[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.
Our Movement is under Attack
We are under attack. We have been attacked physically with all kinds of weapons – guns and knives, even a sword. We have been driven from our homes and our community. The police did nothing to stop the attacks on us despite our calls for help. Four people were killed. The attacks, which began on the night of Saturday 26 September, were carried out by local ANC members together with shebeen owners from the Kennedy Road settlement.
They were saying that our movement was ‘selling them’ to the AmaMpondo. It is a fact that our movement, at the local branch level and at the movement level, has no concern for where people were born or where their ancestors were born. We are a movement of the poor and that means that we do not make divisions between the poor. We have always been clear about this. This is our politics and we will stick to it.
We have been told that earlier in the day the local ANC branch had a meeting. We are told that there they decided to take up a new operation – Siyabangena (we are entering). We are told that there they decided to kill Mashumi Figlan, Chairperson of the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) and Deputy Chairperson of our movement. We are told that they decided to cut off his head and leave it in the community hall so that everyone would see that he was dead and not missing.
When the police did arrive they only came with one car and one van. They only took statements from our attackers and they arrested eight people linked to the KRDC. They took no statements from us and to this day none of our attackers have been arrested. Some of the people that they arrested had in fact been performing the imfene dance at a public performance in Claremont on Saturday night. The arrests were clearly political and aimed at destabilising the movement in Kennedy Road. This is not the first time that most of the Kennedy Road leadership have been arrested for clearly political reasons. In 2007 the Kennedy Six, all elected members of the KRDC, were arrested on false charges and only released on bail after a hunger strike. All charges against them were later dropped because the state had no evidence.
On the morning after the attack ANC officials arrived in the settlement. There were no police to protect us while we were being attacked but many, many police came with them. While the police and the officials were there the same people who had attacked us the night before demolished our homes and looted them. At least 27 houses were destroyed and many more were looted. They all belonged to people elected to positions in the KRDC or AbM. The police did nothing to stop the destruction of houses and the looting from houses. Supt Glen Nayager and Ward Councillor Yakoob Baig were personally at Kennedy while our homes were destroyed. Baig said, on record, that ‘harmony’ has been restored now that the ‘Abahlali criminals’ were gone.
After the politicians and the police departed from Kennedy Road the settlement was left in the hands of the local ANC – armed young men patrolled and made it clear, via death threats, that Abahlali baseMjondolo was now banned from Kennedy Road. They also made it clear that independent media were also banned. Looting and various kinds of intimidation continued. The eviction of some of our leaders and the arrest of others was followed by the destruction of our office leaving us without access to email and telephone. When our members arrived from other settlements to try and save our records and banners in the office they were threatened with death.
To this day none of our attackers have been arrested. The ANC has installed them in to authority in Kennedy Road (without holding any elections) and is presenting them to the media as ‘the community’ or as ‘community representatives’. Many of the ANC leaders who have spoken in the community or to the media have attacked us and lied about us while not condemning our attackers. On 28 September Bhekisisa Stalin Mncube, spokesperson for the Provincial MEC for Safety & Security Willies Mchunu, sent out a press release on behalf of Mchunu and the Provincial Police Commissioner Hamilton Ngidi saying that “the provincial government has moved swiftly to liberate a Durban community (Kennedy Road)”. Mncube added a note to his email threatening that S’bu Zikode may soon be arrested. In this statement it is quite clear that at least some people in the police and the provincial ANC have enthusiastically endorsed the violent attack on our movement.
Following the attacks on our movement Nigel Gumde, head of housing in the eThekwini Municipality, has said, on record, that the government “have a plan to eradicate shacks”, that “anyone coming into informal settlements must accept that plan” and that it will be necessary to “jail people to get development going.” He is clearly trying to criminalise debate about government policy. How can debate about government policy be banned in a democracy? He has also said that the imfene dance is part of the problem and must be investigated. How can the cultural expression of a group of people be considered a problem in this way?
Since then there have been all kinds of other attacks on our movements – we have been lied about, slandered and defamed by various people within the ANC. We consider these lies to be a way of trying to justify what was done to us and to our movement. We consider these lies to be a way of trying to make the victims of a terrible attack look as if they are themselves the problem. We consider these lies to be a way to encourage further attacks.
What happened in Kennedy Road was a coup – a violent replacement of a democratically elected community organisation. The ANC have taken over everything that we built in Kennedy Road.
We always allowed free political activity in Kennedy and all settlements in which AbM candidates have been elected to leadership. Now we are banned.
We do not use violence to build support. We use open discussion. Now we are violently banned.
Our members continue to receive death threats in and outside of Kennedy Road. Everyone knows that if you speak for Zikode or AbM in Kennedy Road you will be attacked. And S’bu has received a number of death threats and threats to his family, including his children, via anonymous calls since he was evicted from the settlement by the ANC and shebeen owner’s mob. Last night five men in a white car arrived at his sister’s place looking for S’bu and his family. They asked where S’bu and his wife and children are staying now. We don’t know who they were but they were clearly hostile.
The ANC continue to attack Zikode by all means. They say that he doesn’t follow the ANC code of conduct, that he is stopping development, that he has a big house in Umhlanga. The first one is true – that is his right. That is the right of all of us. We make no apology for this. The rest is just wild defamation.
On Sunday Willies Mchunu, Nigel Gumde and others held a big meeting in the Kennedy Road Hall. Our attackers were all sitting there. People from the ANC in Sydenham Heights and the Foreman Road settlement were sitting there pretending to be from Kennedy Road. All kinds of lies were told.
The Kennedy 8 are currently being held in the Sydenham Police station and will appear in court again on Thursday. We are told that the ANC is organising across all wards to get their members to the court to demand that the Kennedy 8 do not receive bail. This is not the behaviour of an organisation committed to truth and justice. They should, instead, be asking for a fair and credible investigation into all the acts of violence, theft, destruction and intimidation that have occurred. This is our demand. They should make it their demand too.
At a time when the Kennedy Road settlement is being targeted all the settlements affiliated to our movement across the country say ‘we are all Kennedy Road – if Kennedy Road has committed the crime of organising independently from the ANC and speaking out for justice then we are all criminals’.
At a time when Abahlali baseMjondolo is under attack all the movements that we work with in the Poor People’s Alliance, and others too, say ‘we are all Abahlali baseMjondolo – if Abahlali baseMjondolo has committed the crime of allowing the poor to organise the poor for justice then we are all criminals.’
At a time when threats are being made on the life of S’bu Zikode, and his family (including his children) and when the ANC are waging campaign of slander and vilification against him we say ‘we are all S’bu Zikode – if S’bu Zikode has committed the crime of telling the truth about the lives of the poor and the realities of democracy in South Africa then we are all criminals.’
We want to make some comments about the ongoing and all out attacks on S’bu Zikode from the ANC.
We elected S’bu to represent us. He did not want to be our leader. He never calls himself a leader – people call him a leader. He doesn’t live in a fancy house and drive a fancy car to talk about the poor on stages and in hotels. He lives in a shack and works in the community with the community to give us courage to speak for ourselves. Last year he wanted to step down from the Presidency of the movement. We mobilised for two weeks to persuade him to remain as the President.
We know that two weeks before the attack Jackson Gumede, chairperson of the Branch Executive Committee of the ANC in Ward 25, had said that the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) office would soon be an ANC office. We know that at the same time John Mchunu, chairperson of the ANC in eThekwini accused us of trying to destabilize the country.
We are not a political party. We have never been a political party. We are a poor people’s movement – we are looking for justice, not political power. We have never stood in elections. We don’t even vote because we don’t care about that kind of power. We care about building the power of the community to reduce the gap between ordinary people on the one side and the rich and the politicians on the other side. But the politicians are ignorant. They don’t know what a social movement is. They don’t understand that there can be a politics outside of party politics. In eShowe the IFP recently attacked us for being ANC. When we first started our movement in Durban in 2005 the ANC attacked us for being IFP. Now the ANC are claiming that we are COPE. The ANC have seen the huge support that we have and they fear that S’bu will stand in the local government elections.
They are embarrassed that shack dwellers, ordinary people like us, took them to the constitutional court. And the judgment is coming this week. The sad thing is that if we find that we have won we will have no place to slaughter a cow.
They see the good relationship that we have developed with city officials during our long negotiations from late 2007 as a threat. They see our good relationship with the provincial HOD for housing as a threat.
We are wondering if democracy still exists.
This is not the first time that we have asked ourselves this question. We asked this question when our march was illegally banned and we were attacked in Foreman Road in 2005. We asked ourselves this question when people who challenged the ANC in local government elections in E-Section of Umlazi were assassinated in 2006. We asked this question in 2006 when S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were arrested, beaten and tortured while trying to attend a radio interview. We were still asking ourselves this question when our peaceful march was shot at by the police in 2007.
The ANC is about comradism. It is about order and protocol. You must follow the mandate and the mandate always comes from above. AbM can just say ‘No!’. The new ANC committee that have been put in place from in Kennedy will find that they are just expected to be puppets. They will find that they are just expected to take orders from above. Zikode had the strength to take the side of the people. They will not have that strength. Even they will realise the value of the river when drought comes.
Press Statement by the Kennedy Road Development Committee, Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Poor People’s Alliance, October 6 2009BACK TO TOP