South African shackdwellers: We are all S’bu Zikode

Published on Pambazuka News, by Abahlali baseMjondolo, October 19, 2011.

Following threats against S’bu Zikode, leader of South African shackdwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, by the chair of a municipal housing committee, the group has called on democrats across the country to support Zikode and other activists facing imtimidation and repression. 

Abahlali baseMjondolo is a movement of the poor that struggles to protect, promote and advance the dignity of the poor in South Africa. One of our roles is to bring the government to the people and the people to the government. We have marched to take our demands to councillors, mayors, premiers and the president. We have had many meetings but in Durban, the city where our movement was founded six years ago, we have never, despite all the marches, ever had a meeting with the mayor to discuss our demands.

When Obed Mlaba was the Mayor and Mike Sutcliffe ran this city for John Mchunu there was no hope for any kind of meaningful engagement between the organised poor and the City. But when James Nxumalo became Mayor we had real hope that things would be different. He was respected as one of the few politicians that could humble himself and engage the poor with respect.

On Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 13:30pm we finally had our first meeting with the Mayor. There were fourteen Abahlali members elected to represent the movement at this meeting. There were also officials from the eThekwini Municipality’s Department of Human Settlements and councillors, including the Chairperson of the Housing Portfolio Committee and Infrastructure, Nigel Gumede. It was a promising meeting. We had hope that when we met with the Mayor, our hopes might be rebuilt again … //

… All politicians and officials must learn to respect everyone who they lead or represent without any regard to their gender, race, age, language or socio-economic or political background. No politician can run a City Hall like its their own Spaza Shop.

Democracy cannot be reduced to voting. Democracy is also the right of all people to organise freely and to speak freely. Democracy is not just for members of the ruling party and the middle classes. Democracy is for everyone and that includes the poor. We have the same rights as everyone else to organise freely and to think and speak for ourselves.

We are calling on all democrats, in and outside of the ANC, to support this call to defend our hard won democracy. We are calling for clear statements of support for S’bu Zikode and all other activists facing intimidation and repression. We are calling for practical action to support S’bu Zikode and all other activists facing intimidation and repression. We are also calling on all democrats to work to isolate the warlords, the authoritarians and all others in the ruling party, and in other organisations, that are vandalising our democracy. We cannot go back to a politic of war. (full text).

Link: Statement on threats made to S’bu Zikode, published on Pambazuka News, by Bishop Rubin Phillip, October 20, 2011: For genuine partnership to be be built between local government and South African shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali base Mojondolo, it must be on the basis of respect for all people, writes Bishop Rubin Phillip …

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