of leadership and formalization of AbM and ideas on the “Third Force”, and again suggest that Direct Action had to be taken because there were no improvements from voting, the government, or corporations, and the actors were suffering without access to housing, electricity, and water.

Direct Action:

By acting at all, in any way, we overcome our passivity
and deny that we are helpless to affect change

What forms will this action take?
All forms,–indeed, the most varied forms, dictated by circumstances, temperament, and the means at disposal. Sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, but always daring; sometimes collective, sometimes purely individual, this policy of action will neglect none of the means at hand

When the people of the shack settlements chant “No Land, No House, No Vote” as they are marching illegally up the road in Clare Estates, Durban, they are taking Direct Action. No longer will they be ignored and silenced by those who are supposed to represent them. Instead, the shack residents of Wards 23 and 25 have taken direct action and organized amongst themselves creating truly democratic body that responds to the requests of the people of each settlement. Direct action “seeks to exert power directly over affairs and situations which concern us. Thus it is about people taking power for themselves”, and it includes any number of actions. Some examples of direct action include: blockades, pickets, sabotage, squatting, occupations, establishing own organizations such as food co-ops and community access radio and TV, and taking and squatting the houses that we need to live in. Indirect action is the form of action that the government favors most, and includes “forms of political action such as voting, lobbying, attempting to exert political pressure though industrial action or through the media”. Direct action seeks to attain immediate results whereas indirect action, like voting, hopes for only for future remedies.
The living conditions for the South African poor has historically always been deplorable. This is due to Apartheids’ systematic economic deprivation of the majority of its population and the restrictions of populations into poverty stricken ghettos. In 1966, in an embellished condemnation of conditions in South Africa, Marshall B. Clinard wrote, “of all the slums on the entire earth, few are more appalling, both physically and socially, than those of South Africa populated exclusively by Africans, their filth, congestion, crime, promiscuous sex, and other slum conditions leave the inhabitants in a state of degradation”(italics added for emphasis). Quite the proclamation, but, nonetheless, today in Durban, “10 years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, people still have to be exploited by backyard-landlords, walk kilometers for water even in the cities and shit in a hole in the ground (or a bucket).” The living conditions in Durban have given rise to an active struggle of the poor against the eThekwini Municipality and their lack of housing provision and basic services including electricity and water.
This paper is framed on the idea that people have the ‘right’ to have certain basic needs met. The expression of ‘right’ is used because “as human being we have certain needs and that, to ensure that they are not denied us, we express them as rights. And then we insist on their observance”. The rights that are in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has “the right to an adequate standard of life, including food, clothing, housing…” (italics added for emphasis). In the context of South Africa, the South African Constitution says of housing that “everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing”; of water that “everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water”; and of electricity, which is more ambiguous but arguably because of it health hazard from the fuel and fire hazards it could be given as, “everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being” and “everyone has the right to life”. These are all ‘rights’ of basic needs that poor are taking their direct actions to achieve security of.
With reports that “the number of black people who believe life was better under the apartheid regime is growing” and that “tragically, more than 60 percent of all South Africans polled said the country was better run during white minority rule” it is fair to say that people are not seeing the service delivery they were promised by the government and private corporations. The people of South Africa feel like the new government has betrayed them as they continue to live in shacks in sprawling shack settlements without electricity and running water and they see those around them in similar circumstances, while across the street they see new shopping malls and million dollar casinos being built. Through Direct Action they are calling attention to their conditions; “these protests reassert the right of the poor to take to the streets, and of the dignity of the place in which they live—places against which the middle class roll up their windows as they drive by”.


Forman Road

“It’s a graveyard. It is fenced so it is safer. Who can steal a graveyard. They fenced all over. They just waste the tax- payers money on nothing. When you say ‘build houses for us’, they say, ‘there’s no money’.

There are street posts. These are electricity posts, these are the globes. This area is always light in the night, its always light in the night- there is electricity there. But as we are the residents, we are the human beings, we don’t have electricity. The dead have lights but the living are in darkness.

We don’t have proper houses but there are proper houses there. No people stay there, that house is always closed. There are proper houses in the graveyard. There is electricity in the graveyard.

That is what we are marching for- we don’t get it, but we don’t get it… that’s what we are marching for but the graveyard is not marching and they are getting it.”


Problems and Conditions

People who have everything just don’t care about other people. They say leave them like that, they used to that. If things are ‘ok’ for them, they are not ‘ok’ for everyone. Things are not ‘ok’ for us, the people who live in informal settlements. I want everyone to have a house, a house that doesn’t leak water when it rains, a house that you feel safe in.

If we organize to be a march we are making them to be scared. The march makes them know what we want. How to raise our voices—the march is better. For what do you fight if you got everything you need. No fight if you have everything. Why are the white people, they’re not fighting—they got everything. But the only people who are fighting are the blacks—because they’re still struggling. They tell us we’ve go the freedom but we don’t see it. Where is the freedom. We are still staying in the shacks.

According to a recent Witness article, “Despite government spending the number of households living in shacks rose from 1,45 million to 1,84 million—a startling 26% increase according to Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu” and that over 2, 4 million people are living in ‘conditions that are unacceptable in a country such as ours’”. In the Durban Municipality it has been estimated that over 800 000 out of the city’s 3 million inhabitants live in informal structures. Those who are living in informal structures are prevented from formalizing their structures, meaning they are not allowed to build with bricks or other formal material even if they could afford to. The people living in these informal settlements face a lot of troubles including the obvious hardships of conditions in informal settlements, the increased hardship of conditions when services are removed—like Forman Road which had it’s toilets removed—in order to force people to move out of settlements areas, constant fear of having shacks torn down by bulldozers because of the ‘slum clearance’ program, and fear of forced removal to the rural periphery of the city limits.
People suffer all these conditions because they come from the rural areas to the city to find work and “develop livelihoods, and to access decent education, health care, cultural and sporting facilities and so on are often extremely limited in rural areas and small towns.” Most live in informal settlements for years searching for jobs or working as domestics in the neighborhood; some have been living at the same settlement since they were kids. However, “shack communities are told they can’t get electricity and get only a few toilets and water because they are ‘temporary’ even if they’ve been living in the same place for years.” The government continues to only recognizes informal settlements as temporary and so the conditions never improve. Fikile Nkosi, a 22 year old woman and a resident of Pemary Ridge, a shack settlement in the middle of an exclusive Reservoir Hills area, made it clear how residents feel about their situation as she sadly, looking out the door of her jondolo, says, “we need housing, we really need housing. We can’t stay like this, it’s very hard to stay in the jondolos. We are suffering everyday.”
Why Action
“Protestors often rail against the failure of service delivery. More precisely, protestors cite not only the failure of service delivery, but the fact that they have constantly been promised delivery, and been betrayed”

“I want to suggest that this violence is more than an outburst, but a sign of political maturity, a reasonable and valid reaction to ‘global civil society’. When the citizens of Kennedy Road resorted to violence they were engaging in a response to their situation which was effective and cognizant of the political parameters in play. A measure of this is the extent to which the government capitulated, or least in rhetoric, a week after the violence, by acknowledging the need for urban housing for poor people. Consultation had brought fifteen years of ‘bluffing’—now, after the violence, that is no longer possible”

When different people were asked about if they think that marching is a better action to take than voting 100 percent of them agreed. Most of them cited the reason being that many “empty promises” were made during the election times by the politicians and then the community and the promises were forgotten and nothing happened until the next election when the politicians would come back and make more “empty promises”. System Cele explains “they promise us better life for all, houses, job opportunities, free education. I’m telling you, when it comes to voting their message is good”. The problem is, she further explains, “they forget all about us after they make all these promises. They just forget about us. They count their votes and they leave”. And marching, she feels, makes them remember what they promised you. Marches leave them “shaking in their boots”, System says. Having been badly beaten by the police in the most recent march I wondered if this would affect her willingness to take action and march again, she answered that “if there is another authorized march—Hey, I am going to march. Because I am still living in the shacks and I will march until we get houses, jobs, free education, and ‘equal rights’”.
Those interviewed explained that by putting the masses on the streets it called more attention to the problem—especially more attention than would be given if just one person were to go to Mayor Mlaba’s office and go “Hey, Mlaba, ‘No land, No housing, No vote!” If there is just one person, Fikile Nkosi explained, Mlaba would think “ooh, this stupid woman” but when you “organize a march— go into the streets, make a big noise, making big noise with lots of people. Then Mlaba will see these people are serious because I am suffering enough to go to the streets”. The streets also were explained to be a good way to get attention through the media and make the people “all over the world see what they are doing for us and what they’re not doing for us. And some will say ‘carry on with marches because the government is not doing anything for you’”.
Mnikelo Ndabankulu said, “the people march because the mayor, the media, the newspaper, they’ve started to notice. They started to see the people now really, really want houses.” The marches have gotten the media’s attention. And many feel like the most recent favorable coverage of the peaceful Forman Road march being brutally repressed by the police is what has triggered the offers and put Abahlali baseMjondolo in a favorable negotiating position. As S’bu Zikode said at the meeting after the march, and before a meeting with the Mayor, “We are strong enough and big enough to tell them what we want”.
The leaders who were interviewed thought that the general community would continue to march despite the violence at the most recent Forman Road march. They believe the people would march again because of what the people said at that march, after being told by the leaders that it would be dangerous. S’bu Zikode warned the crowd that, “you will be arrested, you will be beaten by the police, bitten by police dogs, thrown into jail”. And the people replied, “If we must die we are going to die. If we must go to jail to fight for our freedom of development we are willing to do that”. This, said those interviewed, meant they would be willing to march again even if they faced the possibility of violence. It was also clear that, those spoken to thought, the people were willing to face that violence again because their living situation has forced them to take any actions necessary. Mnikelo Ndabankulu spoke of the people as proclaiming, “No, lets march though it is risky because it is risky to stay in the shacks. We are sleeping and it go ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!’ so it is always risky to stay in the shacks. It is risky to march; it is risky to stay in the shacks. So its all the same”. Their living conditions made the violence they may face in a march trivial when compared to continued life in the shacks—so they will continue to march despite the violence until their conditions change was the overwhelming assertion from those interviewed
The living conditions under which they are suffering is the biggest motivation for people to march, it was explained. One leader said, “There is nobody who can come and tell you to march. It’s just the pain and suffering of the residents, that’s what caused the people to march” and another confirmed “we suffering everyday, and if he [the Mayor] don’t give us our land and housing we’re going straight to march more and more”. No one is telling people to march they are just doing it on their own, and all the interviewees said, they will continue to march until they get ‘land and housing’ and other demands—“Aye, people will march. We’re nothing without march. You’ll see us more, I promise, more and more on the streets marching…until we get what we want”.
Currently there are speculations in the newspapers, being spread by politicians, about a “Third Force” operating to get the people to march. They either point to the leader, S’bu Zikode, as forcing or convincing the people to march, or else they feel it must be the work of the intellectuals from the University who are creating this movement. “No, it is the people themselves” was the overwhelming response by all the interviewees. They made specific comments regarding the “Third Force” theory saying, “Third Force is me, it’s me, it’s me. It’s the people who are suffering. It’s the people who are staying in jondolos like me. I am a Third Force meself. And I will be until the government sees what it must do”. Another activist said the same thing, “I am the Third Force. We, who are living in the jondolos, are the Third Force.”
The model that the government sees social movements as being is as a “enterpeneurial or conspirational image: a social movement is treated as a purposeful collective action, recruited, mobilized and controlled by leaders and ideologues (conspirators, ‘movement enterpreneurs’ etc.) in an attempt to reach specific goals”. As opposed to a movement that is by the people, described as when “social movements appear from below, when the volume of grievances, discontent and frustration of human populations exceeds a certain threshold…seen as a spontaneous outburst of collective behavious which only later acquires leadership, organization, and ideology”. This, latter view, according to the research gathered, is more of an accurate description of the movement. However, movements are not black and white, and neither model can be taken purely. The movement is both guided and spontaneous, the leaders now do help guide and propagandize actions—but ultimately the leaders of this movement are very much at the command of the community. They are not leaders for the people; they are leaders of the people. They are subservient to the peoples’ will and wishes.
The leaders and activist spoken to said the reason that they were so actively involved was because they were just like everyone else; they were just an individual in the community. Because they lived there in the informal settlement their problems were everyone who lived at the settlement’s problems. Akhona Khebesi, an active 17 year- old girl and one of the 14 who were arrested at the first protest from Kennedy Road, said that she was active because, “I want improvements. Because I want people to have better houses, to live in better conditions and for people to have less dying and less sickness for people. For everyone to have a house; a house that doesn’t leak water when it rains; a house that you feel safe in”. For Akhona Khebesi it is improvements for everyone that she is fighting for, including herself, as she is part of the community. System Cele, a young woman in her 20s, also makes this connection between the individual and the community, saying, “I’m not doing it for the community—I’m doing it for myself—because I am a member of the community too. We are doing it together.” Those spoken to explained that they are taking direct actions and marching because their conditions, they are taking to the streets because they don’t see results from voting only “empty promises”, they said that they see better results from marching, and they are taking actions because they are not leaders—they too are the suffering people.
Actions for Housing:
Abahlali baseMjondolo

There is nobody who come and can tell you to march. It’s just the pain and suffering of the residents that’s what caused the people to march. If there be no mosquitoes in the shacks, there be electricity in the shack, there be no mud on rainy days…then we can’t march. What makes us to march is the life of the residents staying in the shacks.

If you want something here in this world you have to fight. I like to tell them that. You have to fight. Nothing is for free. Nothing comes easy. Everything you have to use your mind and you have to use your attitude and you have to be strong when you need something because nothing is for free. If you want something you have to be strong.

For too long have our communities survived in substandard and informal housing, and for too long have we been promised land, only to be betrayed. Therefore, we demand adequate land and housing to live in safety, health and dignity.

Sitting in a small shed with candlelight flickering across the twenty or so faces in the room, “Who the hell are we? We are the poor. Who the hell are we, we are the masses” vibrates off the wood walls. Informal settlements all over eThekwini took direct action amongst themselves to address the concern of having “people who speak for them or of them without speaking to them”. They created a truly representative body because their Councillors did not represent their needs. They have organized Abahlali baseMjondolo, and shown that “rather than being ‘disorganized’, the slum often simply has its own organization, usually a type judged by the middle class to be unconventional”. The movement and the organization formed out of need for unity and coordination within the spontaneity of actions demanded by communities living in Kennedy Road shack settlement and other settlements in the area against their lack of basic services and denial of formal housing.
Abahlali baseMjondolo is the name of the “Shack Dwellers” movement operating out of the central Durban area. It is a democratic organization, which was just created after the first Kennedy Road protests in March 2005 to create a united front of all the informal settlements in the area. Currently Abahlali baseMjondolo represents 12 settlements from Ward 23 and 25 as members. Representing the housing and basic service needs of their own community and calling itself the “Shack Dwellers’ Movement” it mostly represents informal settlements, but support has also been given support from flat dwellers associations, the homeless and street traders.
Abahlali baseMjondolo, explains one of the leaders, is, “giving us the right to express ourselves. So we’ve got an umbrella, this is our umbrella for the people staying in the shacks”. He explains this as meaning that if one person were to shout on the streets that they wanted housing no one would listen. But with the ‘umbrella organization’, representing so many people in all the informal settlements, “Abahlali baseMjondolo is giving us power to talk, giving us the right to express ourselves. This is the stuff of Democracy for the residents staying in the shacks because there is no other democracy if you’re staying the shacks because there is no proper housing”. The leaders involved in Abahlali baseMjondolo are mostly comprised of the elected representatives operating on area development committees in the different informal settlements. However, this is a new movement and many of the leaders are just representing their communities without having been formally elected.
After S’bu and the other leaders finished the meeting in the candlelit shed they picked up their chairs and carried the table outside into the dark cold night. There waiting outside were over a hundred men, woman, children, and grandmothers. They were waiting patiently to be addressed by their leaders. They stood silently while the leaders told them about what has happened and then suggestions for what should happen. Then the people had an opportunity to ask the leaders questions. The Abahlali baseMjondolo movement is not a movement of leaders, it is a movement of people. There are the chosen leaders, but they are also members of the community as well, and they are expected to report back on everything and are not to make any decisions without the approval of the community. Abahlali baseMjondolo is not party affiliated, the reason given is because politics is seen to cause divisions and “our strength is our unity”.
There have been many different actions taken over the last year by the informal settlements represented by Abahlali baseMjondolo, including Kennedy Road’s three marches, protests, and road blockage; Quarry Road’s march on their councilor; and two marches by Forman Road—the second which was a legal march that was illegally banned by the notorious city manager Mike Sutcliffe and was the most recent action taken the committee. As S’bu Zikode, elected chair of Abahlali baseMjondolo, said at the beginning of the Forman Road march, “no more hide-and-seek. Now is the time for action”.
The Marches
The only language they understand is the
marches and masses on the streets.

Our strength is our unity.
If we stand together, they can’t hit 5,000 people.

So, after years of contemptuous neglect the government, in various forms, is suddenly very interested in Kennedy Road. Militant struggle produces the interest that passive suffering does not.

When a specific plot of land on Elf Road, which had been promised—even in writing—for development of housing for Kennedy Road, started to be bulldozed for a brick factory the “people got really angry”. The Kennedy Road Development committee, which later develops into Abahlali baseMjondolo, responding to the anger of the community helped to facilitate a mass action. Going door-to-door at 3am in the morning they told people, if they wanted to protest they should go down and help to block traffic on a major highway there they burned tires and mattresses on 19 March 2005 in protest of their stolen promised land. The police tried to clear the residents from the road and when they would not move the police responded by hitting people. Akhona Khebesi, a 17-year-old schoolgirl who was sent to Westville prison after this protest, explained, “and they caught me! And they hitted me! Yes, and they hitted me. And I started crying”. The police arrested 14 ‘heroes’ that night, including two school-aged girls. The rest of the community of Kennedy road was “bitten by the dogs, punched and beaten”, reports S’bu Zikode, as they ran away from the police.
The second march was a march on the Sydenham police stations to demand that the 14 heroes be released. This peaceful march was dispersed with dogs and tear gas. The only result was that Kennedy Road, after these two actions, looked “like occupied Palestine, [while] the settlement remains under police surveillance.” The third march from Kennedy Road was on 14 September 2005 when an estimated 5 000 people marched to the offices of eThekwini councillor Yakoob Baig and demanded his resignation because of “lack of housing and service delivery” in Sydenham and surrounding areas. The action included the march and also a mock funeral for the Councillor and a coffin with his name written in red letters. The end results of these actions and threats were to have the pit latrines cleaned in Kennedy Road with additional promises of toilet blocks and renovation of the community hall.
The most recent action taken by Kennedy Road was on 2 November 2005 when posts were erected to make a large fence around the land that had been promised to Kennedy Road. At 10pm, Akhona Khebesi, awoke to find her mother already awake. Asking her what was wrong her mother explained that she was woken by the sounds of people running by with posts. That night thousands of residents of Kennedy Road made their way down to the promised land and “faced off the security guards and then took down the fence”. This actions’ result was that the land remains undeveloped and is still fiercely defended by the Kennedy Road residents as their promised land.
Quarry Road, a smaller settlement in the elite Indian suburb of Reservoir Hills which is also affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo, responded to the anger of its community and within a couple of days put together a march of around 1 000 people, on October 4, 2005, to march on their Ward 23 councillor Jayraj Bachu and “demanded land, housing, the return of their toilets and the resignation of Councillor”. The march also included a mock funeral and coffin with the Councillor’s name on it. The Metro had removed all the toilettes from the settlement in order to try and force people to accept removal to the ‘rural periphery of the Metro’. However, the Quarry Road community and its’ sympathizers took action and went to the streets in what was described as a ‘militant’ march to fight against the conditions that they are being forced to live in and the right to formal housing within city. Reportedly, the result of the march is that the Quarry Road settlement has been promised houses near-by for all its residents.

My Experience of Direct Action:
Forman Road March

What make us to march is because of the empty promises. The Mayor, Mayor Mlaba, he said if ANC wins the land will be upgraded for us but now he wants to relocate us to Parkgate and Verulum. What about the land he promised us. That is why we are marching—we want him to fulfill the promises. We can’t just continue to vote for empty promises.

We say the power is ours but we don’t get the power. We are being relocated, we are being shoot by the cops…We must have that power. When we say we want this we must get it.

I pressed my body as tight as I could against the wall in hopes of being considered a journalist. The police moved quickly toward me their shields raised and their batons ready. In the background a few had stopped to hit one man as he lay on the ground. Beside me a woman was sobbing loudly. All of a sudden there was a crash, and then another crash. Rocks were being hurled at the police who tried to block them with their plastic shields. There seemed to be a brief lull in the avalanche of rocks and the police charged forward. They ran down the street after the protestors. Gasping for air—having tried not to breathe as maybe that would help make me invisible—I looked around and gathered my bearings. The road was scattered with rocks and in the background, where the front line of the march had been only moments earlier, a police van drove away. The top of the road was littered with personal belonging ranging from cell phones to umbrellas and shoes. Another police van tore by as I finally moved away from the wall.
This was the end of a morning that began when I precariously made my way down through the oozing, smelling, murky mud of Forman Road to a rally that was being held for land and housing, and against forced removals. Forman Road is listed as a ‘full relocation’ area, meaning it was targeted for slum clearance and all residents will be forced to move. The ‘rally’ was attended by all the settlements in Abahlali baseMjondolo. The ‘rally’ was supposed to be a legal march but was illegally banned by the Municipality even though all the correct paperwork was filed.
The people gathered thought there was still going to be a march and when they were told about the permit problems they still wanted to march. The leaders got up and spoke over the loudspeakers in Zulu explaining to the crowd that it was dangerous to march without a permit but the people still want to march. So the ‘rally’ moved up the narrow dirt path to the street. At the head of the street they were met with the police and the people peacefully started to dance and sing in front of them. After a few minutes the police charged at the people with riot shields, shot rubber bullets, real bullets from pistols, stun grenades, and hit and arrested people as they tried to run away.
The Results
What are the going to do—fingerprint the stones?

We’ve been shoot by the cops, we’ve been denied the right to march, we lost our cell phones, somebody get injured. You see, so this Forman Road March reminded me of the apartheid government.

The immediate reactions to the Forman Road protest were that 45 people got arrested and eight got formally charged with marching illegally. Others got injured in the assault by the police, one being a young lady named Pume Cele, or System. She was in the front line of the march, and when the “front line turned out to be the last”, when everyone turned to run, she fell to her knees in the scramble. The police hit her and she broke her front teeth and scraped her nose. She was then arrested and escorted gruffly to the police van. For many the results were being scared, arrested, or hurt.
Unfortunately, the violence that was used in this march can also be seen as a good result because it got much needed news attention that caused embarrassment for the Municipality. As horrible as it is, violence can be seen as a good result for the ‘struggle’ because it gets media attention. Still, it does not diminish the fact that violence is horrible and terrible for the people. The march at Forman Road was covered by 3 TV channels and made the front page in one-paper and had articles in other papers. Because of the violence against the peaceful protestors the “whole world is watching now” .
He looked at me, his eyes still glowing from the meeting about the march from Forman Road which had occurred the day before, “There is no more time for politics” he said to answer my question of whether the illegal march was worth the arrests and the injuries of the people. ‘Yes’, answered Philani Dlamini, the deputy chair of Abahlali baseMjondolo. Dlamini himself had been arrested the day before at the march but he thought it was worth it because he said that it made the point to the government that they were not going to be silenced by the equally illegally ban on the march ; they wanted action from the government and they were willing to take action to get it, “no more waiting”, he said. He was very happy about the result of press and coverage of the protest. He thought that it had shown the government what they were fighting for, got the message out that they were serious and would take actions even if they had been banned until the get what they want, and they embarrassed the government by having pictures and video coverage of the police repressing a peaceful march with apartheid like force.
But not everyone felt that the results were good like Dlamini. A woman on the street, and a resident of Forman Road, commented in the days following the march, that “I don’t know what we are going to do now…I don’t know if we are going to march again”. Even though the leaders “lied” to the people, she explained, and considered themselves “big men” who were playing with the people, she felt that it was a “bad march”. She had been arrested in the march because her leg had been injured earlier and she could not run away. Another woman who was at the Forman Road march, but lived in Pemary Ridge settlement, felt that the Forman Road march reminded her too much of the apartheid era repression of marches where she lost her son in the violence, and she would not ever march again.
The Forman Road march, which has culminated a ‘Year of Action’ by Abahlali baseMjondolo, has resulted in an offer by eThekwini Municipality and Mayor Obed Mlaba which includes a R10 billion low-cost housing project that will house 15,000 to 20,000 families on a piece of land that boarders Phoenix, Umhlanga Ridge, and Mount Edgecombe, by Gateway shopping mall. The development includes integrated houses, with both low and middle incomes, and also includes business development and plans for other infrastructure like schools and clinics. Kennedy Road has been specifically noted to be one of “the first to move to the new site” because of the pressure created by their direct action, the marches. There have also been promises by the Municipality to build formal houses on different shack settlement land so that a few people could continue to live where they are currently staying. This is a victory for Kennedy Road and all those in Abahlali baseMjondolo who have bravely fought for housing on the streets of Durban against rubber bullets, tear gas, beatings, and arrests.
The proclaimed goal of the Abahlali baseMjondolo is for upgrading of shacks and houses built on their current land and on other land in the Wards that they currently live in, not removal to Phoenix or other outlying areas. So, this offer is a step forward but is not the result they are struggling for. The offer also has other faults in that it could take upward of 10 years to complete and the history thus far of delayed, over-budget and profoundly corrupt government projects is well-documented. There is also some ambiguity about how many houses are to be built ranging from 6 000 to 20 000 and there is a policy of ‘one shack, one house’ which would not address the housing problems of many families and people who are currently squeezed into one shack. The houses that are planned to be built are small, one roomed, with one plastic toilet, and without sink or inside water. The offer is being made without written agreement and without any discussion and no timeline has been proposed.
Even with this offer the fight is far from over. Dlamini proclaims, in an Abahlali baseMjondolo meeting called to discuss the offer, that now is the time to organize and get structured so that they can make sure the government builds enough houses, that everyone gets one, that the houses are build well, that people will continue to fight for delivery with continuing pressure and threats to the government that the people will take action if the houses are not delivered. It is decided that Abahlali baseMjondolo must continue to send a clear message to the Councilor, Mayor, and others, that the Shack Dwellers are no longer willing to wait patiently and that they can’t be appeased with this new offer that sounds like all the other “empty promises” they have gotten. The response to the offer is that there is “no more time for politics” and there is to be “no more empty promises”; they are demand to be told exactly “where, when, how many houses are to be built” and the delivery by the government must be actualized. Dlamini’s sentiments were echoed later that night by the elected chair of Abahlali baseMjondolo, S’bu Zikode, who said that they were not just going to wait, “no more empty promises, no more politics. We want to know where, when, and how many houses”.


Pemary Ridge

“She was cooking outside—she told me that I have no paraffin. I have no nothing this is why I am cooking outside. I am not working, I have no money for paraffin—take the photo for me and tell all the world ‘how poor are we here in South Africa’

If you don’t have paraffin you can’t cook. Paraffin stove is not healthy for people, I like to say that and I always say that—its not right for people. And the smoke when it comes out your eyes getting sick and your chest getting sick”


Rain crashing down against the tin shacks outside, and inside the lights flickered out again. Even in the sudden darkness the talking continued. In the corner two white candle flickered by the small coffin and the 21 year old father sat silently by its’ side. “How long will we wait, and how many will have to die”, called out S’bu Zikode, leader of Abahlali baseMjondolo ,over the darkened hall. Asking the community how long they will wait patiently to receive formalized housing and services like electricity and water. Here at the memorial service of a one year old baby boy, Mhlengi Khumalo, of Kennedy Road informal settlement, it becomes painfully clear that there is a problem. Little baby Mhlengi was burnt so badly in an accidental shack fire that destroyed 16 shacks that he died later that day. His death was from a fire that was caused by a candle that tipped over during the night.
This fire happened because Kennedy Road, although promised electricity and even previously paid for installation of electricity, still have not received any electricity services. The problem of lack of electricity becomes even more unmistakable when the loss of this young, innocent life is considered with the loss of sixteen other peoples livelihoods, which were burnt to a black crisp, and the fact that this is the third fire in just one month in Kennedy Road alone. Those who spoke at the memorial service for Mhlengi Khumalo made the declared that these fires will only stop happening when there is “decent housing with free basic services are a right for all.”
When four informal settlement residents were asked why do people need electricity they explained that it is “the most basic that a human have to have and because lots of houses are burning because we don’t have electricity and people are dying because of fire” and others said that electricity is needed “for surviving, for cooking, boiling water, ironing and for lighting”. The conditions, they explained, without electricity were full with “lots of struggle and suffering of losing of loved ones through fire” and it is “very hard”. Without electricity people are forced to buy paraffin which “is very expensive and you have to buy candles but when you have electricity everything is easy and less expensive”.
The residents of Kennedy Road did not receive electricity because eThekwini Municipality instituted a ‘new policy not to install electricity in informal settlements’. Their electrification policy states the following:
5. Informal Settlements:
In the past (1990s) electrification was rolled out to all and sundry. Because of the lack of funding and the huge costs required to relocate services when these settlements are upgraded or developed, electrification of the informal settlements has been discontinued.

The community of Kennedy Road paid for electricity installation three years ago but have not yet received a connection or their money back. The manager of eThekwini Electricity, Jay Kalichuran, “admitted that the fees had been paid, but that the council decided against the installation… ‘There is a new policy which does not allow us to install electricity in informal settlements,’ said Kalichuran.” The people of Kennedy Road not only got “empty promises”, additionally, they lost the little money they had into the pockets of eThekwini Electricity.
Lack of electricity through cut-offs and no connections at all leave many families to suffer. Without access to electricity the problems are clear; the “lack of access to energy, particularly electricity, as environmentally detrimental and dangerous to human well-being: people [are] forced to use wood as fuel in many areas (leading to deforestation) and paraffin was both poisonous and ran the high risk of fires” and “most poor South Africans still rely for a large part of their lighting, cooking and heating energy needs on paraffin (with its burn-related health risks), coal (with high levels of domestic and township-wide are pollution) and wood (with dire consequences for deforestation)”.
In addition to these concerns, the people in the informal settlements constantly have to live with the fear of fire caused by the paraffin stoves, the gas stoves, or a candle falling over. Many, many people have lost their lives in shack fires, which happen with dangerous frequency. Fikile Nkosi, resident of Pemary Ridge shack settlement explained this ever-present danger, “here in jondolo we’re using box, cardboard box for all the walls or newspaper for making our walls nice. And the paraffin goes ‘bah, bah! Bah!’ and if you leave the paraffin stove open—oh!—your house is finished. One mistake on paraffin, one mistake on gas, your house is finished. You burn. You die”. From my limited time spent in the shacks I witnessed two paraffin stoves which had been turned off and left alone, flare-up with a ‘bah, bah!’ and can easily imagine them catching the nearby scarves or papers alight. Without electricity people have to deal with the constant fear of fires and with the hazardous health affects of cooking over the paraffin stove everyday.

Actions for Electricity
Currently, large sections of the townships in Durban are being pushed into the popular illegalities of clandestine… reconnections…Instead the council’s modus operandi is to send in small armies to re-disconnect, prompting, predictably, a dis-re-connection as soon as the troops leave. The Durban Metro is thus creating mass lawlessness by the sheer scale of its acts of oppression, which are bound to breed resistance

Over 1 000 new illegal connections or reconnection occur every month in Durban. The people’s perception of service delivery by the government as being “not well at all” and “very bad” have led them to take actions because “we’ve been asking for electricity for a very long time and the Government is not responding back, so I had to connected illegally because I was suffering without electricity”. They all feel as if the government has failed them and they have resorted to trying to take what they need asking “friends” to help them connect the households to electricity. Most gave reasons of safety, of themselves, their families, and others, for getting their electricity illegally so they can prevent more accidental fires from happening. One interviewee said taking the action of illegal connections is smart because “my family have been in less danger and that I feel a bit protected knowing that fire cannot begin or take place by my house”. The Kennedy Road greater community has lost seven people, including one-year-old Mhlengi Khumalo mentioned above, to accidental shack fires in the past year alone. This has given some in the community a “wake-up call” that electricity is needed because of the real dangers of life by candlelight.
However, not everyone takes the direct actions that these four did. When asked why they took this action instead of voting or petitioning they explained, “it seemed to be the right thing to do, because we have been doing all that we can to get electricity but still we don’t have it.” The other two agreed with a ‘lack of delivery’ as the reason they have taken action, saying that there have only been “empty promises” and that petitions “didn’t work”. The last interviewee simply said, “Actions speak loudly than words”.
It is estimated that in Kennedy Road there are between 450 and 650 people who are getting their electricity illegally. Kennedy Road has the unique situation where some of the houses are connected legally to electricity because of an earlier plan to allow electricity in shack settlements. The legal connections have been stopped now, as one of the residents explains the policy outlined above, “it because the people from electricity department says that the government it no-more allowed for people who live in informal settlements to electricity”. Some of these residents have already paid for legal electricity but they were never connected before the new policy on informal settlements prevented them from ever getting electricity. As one person explains, “I have waited a very long time hoping that we are getting it—electricity—and I even applied and even paid my money for electricity, but I am not getting it”. So, those who choose to take the action of illegally connecting their house, can usually just get it from neighboring houses who were connected during that brief period when electricity was installed to those who paid R350. For others in the community who have not connected yet, the advice is to “connect illegally, because we are not getting any electricity”.
Illegal connections are a dividing issue and not everyone supports the action of illegal connections. Three people who are not getting electricity illegally were asked how they felt about the illegal connections. One young woman, named Thabisile Mthethwa, from Pemary Ridge, did not think it was a good action because it was “quite dangerous”. The people who are doing the connections, she shared, are not knowledgeable about the wires and they can get hurt or the exposed wires can hurt the children who might play with the connections. She also explained that after the rain the wires could shock children who are playing in the puddles. “Electricity is dangerous, you know,” as she shook her head at the thought of children touching the live wires. So illegal connections, she felt, were very unsafe and not a smart action for people to take. Thandi Khambule, a young woman living in Shannon Drive informal settlement without electricity, agreed, saying of illegal connections, “no, don’t have to do that, we can remain with the candles” because illegal connections are dangerous. Thandi sat in the small, one-roomed, dark shack, lit only by the candle in her hand, which she shook determined as she stated that they would “remain with the candles”. People, she explained, could be hurt connecting the wires because they did not know how to do it safely. She felt that the best action was to march with those demands and wait for the government to connect the people.
Mnikelo Ndabankulu also lives without electricity in a jondolo at Forman Road and he thought that illegal connections are the best action to take when left unconnected. Why, he asked, “is there always’ electricity on the street poles on top of us…Why can’t it come down to us, why?” He supported those who have already connected and proclaimed loudly, that, “If the government fails to supply us with electricity then we are going to take it by force”. The reason that he was so angry about the lack of electricity was because “the people who refuse to give us electricity, they have electricity in their houses” and they don’t understand what it is like to live without electricity. He felt that there is not use waiting for something that you need and you have asked and waited patiently for. The next step is to just take it, “if you want something, you must get it”. He spoke with force and excitement as he explained Operation Khanyisa and how they would put it into action in Durban if the government does not connect the settlement.
The Results
The city loses around R20 million every year to illegal connections. This hurts the city and they are taking actions to try and curb the losses. One of their responses to address illegal connection, which does not consider any social and moral observations, and looks only to recovering lost profits, is a plan, according to Ethekwini Electricity Department Head Howard Whitehead, that the city will “combat it by building stronger doors to protect electricity boxes”. They have also put more police and security on duty during cut-offs in order to execute the cut-off when faced with resistance. This often leads to even more violent confrontations of the community verses the city—sometimes with the communities forcing the city workers and police to leave, other times the city workers succeed in executing the cut-offs and injuring, or killing, the resisters. Additionally, the country has begun a large-scale implementation of pre-paid meters—both for electricity and water—which are a cruel form of “self-cut-offs”—so that the city does not need to send its workers in to disconnect wires or pipes and instead the poor are just left without anything. The result of those who have chosen to get their electricity illegally is the immediate fulfillment of their needs without having to rely on the government and it’s “empty promises”.


System Cele
Kennedy Road

“This is poor service delivery.
See this tap. For three months now it’s leaking all over the night.
They haven’t come to fix it, as you can see, the water is pouring out all night, all day. People report it but they don’t fix it.

Then the government, they say, ‘people in the shacks are wasting water’ and they bill us the people in the shacks. But if you tell them the tap is broken they don’t come and fix it. They bill us, ‘No, you are the one who is wasting water’. But they won’t come to fix it. They say, ‘water needs to be paid for’ and they bill us and we can’t pay.


“They wanted to show they have the power,” she said, explaining why the council came and shut-off the one water tap for all of Pemary Ridge, an informal settlement in Reservoir Hills. It just happened to be the hottest day of the summer that they came. They arrived early in the morning and turned it off—nobody knew they were coming, and the community couldn’t mobilize fast enough to protest against it. Water is necessary for the survival of human beings and suddenly the whole community of Pemary Ridge, grandmothers and children, didn’t know how they would get water. They would have to beg for it from their neighbors in the duplexes or rely on the compassion of their employers. An article sets the scene of a day without water: “imagine raising a child without water throughout the whole day in the Durban summer…Imagine if AIDs, as it does, produces diarrhea and you simply can’t wash all day”. The water was reportedly shut-off because the residents had been using more water than before and so the Municipality believed they must be “abusing it” when in reality more water was being used because the settlement had grown from 50 families to 200 families.
In Kennedy Road stepped inside the little shack. I slipped off my shoes because it had been raining all day and I didn’t want to track the mud into the house. I placed my barefoot down and it squished juicily into the floor. “Don’t take your shoes off,” Akhona laughed, “it is all wet.” It is sad to think that there is so much water in this little shack, puddled-up on the floor and soaked into the bed and walls, but it is only the water that has leaked through during the last night of rains and not from any internal source of water. Here in Kennedy Road people carry their heavy, heavy buckets of water from the few taps scattered around the settlement. The water policy for eThekwini is at least one standpipe within 200m—often this is not the case and it is much farther—and 200m is kilometers long when you are carrying a heavy bucket full of water on your head.
In informal settlements the problem is that “several hundred people may share one tap, so that it is practically impossible…to keep water clean when it is carried long distances and kept for hours or days in exposed tubs or cans”. Another problem is there is no way to regulate water use and other sanitation when so many people are sharing one tap. As Thabisile Mthethwa, a resident of Pemary Ridge, explains, “it would be better if five families shared one tap because there would not be so much dirt. Can I give you an example, um, some people was their napkins in the tap and, um, the feces, they wash it into the drain and it starts stinking cause like there is no pipe.” Mthethwa felt that if there were less people to a tap there could be discussions between the people sharing about how to use the tap appropriately—not wasting water and being aware of safe sanitation practices. Access to water is very difficult when so many people share a water tap and people wait in queues for hours and hours on Saturdays and Sundays when people are trying to do their wash on their days off. In informal settlements, unfortunately, there are hundreds and—in the case of Kennedy road with only 3 taps for 7 000 people—thousands sharing the same water tap leading to much hardship for all in the community.
In informal settlements issues surrounding water are the inadequate amount of standpipes to service such a large population, lack of maintenance by the municipality, and issues of sanitation. Issues of sanitation are very connected to discussions on water because of flush toilets, sewage infrastructure, and running water to clean dishes and other eating utensils. People cannot survive without water and the sanitation that access to water includes, so many are forced to use dirty and contaminated rivers and water holes that cause Cholera and other water-borne diseases.
There are many different actions that are being taken to protest for the right to water. Marches, illegal connections, and protests against shut-offs occur frequently. But the results have been limited because of the issue of profit. Because residents of informal settlements cannot afford to purchase their water they are subject to the limited access that the few pipes in the settlement. They are subject to water cut-offs like at Pemary Ridge, which leaves them without any water; but even when there is water often they cannot get the necessary water to provide for their needs, as explained above concerning AIDS victims, and they are forced into the unsanitary conditions that arise from thousands of people living in close proximity without adequate water supplies. The actions in 2005 were just beginning of the struggle for security of water as a right.


We must stop this business of people going into the streets to demonstrate about lack of delivery. These are the things that the youth used to do in the struggle against apartheid.
-President Thabo Mbeki

A movement is growing in South Africa, quietly encroaching upon the State prerogatives to charge for the ‘privilege’ of living.

How inspiring it is to see people on the streets demanding the immediate right to services to which they have been denied, instead of filing into a voter booth in hopes that electing the ‘right’ party will get their needs met. The poors have stood up and begun taking direct actions against the “empty promises” they have heard in the past 10 years. They have tried many different actions in 2005, including: direct democracy organizations, marches, mock funerals, road blocking with burning tires and mattresses, illegal connections and reconnections, and they have actively resisted cut-offs. All the actions have been met with varying degrees of success and have also encountered problems, some of which are obvious and others are theoretical of which the importance varies but is still worth noting.
Abahlali baseMjondolo, is an organization formed by the community to better represent all of their needs by having a united front. It has successfully helped to combine many shack settlement communities together so they have a bigger force on the streets—winning fear from the government and recent offers for houses in Phoenix. However, it faces the hard problem of negotiating its position as a collection of leaders and as the voice of the people. The ideal is that the people need to be completely in charge; the leaders’ role is to facilitate and empower their people to lead themselves, and then to work on the details and implementation of the decisions reached by the people. As Philani Dlamini stated so clearly when he explained, the fault of the government is that they often take actions that they don’t explain to the people and then everyone gets mad. He said that he “disagrees” with this approach, and that the leaders of Abahlali baseMjondolo must always listen to the people and never act on their behalf without their input.
The leaders must remain part of the community that they are representing. By not being party political, Abahlali baseMjondolo is remaining a people driven movement and organization. The problems come only when politics, power, or money become involved and the leaders no longer are members of the community they represent. The people must always have real genuine access to its leaders if the leaders are to truly represent them. This is why the direct democracy organization of Abahlali baseMjondolo can be considered a direct action by the people because they formed an organization in opposition to the illegitimate representational structure that is currently set up with Councillors that don’t represent their needs and who are “beyond the reach of the people it proported to represent”. These leaders need to actively remain part of their community so that they are authentic leaders.

Third Force- the ‘intellectual’ helper

The activist interviewed said that they are the “Third Force”; that the conditions that they are living in makes them take the actions that they have without anyone telling them to. S’bu Zikode, chair of Abahlali baseMjondolo, wrote in a recent article published in two magazines and a newspaper, “the life we are living makes our communities the Third Force”. While this is true there is still the outside influences of some very compassionate intellectuals that are lending their expertise to help the movement where they can.
The intellectual has a complicated role because often they hold more knowledge than those in the community about theory, actions, politics and the like, and are easily pushed into leadership roles. This is highly debatable, and, to be sure, the intellectual, along with any other ‘outsider’, who is not part of a community can never truly know the conditions and situations as the members of the community do and they can not anticipate or predict the actions that the community will want to take no matter how knowledgeable they are on social movements. But the intellectual and ‘outsider’ do serve important roles, as Kropotkin writes in encouragement:
Lastly, all of you who possess knowledge, talent, capacity, industry, if you have a spark of sympathy in your nature, come, you and your companions, come and place your services at the disposal of those who most need them. And remember, if you do come, that you come not as masters, but as comrades in the struggle; that you come not to govern but to gain strength for yourselves in a new life which sweeps upward to the conquest of the future; that you come less to teach than to grasp the aspirations of the many; to divine them, to give them shape, and then to work, without rest and without haste, with all the fire of youth and all the judgment of age, to realize them in actual life.

Kropotkin says that the intellectual does not come to teach but to work with the people giving their wishes and “aspirations” shape. It is tough to remain just as a ‘comrade’ but the call is open to all those who are willing and sympathetic to the struggle of the poor in Durban to come and “place your services at the disposal of those who most need them”. Additionally, here is a perfect opportunity to supportively note the wonderful intellectuals who have already heeded this call.

Actions for Life

Life is what happens around the direct actions. The actions that have been mentioned do sometimes achieve favorable results but many—if not all—of them do not achieve immediate and complete results. Those who are taking these actions still wake up the day before the march in a wet jondolo with little or no food and go home at the end of the march to have to go and fetch their water from the standpipe and cook over the open fire or paraffin stove. There still remains the problem of everyday life. Protests and actions may get results faster than voting, or at least call attention to the situation, but while things are being negotiated, or even while solutions being built, people are still forced to continue to live in these dire circumstances without security of basic services.
Abahlali baseMjondolo and the communities that it represents have been promised houses built for them in Phoenix. This is a solution to some of their problems but it may take up to ten years to build. This means that there needs to be solutions to their immediate problems. It is good that there will be low-income houses built in Phoenix, but today the communities need toilettes, more water, and electricity, among various other things. Reality is that basic needs must be secured immediately. No ‘long-term goals’ and ‘10 years later’. Today people are taking actions because they need solutions now. So, while some of these marches have proved to be successful in the long- term goals, actions like illegal connections are still needed to secure those basic needs that cannot wait until the government has finished it R10 000 research on whether it can or cannot build on a certain hill because of soil or slope.

Conclusions and Analysis

The people have taken all the actions described in this paper because they do not see the government delivering the needed services, they only see “empty promises”. More that half the population of South Africa had never voted before 1994; this is a generation who has voted all its life by standing on the streets against the apartheid government. Any original belief in the power of voting has quickly been destroyed as people see voting does not achieve any of the results the want. Unless the government counters this dangerous view and acts according to their constituents votes and wishes there will be a disillusionment with voting. This will lead to a continued use of the historically tried method of the streets. It is therefore rational for them to resort to taking direct action as opposed to voting because no results, in their opinion, come from voting. So the marches, protests, and resistance along with other actions will continue until the government proves that voting wields results.
Qualifying this statement, while the people I talked to during this research all seemed to be very like-minded when it came to taking action over voting it does not mean that everyone agrees on the action to take The call to action is never the same for all and people take action for unique reasons and rationalize various levels of direct actions differently. For example, there were some interviewed who are willing only to march and consider direct actions like illegal electricity connections as a “dangerous” and bad action to take. Social movements are hard to generalize because “seen from the outside, they may present a certain degree of unity, but internally they are always heterogeneous, diverse.” They are a beautiful mass which is “something between mere congeries of acting individuals and fully fledged, crystallize social wholes: movements are neither fully collective behavior nor incipient interest groups…rather they contain essential elements of both”. So, while statements have been made throughout this paper referring to a collective action or agreed opinions, it is clear from every person interacted with that they are taking an action for their own unique circumstances, they have rationalized it in their own way, and they expect differing results from the actions. Nevertheless, even with their individual motivations they are connected with the community; it is a community that is filled with individuals with similar, but not the same, interests and motivations allowing them to take action collectively.
In conclusion, the different actions that have been taken in 2005 in eThekwini, South Africa, have ranged from direct democracy organizations, marches, mock funerals, road blocking with burning tires and mattresses, land occupations, illegal connections and reconnections, and they have actively resisted cut-offs. The people interviewed who are taking these actions are taking them because they have tried voting and have only received “empty promises” now they are taking to the streets in hopes of better securing their basic needs. It is a rational response to the perceived failure of service delivery through voting and other indirect forms of action. These are the poor on the streets and they are there of their own initiative, no “Third Force” is controlling them, only the suffering conditions that they are forced to live under.
Echoing what Max du Preez wrote in a recent article, “What will it take for South Africans and the government to wake up and actually do something drastic? We have had rioting and uprisings in dozens of townships over the last three years, some very violent…What do these unfortunate people have to do to get heard? Burn thousands of cars in the suburbs like the rioters did in France? Start planting bombs?”
I hope it does not come to that. Listen up government. Act up people.


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Cele, System. 11-30-05.
Dlamini, Philani. Informal interview. 12-1-05.
Khambule, Thandi. 12-1-05.
Khan, Fazel. Informal Interview. 11-23-05.
Khebesi, Akhona. 11-30-05.
Makiva, Alpha. 11-24-05.
Mama. Pemary Ridge. 11-17-05.
Maso, Rose. 10-21-05.
Msutwana, Lumka. (translated) 11-23-05.
Mthethwa, Thabisile. 12-1-05.
Ndabankulu, Mnikelo. 11-29-05.
Ndenza, Walter Siyacela. (translated) 11-23-05.
Nkosi, Fikile. 12-1-05.
Protestor at Forman Road. Informal interview. 11-14-05.
Senior. Informal interview. 11-27-05.
Silenge, Sayinela. (translated) 11-23-05.
Vumilaa, Ayanda. 12-1-05.
Woman. Informal Interview. Rippon Road. 11-15-05.
Zikode, S’bu. Informal interview. 11-15-05.

Abahlali baseMjondolo -Kennedy Road. 11-12-05.
Abahlali baseMjondolo –Juba Place. 11-15-05.
Abahlali baseMjondolo- Kennedy Road. 11-19-05.
Abahlali baseMjondolo- Pemary Ridge. 11-23-05.
Abahlali baseMjondolo- Jadhu Place. 11-26-05.
Constitution Committee meeting. 11-29-05.
Constitution Committee meeting. 11-25-05.

Protest at Forman Road. 11-14-05
Kennedy Road Memorial Service for Mhlengi Khumalo. 10-29-05
Lusaka and the Housing Department. 11-19-05