Opinion: How a poor people’s movement was crushed

6 10 2009

06 October 2008 – The Sowetan
BOLEKAJA! – Andile Mngxitama

“THE ANC has invaded Kennedy Road. We have been arrested, beaten, killed, jailed and made homeless by their armed wing.”
These are the distressing words of Sbu Zikode, now in hiding. He is president of the squatter movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM).

The AbM was formed in 2005 in Durban’s Kennedy Road squatter camp. The people were tired of the empty promises from politicians. They started to demand and to organise – and now they are being punished.

Last month the youth wing of the AbM was holding a meeting when about 40 armed men attacked them, reportedly shouting “amaMpondo are taking over Kennedy. Kennedy is for the amaZulu”.

The attack on the poor has now become a tribal one as we wait for the whirlwind brought about by our “democracy”. The poor will increasingly be set against each other in the drive for political office and wealth.

The Kennedy attack left at least four people dead and thousands were forced to flee the settlement. The local ANC then apparently installed itself as the “sole authentic authority” in Kennedy.

The provincial government and the police appear to be in cahoots with this violent ANC militia. How else do we explain that those arrested were AbM members, the very people who have been attacked, their houses and businesses burnt down?

It is reported that when the police arrived on the scene the marauding mobs continued their mayhem – without any police intervention.

Clearly, the AbM has become a nuisance. It questions, it exposes and it’s cheeky. In the last elections they even had the gall to say: “No land, no houses, no water – no vote!”

The politicians are not going to rest until they have destroyed the voices of the poor who speak up and speak back.

Real democracy is under attack and we seem to be sleeping through it all. We can already see the heavy- handed responses of the police against service delivery protests.

It’s as if our beloved Msholozi is giving his children rubber bullets instead of the promised land of milk and honey.

The attack on the AbM moved Bishop Rubin Phillip, a friend of the late Steve Biko and now the Anglican Bishop of KwaZulu-Natal, to say: ‘I was torn with anguish when I first heard of the unspeakable brutality that has raged down on to the Kennedy Road shack settlement.

“In recent years I have spent many hours in the Kennedy Road settlement. I’ve attended meetings, memorials, mass ecumenical prayers and marches.

“I have had the honour of meeting some truly remarkable people in the settlement and the work of Abahlali baseMjondolo has always nurtured my faith in the power and dignity of ordinary people. I have seen the best of our democracy here. I have tasted the joy of real social hope here.”

It is this democracy of the ordinary people that is being murdered by local politicians, with the active support of the ANC and government.

The excuses by the local police used to justify the ANC takeover are laughable. They say the violence was caused by the AbM through the community safety initiatives they undertook, including the curfew on shebeens to stop trading after 10pm.

The truth is the police were first informed about these initiatives to curb violence exacerbated by alcohol abuse.

The truth is the poor have to take up their own initiatives after being abandoned by their government.




%d bloggers like this: