Media – Sekwenele: It’s enough

30 09 2011

By Timothy Gabb – Activate Online

Revolutions do not spring out of the blue.  Revolutions are organised through the united action of men and women, rural and urban, which spring from their needs.  Revolutions happen when ordinary men and women begin to discuss their own lives and their own futures and to take action to take control of their own lives. – Ayanda Kota, UPM

South Africa has seen a surge of localised protests which continues to spread and gain momentum. “The rebellion of the poor” has evolved out of a new generation of discontented youth, primarily amongst the unemployed.

There are many reasons for the protests:  unequal and segregated distribution of land in both rural and urban areas, poor service delivery and housing, government corruption and municipal mismanagement, the ‘undemocratic’ structuring of wards and development forums, authoritarian approaches to governance, evictions and forced removals, crime and unemployment, police brutality, and provincial border demarcation issues are all concepts they address.

These issues have been brought to the forefront in Grahamstown by the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM). The movement has been active since 2009 under the leadership of Ayanda Kota. The collective strives to place focus on the needs of the poor and unemployed of the country.  In Grahamstown, the unemployment rate is around 70%, while in South Africa as a whole over 40% of the potential South African workforce is unemployed.

According to Kota, the movement formed largely in reaction to the “oppression at the hands of the African National Congress that has driven [them] into the rebellion of the poor.” The number of dissatisfied, politicised and radicalised poor is increasing, and movements across the country are combining knowledge and strategies to form a unified alternative to what Kota describes as “sectarianism and political intolerance” on the part of the ruling party.

Movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Poor Peoples’ Alliance, the Landless Peoples’ Movement, the Anti-Eviction Campaign, Mandela Park Backyarders, Sikhula Sonke, and the UPM are unifying and standing for the same right to direct participatory democracy. “We have a right to organize ourselves and speak for us,” said Kota. “Nothing is for us without us.” They contest what they call the centralised and hierarchical culture of ANC. They support the notion of a living politics – a form of politics which ‘speaks’ in a language that everyone can understand. They aim to build alternative spaces where a participatory, democratic, decentralised, and inclusive form of politics is cultivated; spaces that recognise the humanity of all.

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