Category Archives: Simon Collins

New Zealand Herald: Protesters ‘betrayed’ by plight of poor in SA

Protesters ‘betrayed’ by plight of poor in SA

Anti-poverty campaigner tells Simon Collins little has changed

The man who leads the biggest movement of South Africa’s poor says New Zealanders’ struggle against apartheid during the 1981 Springbok tour has been betrayed.

S’bu Zikode is president of the Durban-based Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shackdwellers Movement).

At a reunion outside Eden Park tomorrow – 30 years after protesters flour-bombed the final test of the 1981 tour at the stadium – he will honour New Zealanders who demonstrated.

Apartheid was swept away in 1994 when Nelson Mandela came out of jail to win the country’s first free election.

But most black South Africans still live in poverty. The official black unemployment rate in June was 30 per cent, against 5 per cent for whites. Counting a further 2.2 million “discouraged job-seekers” the total jobless rate was 38 per cent.

“The struggle by New Zealanders has been betrayed,” Mr Zikode said. “It has been reduced to enrich a few individuals who have suddenly become very wealthy, while the majority of people are living in deep poverty.”

Mr Zikode, a 35-year-old father of five, gave up studying for a law degree in 1997 because he could not afford the fees. He found a job at a petrol station and moved into Durban’s Kennedy Rd shack settlement, which New Zealand activist John Minto describes as “like Grafton Gully covered in shacks housing 10,000 people”.

He has led the shackdwellers movement since it emerged in 2005 out of a campaign for basic services such as water and electricity in Kennedy Rd.

The movement now claims 30,000 members in 64 settlements housing 2.3 million people across South Africa. It demands basic services for the settlements, transferring the land under them from private owners to the collective ownership of the people, expropriating “unused land” to house the poor, ending evictions and recognising the people’s right to organise themselves.

As Mr Zikode describes it, the black position in South Africa still echoes that of Maori in New Zealand, stemming from European colonisation.

“Our land was stolen from us,” he said. “Now that the country is in the hands of the black majority the land should have been returned, but the only change we have seen since 1994 was the change from white faces to black faces. The vast majority of the land is owned by either white farmers, a few big farmers, or big corporates.”

There is even an echo of the “Urewera 18” case against alleged Maori “terrorists” in a prosecution launched in 2009 against 12 members of Mr Zikode’s movement. The Government abandoned the case in July.

Mr Zikode will speak outside the High Court at Auckland on Monday when prosecutors formally drop charges against all but four of the Urewera accused. The remaining four, including Tuhoe leader Tame Iti, still face charges.

Mr Zikode said he had lost hope in the party political system which was “so corrupt that any good person put into the system is corrupted”.

Instead, he looks to the popular uprisings against Governments in the Arab world as a model for “a revolution that has to come” in South Africa.

“We believe we can still bring about change from outside without necessarily becoming a political party.”

Activists’ reunion


12 noon: Meet at Walters Rd entrance to Eden Park for walk around park.

1pm: Walk to Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, Dominion Rd. Lunch.

1.30pm: S’bu Zikode speaks.

2pm: Dear Mandela screening.

2.20pm: Reminiscences, including marshalls from Biko, Patu and Tutu squads.

3pm: Remember those who have passed on.

3.20pm: Patu screening.