Abahlali roots for DA

2014-05-05 00:00

THOUSANDS of KZN’s poorest residents shocked ANC leaders yesterday by pledging to vote for the party they once called “the party for white people”.

A crowd of more than 1 000 shack dwellers yesterday gathered near Durban to confirm an earlier decision of their leaders to support the DA, in a move which could help win official opposition status in KZN for the party on Wednesday.

27 000 members of Abahlali base­Mjondolo — including shack dwellers in Pietermaritzburg’s Jika Joe settlement - are now potentially DA voters.

Addressed by provincial DA leaders, the group gathered for a mini-rally held on sports fields in Springfield.

The squatter camp organisation has over the past elections withheld its support from the ANC for failing to deliver houses.

Earlier, ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala reportedly expressed disappointment at the decision, and claimed it was based on a misunderstanding of the party’s delivery achievements.

At yesterday’s rally, members were heard shouting slogans such as “We don’t approve of the ANC” and “We don’t approve of Msholozi” in reference to President Jacob Zuma.

On their arrival, the shack dwellers were handed the DA’s blue T-shirts and many donned them without hesitation.

One of the organisation’s members, Thulasizwe Mathe, said he recognised the decision was controversial. but felt it was “the right thing” to support the ANC’ rival party in the elections.

“I have voted at least three times for the ANC, but the promises they made have not been fulfilled,” Mathe said.

He cited lack of electricity, “non-existent” roads, and uncollected refuse, among other things, in his Santi informal settlement as reasons for his decision.

Mathe said his party of choice was “now the DA as it is promising to take up our issues.”

His sentiments were shared by many other members who were bused to the sports fields.

Abahlali baseMjondolo chairperson Sbu Zikode said the decision to vote for the DA was taken at their branch meetings. “We want to make it clear that nobody is selling out Abahlali baseMjondolo, you have not been sold out,” he said to applause from his audience.

He said the DA had, over the past 20 years, “spoken our language”, and its councillors had always responded with assistance, without asking for their membership cards.

However, Zikode said their movement would not merge with the DA as they were an independent organisation.

“This agreement does not mean we take membership of DA.

“We have not joined the DA. We have made an agreement to scratch each others’ backs,” Zikode said.

He also said it was time the ANC had its wings clipped and was removed from office because the organisation did not do anything for them.

“We want houses and it does not matter whether the houses are delivered by a devil with tail or is blue in colour,” Zikode said.

“If we vote for ANC we must know that we will remain in these informal settlements forever.”

ANC provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu said the partnership was for change and his party supported the movement’s campaign for houses.

“We are building a new future. We build a future for KZN and South Africa,” he said, adding that the dignity of people living in squatter camps’ dwellers was undermined.

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