Category Archives: Xola Mali

Grocott’s Mail: They’ve got nothing on us, say activists

Click here to read the article ‘Bishop Backs Night Vigil’ in pdf.

They’ve got nothing on us, say activists

Thabo Jijana

The three community activists from the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM), and a resident, who are charged with public violence, say they wouldn’t be surprised if the case were withdrawn.

UPM spokesperson Xola Mali spoke to Grocott’s Mail this week after their court case was postponed on Wednesday because the docket was unavailable.

The case against the three activists and a resident – Mali, Ayanda Kota (UPM chairperson), Nombulelo Yami (UPM deputy chairperson), and Ntombentsha Budaza, a Phaphamani resident and member of the Women’s Social Forum – was postponed to 24 March.

“We think the police have nothing substantial against us,” said Mali. “The crimes that all four are accused of cannot be proven.” “We’re not surprised that the police have not concluded their investigation,” said Mali. “We won’t be surprised if the case ends up being withdrawn.”

Mali’s words were bolstered by the news that a new student organisation, Students for Social Justice, will, in the coming months, attempt to work closely with the community of Grahamstown.

Benjamin Fogel, de facto leader of the new group, pledged support for residents who attended the residents’ night vigil at the Cathedral of St Michael and St George on Sunday night. Bishop Ebenezer Ntlali, of the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown, declared his solidarity with the residents of Grahamstown at the same event.

The Students for Social Justice group, according to its Facebook page, “stands in solidarity with the mass movements for social justice located both in Grahamstown and in South Africa at large”.

The Death of Reason and the Water Crisis in the Makana Greater Municipality

The Death of Reason and the Water Crisis in the Makana Greater Municipality

Xola Mali (Media and Communications Officer, UPM)

Issued: Monday 29th November 2010

The Unemployed Peoples’ Movement (UPM) convened a public debate on Wednesday 24 November, 2010 at Noluthando Hall at 17:00. The meeting was about the current water crisis in Makana Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape. Many communities in the area have been without water for many months. The reason for convening the meeting was to get some clarity regarding the causes of the crisis and the municipality’s response to the crisis. For this purpose, UPM invited the following officials from Makana Municipality to participate in the event: Mr Dabulo Njilo (Director of Technical and Infrastructural Services), Mr Mongezi Mabece (Assistant Director for Water Services), and Ms Ntombi Baart (Municipal Manager). In addition, UPM also invited a water activist from the Vukani community, Ms Liziwe Gqotolo, and Professor Denis Hughes, a Hydrologist and Director of the Institute for Water Research at Rhodes University. UPM also invited affected community members from Alicedale, also part of the Makana Greater Municipality. The event was widely publicized and it was well attended.

All invited panelist came, except officials from the Municipality, who declined the opportunity to engage the community and enlighten them about their pressing water problems. Their emails explained their decisions not to attend on the grounds that proper procedures were not being followed, suggesting that officials are not truly aware of the tragic urgency of the situation, which clearly requires swift, immediate and decisive action. The Makana Municipality has not been able to explain why it is that there is frequently no water in a significant portion of the poorer areas of the Makana Greater Municipality, while most parts of the same Municipality are not affected by such shortages. It is understood that some parts of the Municipality have been recently affected by the lack of supply to the Waainek treatment works caused by the drying up of the local dams. However, it is not clear to many sections of the community why this has almost exclusively affected Grahamstown East, which is closest to the storage reservoir supplied by the Fish River scheme, and not supplied by the local system of dams.

Unfortunately, the meeting was interrupted by people who identified themselves as members of the ANC Youth League and, as a consequence of the intimidation and constant harassment, the meeting had to be called off. Many of the local residents left disappointed because the meeting was in chaos. Just before the meeting was terminated, Prof. Hughes was accused of being a DA funded AWB member. Prof. Pedro Alexis Tabensky, who was at the meeting, was accused of personally funding the Chairperson of UPM, Mr Ayanda Kota, to the tune of 15 million Rand. Mr Kota was also accused of being an AWB member. Ms Gqotolo was accused of lying. Mr Jai Clifford-Holmes, Chairperson of Galela Amanzi — a politically independent student driven non-profit water organization — was told that the meeting was orchestrated and funded by the DA and Rhodes University in order to destabilize the township ahead of local elections next year. In addition to these most peculiar accusations, the police were called by members of UPM on several occasions when things threatened to turn violent, but a senior local member of the ANC Youth League, Mr Mabhuti Matyumza, was seen turning them away.

Every meeting that UPM has thus far convened has in one way or another been sabotaged, and one may quite legitimately wonder why this may be the case, especially seeing that the UPM is a grassroots social movement that has no party political ambition. Its fundamental aim is the upliftment of the poor. It tried on this occasion and on others to create a forum where genuine issues could be debated and those who disrupted the event could have asked questions in question time. Instead, they opted to sabotage the event, and one must ask why this is their chosen path of action. This is one example of many occurring across the country where initiatives by independent grassroots organizations are being sabotaged. This pattern suggests that in local government force is being privileged over reason.

Contact: Xola Mali (0722995253)

SACSIS: Houses to Die For?

Houses to Die For?

by Jane Duncan

Last November, Grahamstown-based media activist Xola Mali produced a documentary about the plight of residents in the Vukani settlement, Grahamstown East. Previously an informal settlement, Vukani now consists mostly of Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses, which were completed in 2003. Mali interviewed a resident and activist, Nomiki Ncamiso, who sustained injuries after the wall of her RDP house collapsed on her and injured her leg when a mini-tornado struck the town in 2008.

Ncamiso related her despair at approaching the ward councillor for assistance, only to be told that there was no budget to fix the house. Then the Council gave her and other residents black plastic bags to cover the damage. When the Daily Dispatch newspaper interviewed Ncamiso in January this year, she explained that she was still sick and traumatised from the incident.

Three months later, she is dead. The neighbourhood is in shock. One neighbour pointed to the front of Ncamiso’s house – an untidy patchwork of green airbricks and black plastic bags – and said, “she is dead, and now I am scared for my own health and the health of my children.” The Council has housed her neighbour in a railway container since the incident, and the conditions in the container are stifling.

The Vukani houses are only seven years old, yet many of them are manifesting the same structural defects. Either the contractors who built the houses were not aware of construction basics, or they were aware and didn’t care.

It is hardly surprising that a wall of Ncamiso’s house feel down during the tornado; the bricks at the corners of the houses are laid one on top of the other rather than being staggered, which has weakened the walls and led to large stress cracks opening up close to the corners. No lintels were placed over the doorways, leading to cracks appearing. Many of the floors have gaping holes.

The roofs sway in the wind, as they have not been secured to the roof structure adequately. The roofs have also not been waterproofed and do not have ceilings, leading to rain leaking down the walls and into the electrical wiring. As the walls have not been plastered, the weak bricks absorb the water, leading to damp. The 2008 tornado has made these structural defects more pronounced.

Resident after resident complained about the condition of their houses. They noted that the asbestos roofs provided insufficient insulation from the weather, which led to children falling ill easily and suffering from fevers.

One resident moved out of his house as it was uninhabitable. Another resident has secured a creaking wall with wire and – as if requesting divine protection – has placed a picture of Jesus Christ over the crack: as one visitor commented, “Jesus stops his house from falling down.”

Yet another resident had sent her child to live in a relative’s house for health reasons. When asked how she felt about her house, the resident waved at her house dismissively and said “I do not have a house.” Disturbingly, some residents also argued that their previous houses, which were mud structures in the main, were sturdier.

Vukani should be euphoric as one of the liberation movement’s objectives that many people struggled and even died for – namely free housing – was realised. Instead, a pall of desperation hangs in the air.

An elderly resident spoke of his involvement in organising a march in 2003 to demand the building of houses in Vukani. Many are now calling for the very houses that they struggled for seven years ago to be demolished and rebuilt. “What must we do now after all of this, stand up and fight?” he asked, raising his hands as though pointing a machine gun.

It could be argued that a tornado is a natural disaster, and the kind of fate that befell Ncamiso cannot be blamed on the building. But, as has been shown in relation to other natural disasters – the most extreme recent example being the Haiti earthquake – the disaster itself does not necessarily lead to injury and even death, but bad buildings do.

There is some hope for the residents of substandard RDP houses, as media investigations have placed pressure on the government to respond to the problem. The Dispatch’s Gcina Ntsaluba has produced a multimedia report on the RDP housing crisis in the Eastern Cape, which has been nominated for a Mondi Shanduka award. In the report, Ntsaluba told the story of RDP settlements that turned into ghost towns as residents abandoned their homes, claiming that they were uninhabitable.

The Minister of Human Settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, has reacted with disarming directness to the state of much RDP housing, labelling the shoddily built houses “a national shame.” Some relief is also in sight for the tornado-affected residents; according to the Makana Municipality’s spokesperson, Thandy Matabese, repairs were approved in December last year. However, Vukani is not on the Provincial Government’s rectification list.

It could also be argued that focussing on the problems in RDP housing delivery is churlish, as it detracts from bigger achievements, and in any event the problems have been acknowledged and are being addressed. Also, the houses, with their individual water standpipes and flush toilets, are positively palatial when compared the slums of Kibera. The government’s housing programme should be the envy of other countries facing the problem of mass homelessness.

Government officials are clearly confounded by the phenomenon of rising protest action, in spite of objective improvements in living conditions. Writing in The Star recently, Dumisani Zulu, argued that the quality of life has improved under democracy, and implied that – rather than being genuine expressions of anger – many protests were driven by opportunists seeking positions in local government.

Clearly, a deeper understanding of the roots of mass protest is required. Free housing is not, in fact, free: as the Dispatch investigation revealed, several RDP housing projects failed because people were given houses, but did not have the income to maintain them. When the cost of living rises in a context of growing income deprivation, people find themselves pressed in a vice of unaffordability.

In studying the quality of life in Grahamstown, Rhodes university social scientists Valerie Møller and Sarah Radloff, concluded that “…livelihoods rather than access to services may be more effective enhancers of quality of life during a period of rising living costs, and that – perversely – higher living standards might depress rather than enhance quality of life.”

When viewed in this context, it is not difficult to understand why ostensibly better-off communities decide to protest of their own volition, and not at the behest of opportunistic politicians, the third force or other creepy crawlies.

In delivering RDP housing, the government has ignored a key principle of the RDP, namely to promote integrated development. RDP housing rectification is an ineffective form of redress if it continues to be implemented in a policy context where services are treated primarily as commodities rather than entitlements, and where the private sector is relied on, in the main, to provide jobs.

Also, the 1994 White Paper on Housing’s commitment to ‘width over depth’ (where more, but cheaper, subsidies are provided) is coming back to bite the government. More money is now needed for the rectification of cheaply built substandard houses, which proves the correctness of the old adage that the short way round is often the long way round.

Mass organisation is needed to change housing policy, informed by critical perspectives on the housing and other social questions, as existing developmental state policies accommodate rather than challenge neoliberal orthodoxies. As Patrick Bond observed about urban policy some time ago, changes in policy will not be possible without changes in politics: an insight clearly shared by the outspoken Ncamiso, and that kept her fighting till the end.

Statement by the Unemployed People’s Movement in iRhini



A paper delivered by the Convenor of the Unemployed People’s Movement at the meeting held at Rhodes University, Politics Department, Grahamstown on the 22 January 2010.

The Chairperson, Rhodes University Staff Members and students, distinguished guests, militants of the Unemployed People’s Movement, ladies and gentlemen please receive my revolutionary greetings. Revolution is no tea party or a gathering of friends; those who pursue it do so under cruel and hostile circumstances. At times we wonder and we want to quit. Our undying love for our people, our country and our freedom give us the strength to continue.

The Unemployment has become an endemic feature of the South African economy. At this time it is estimated that roughly 43% of the working age population in the country is unemployed. The same estimates have been that 73% of these consist of young people who should have entered the labour market during the present cycle. The statistics includes people who are begging on the side of the road for money, hawkers and those who have become so discouraged that they have given up looking for work. If we were to look at unemployment with honesty and veracity the unemployment rate would definitely be above 50%. This must be summed up as a human tragedy. Because of this terminally sick state of affairs our people are vulnerable to diseases, broken families, domestic violence, rape, high rate of crime, moral decay, high level of illiteracy and all other social ills that are synonymous with unemployment.

Despite the promise of neo liberal policy of 500 000 jobs, our people have lost 484 000 jobs in the period between July and September 2009. The economic system of our country calls for the army of the unemployed for it to survive; it survives on the misery of the poor. The spirals are going down; as they are going to the grave they are determined to take us along in the form of hunger, diseases, climate change and poverty. This is negation of destruction, worse than Tsunami and it is happening right under our nose. If we look very close, deeper than the surface, this state of affairs can be equated to the earth quake that has recently killed innocent people in Haiti. This country is rich in mineral resources yet its people remain poorer and are starving to death.

It is for this reason that today we have Unemployed People’s Movement. This is a noble movement born by the material conditions; it does not spring from the head of the individual. Our programmes include popular education; here we raise the awareness and consciousness of the people to understand the way things are and the way things change. There is a popular song that says we are eradicating poverty, but the question remains what causes poverty? We are not fighting the symptoms but we are fighting the causality. The causality is the macro economic policy of the government.

Comrades when we formed this movement we made a lifetime commitment that is to sign with our blood. We have signed with our blood. No amount of intimidation, suppression or assassination can ever deter us in our cause to fight for the fundamental rights of our people, a right to employment. We have been called names, counter revolutionaries, third force, or anti democratic, we had our meetings disrupted by the agents of provocateur and we have experienced threats. The message of shoot to kill from the government has raised more concerns; it seems if you have a dissenting view from the government you are the enemy. Because we have signed with our blood we will fight for the fundamental rights of our people, we are fully aware that change is pain, if we pray for rain we must understand that it will be precipitated by thunder and lightning, those amongst us who want to go to heaven must understand that death is a necessity and if we want change we must be courageous because change comes at a price. We are championing the struggle of people of Vukani who are living in RDP house that are falling apart due to corruption and poor workmanship, weak bricks, leaking water pipes, roofs, drains and toilets. Our local Municipality is distancing itself, they refuse to have anything to do with the RDP houses built in our are, though in terms of health and safety the municipality must ensure that conditions not conducive to the heath and safety of the inhabitants of its area of jurisdiction are prevented or removed, the story of RDP houses in our area is a story of fraud, general mismanagement and corruption, we are championing the struggles of people who live in Ethembeni, they do not have toilets, running water, roads and electricity, we constitute millions of our people who are unemployed, who wake up everyday in the morning to catch trains, taxis and buses to go and search for work, some have committed suicide due to the depression that comes with unemployment, some have become so discouraged that are now drowning in alcohol.

We have suffered hardships for years, unemployment, poverty, diseases, hunger and our dignity forfeited as a people. We have allowed the weak and faint hearted to deceive us for too long, we have allowed the leaderless leadership to plunder our resources for too long. Abnormal has become normal, our people have been fed with lies, lies and lies of better life for all. The wealth continues to reside in the hands of the few, the ruling class, and those who rule this country on behalf of the ruling class, are plundering the resources of our country, they are forever paying lobola, they get married weekend in and weekend out, polygamists, and they have become male chauvinists who have no regard for the rights of women. Comrades in truth our leaders have become the nuts and blots of the machine that oppresses us.

We must fight back, we must fight back for a society run on the basis of need not profit, for the millions not millionaires, we fighting back for a society whose means of production will be control by the working people, they produce the wealth and in all fairness they must control it. We must fight back khonukuze sidle sonke!

By; Ayanda Kota Convenor of the Unemployed People’s Movement

ayandakota [at]; 078 625 6462


I was approached by UPM co-ordinator Mr Ayanda Kota to assist in the funding of the cause of UPM. After asserting their vision I agreed to help. The UPM is struggling, just like any other organisation. Funds are required for the purpose of communication, airtime and transport to carry out the daily task, for rent of office, funds for general administration. I’ve first offered a temporary office space at my own building and this was a temporary move and now they are operating from my home, they are using my home as their base, in fact they have taken over, I am now a tenant. The house also plays a major role for interacting. There is no funding for UPM and the local government is not helping in any way, it is a struggle just to get a community hall. The UPM requires funding to sustain itself. The question is not where we get the funding but to fund and have resources beyond our present level to further our aims and objectives in context of uplifting the quality of the life of the poor. To assist with daily airtime and transport fees when important meeting take place. I assist with food hampers during ward meetings and regional meetings. I accommodate and welcome UPM members in my home. This social movement must be supported.

Unemployment has reached alarming proportions in Grahamstown, it is estimated that 70 of the population is unemployed. This is a noble movement that require our support. They are agents of change. They are embodiment of Hope.

By; Mahomed Rafiq Moorad

17 Anderson Street
071 922 1227

Film on the Struggle of the Unemployed People’s Movement

The film maker is Xola Mali, the Media & Communications Officer of the Unemployed People’s Movement. He can be contacted on 072 299 5253