Category Archives: The Big Issue

The Big Issue: Violence in Khayelitsha sparks feud between lobby groups

Notes: 1. Much of the reporting on the current upsurge in protest in Khayelitsha has followed TAC and conflated disruption (e.g. road blockades) in which no person is harmed with ‘violence’. 2. Not a single person has been physically harmed in any way in any protest organised by AbM WC and, therefore, none of these protests can legitimately be called ‘violent’. 3. Much of the reporting has, again following TAC, failed to understand that there are various groups organising protests in Khayelitsha and not just AbM WC. 4. AbM WC has issued a strong condemnation of the ANC YL. 5. The current wave of protest in Khayelitsha needs to be understood in the context of the national rebellion of the poor that has been raging across the country, outside of the control of any organisation, since 2004. 6. The emergence of the road blockade as a key tactic of popular protest across South Africa needs to be understood in the context of the global emergence of the road blockade as a key tactic of the urban poor. 7. It needs to be kept in mind that TAC, along with the SACP, is formally linked to and supportive of the ANC and that there is a highly contested local government election coming soon which ABM WC will boycott.

Violence in Khayelitsha sparks feud between lobby groups
SOURCE: By Aidan Fitzgerald
DATE: 2010-11-11

Civil rights groups and NGOs have laid the blame for an outbreak of violence during a week of protest in Khayelitsha squarely on the shoulders of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), a militant shackdwellers association.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and Equal Education (EE) all denounced the AbM organised week of informal settlement strikes, which took place from October 21 to 28, claiming that the staged protests in Khayelitsha were a “call to violence”.

“The fact is that there has been a dramatic increase in violent protest since AbM’s campaign commenced. One cannot call for ‘chaos’, and then take no responsibility when chaos ensues,” said SJC co-chairperson Angy Peter, speaking on behalf of the SJC and TAC.

According to Peter, more than 15 vehicles were stoned and set ablaze during the protests, halting public transport for weeks and preventing people from getting to work. A local Khayelitsha fire station was also stoned by a group of approximately 20 protesters.

The Khayelitsha police station was contacted to confirm the reports, but were unable to comment at the time of going to press.

Mzonke Poni, a representative for Abahlali in the Western Cape, denied any wrongdoing: “We do not support any action that can result in any harm to another human being but we support road blockades and burning tyres as a legitimate tactic. We are deeply disturbed that these organisations, which have a history of progressive struggle, have tried to demonize our movement and have engaged in such reckless and dishonest statements.”

“We are unapologetic about the need for the poor to disrupt business as usual to draw attention to our suffering. There is nothing wrong with disruption as a tactic of struggle,” Poni said of the tactics used by AbM, a group that started in Durban as a shack-dwellers movement and has now swelled to the largest organisation of militant poor in post-apartheid South Africa.

But Peter argued that these tactics were counterproductive: “We do not agree with AbM’s reluctance to engage with Government. The ‘informal settlement strike’ failed to make ‘the whole of the city ungovernable’ [as AbM claimed it would]. People outside of Khayelitsha were hardly aware that it was taking place. The only people who suffered were the poor,” said Peter.

Poni was quick to refute this claim: “The protests got a lot of media attention, and this attention will help the politicians to understand that we will not continue to suffer in silence.”

“There are always lessons to be learnt,” he said, acknowledging that there were flaws in the week-long strike campaign. “We will discuss this campaign in our movement and see what lessons we should learn this time. But one thing is for sure – the struggle continues.”