A politics that does not divide the poor

2009-10-27 00:00

THE Kennedy Road settlement, like all other Abahlali baseMjondolo settlements, has embarked on living politics.

This politics is living politics because it talks about the realities of our democracy — a democracy that serves the interests of a minority while the majority of our people continue to live and to die in inhuman conditions.

The Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) and Abahlali baseMjondolo have been working very hard to build a politics for all — a politics that does not divide the poor.

We have long opposed the criminalisation of all shack dwellers and demanded fair and supportive policing for shack dwellers. When the state stopped criminalising our movement and agreed to negotiate with us after the march on Mlaba in late 2007, we were able to begin negotiations with the Sydenham police. We eventually developed a partnership to work against crime.

All of these efforts have been turned into party politics, politics from the top down, dirty politics, politics full of fear, threats, arrests and death.

The attack on our movement in Kennedy Road was planned at a very high political level. It was planned at a level that has the power to control the South African Police Services. It was planned at a level that can send warlords to destroy our movement. It was planned at a level that can use taxpayers’ money to sponsor buses to bring our attackers to court to try to render our comrades, who have been accused of murder, guilty before they go to trial, to demand that they must not be given bail and must be made to stay in Westville Prison even though no court has found them guilty of a crime.

The reasons for the attack on our movement are simple. The politicians are trying to hide the truth of what has happened and what continues to happen. They are trying to blame those who were attacked by shifting the focus onto the KRDC, onto Abahlali and onto our offices.

The state itself does not talk about the dead people. It doesn’t talk about the people who have been displaced. It doesn’t talk about the people who have had their homes destroyed.

The Disaster Management unit in the city has not responded to this crisis because it has been instructed not to respond.

Our struggle was criminalised from 2006 until the end of 2007. But we did not give up.

After 2007, our movement became a platform for poor people to engage with the state. We developed some good relationships, including with the head of the Human Settlements Department in the provincial government. At our last meeting with her on August 27 a task team was set up to investigate the evidence that we had brought forward of misallocation, mismanagement and corruption in housing. As a result of this, some high-level officials are being investigated as we speak.

By constant struggle in and outside the courts, Abahlali baseMjondolo has successfully stopped most illegal evictions in the city. We insist that good land must be used to house the poor. Others insist that the same land must be used for the rich to become richer. Every time that we stop an eviction we make powerful enemies.

Abahlali baseMjondolo has taken the provincial Department of Housing to the highest court in the land — to the Constitutional Court — to challenge the already buried KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act. We know that this has angered many high-profile officials and politicians.

The attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo is aimed at destroying our movement.

The aim is to replace our elected structures with a “comrade KRDC” that will take its instruction from the party and not from the people — from the top and not from below.

I want to thank all of you who have contributed to our struggle from the time when we first made our submission against the Slums Bill up until today.

If the attack on our movement is not resisted, there will be new attacks on other movements and other people. When you stand with us you also take a stand for your own future.

• S’bu Zikode is president of Abahlali baseMjondolo. He was the speaker at the University of KwaZulul-Natal Forum Lecture last week. This is an edited version of what he said.

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