Letter to the International Media from Nigel Gibson & Raj Patel

1 10 2009

September 29, 2009

Dear Members of the International Media

Like many of you, we fought and protested against the injustices of
the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and celebrated the fall of that
monstrous government in 1994. As South Africa prepares to host the
2010 World Cup, we write to you in grief and horror at the return of
some of the most horrific tactics of that era, directed at South
Africa’s poorest citizens.
We have worked for years with shack dweller communities living in
South Africa, communities of people too poor to live in townships, who
have waited patiently for the South African government to bring the
dividends of housing, water, education, healthcare, employment and
food to them. They have waited in vain – with levels of human
development that are now lower than in 1994, South Africa has
overtaken Brazil as the country with the widest gap between rich and
poor, and now is the most unequal society in the world.

In response, some communities have organized to protest against their
government, using the freedoms enshrined in one of the most open and
supportive constitutions to be found in any modern democracy. For
this, they have been punished.

On Sunday night, at one of the hubs for this civil society organizing,
men from outside the settlement armed with knives, machetes and even a
sword, descended on a shack community in Durban called “Kennedy Road”,
a road named after the US president, and adjacent to a large municipal
dump. These men chanted slogans of racial hatred – demanding that the
Kennedy Road shack settlement be for Zulus only. This ethnic
chauvinism is anathema to the shack settlements – in the xenophobia
that swept South Africa earlier this year, the Kennedy Road shack
settlement was free of these sorts of attacks.

The police were called, and when they finally arrived, they looked on
as the attacks continued for several more hours. After the bloodbath,
they moved in and arrested the community leaders.

On Monday morning a huge police presence descended on the settlement
as the local ANC councillor and the provincial minister for Safety and
Security arrived. They announced that the local organizers had been
driven out of the settlement. After the politicians left so did the
police. The settlement was left in the hands of groups of armed men.

The future for the poorest residents of South Africa is grim. Faced
with an ethnic hatred engineered by the ANC, they have tried to
produce a genuinely democratic politics. And they have been killed,
arrested and made homeless.

International support is crucial in order to prevent further violence,
and to ensure justice for the shack dwellers. In just 24 hours,
hundreds of people from around the world have signed a petition to the
South African President, Jacob Zuma, insisting that he take action (at
the time of writing over 600 people had signed the petition) . We hope
that you’ll be able to support this effort to bring international
scrutiny to the South African government, to hold it to the great
promise offered by the end of Apartheid, by signing the petition
below, and by sharing this news with your colleagues. If you’d like to
know more, contact details are below, and we’d also be happy to answer
any questions.

Sincerely,

Nigel C. Gibson
Director,
Honors Program
Emerson College
PHONE: 617 824 8769

Raj Patel
Visiting Scholar
Center for African Studies
UC Berkeley
CELL: 510 717 0953

Cc: Jacob Zuma, President South Africa; Sepp Blatter, President FIFA.

MEDIA CONTACTS IN SOUTH AFRICA (if you are calling from outside South
Africa, the international dialing code is +27, and the first 0 is
dropped).

The following members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee may be
available for comment if they have not been arrested:

Mzwakhe Mdlalose: 072 132 8458
Anton Zamisa: 079 380 1759
Bheki Simelane: 078 598 9491
Nokutula Manyawo: 083 949 1379

Mnikelo Ndabankulu, the elected media liason person for Abahlali
baseMjondolo, 097450653. If you can’t get Mnikelo you can also try:

Louisa Motha 0781760088
Shamita Naidoo 0743157962
Mashumi Figlan 0725274600
Philani Zungu 0729629312
S’bu Zikode 0835470474

Other local contacts who might be useful:

Kerry Chance at kerrychance@gmail.com may have video footage
Richard Pithouse at indianocean77@gmail.com

SOURCES:

http://www.busrep.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=5181018
http://hdrstats.undp.org/indicators/147.html

For some back ground on the shack dwellers’ organization see the
Abahlali.org website and also:

Michael Vines, “Shantytown Dwellers in South Africa Protest Sluggish
Pace of Change,” New York Times, December 25, 2005.

“The View from the Shacks” The Economist, April 8, 2006

For statements about the attacks see:

“Democracy Under Attack: A Statement by Bishop Rubin,” available at
http://abahlali.org/node/5783

“The ANC Has Invaded Kennedy Road,” by S’bu Zikode (President of
Abahlali baseMjondolo) whose house was destroyed in the attack on the
shack settlement, available at
http://abahlali.org/node/5784

Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) Emergency Press Release,
Sunday 27 September 2009 available at
http://abahlali.org/node/5770

Petition

Signatures at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/9/an-open-letter-to-jacob-zuma

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