Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Monday, 5 April 2010
(Note: This post was written nearly two weeks ago but due to technicalities we haven't been able to publish it until today.)
On Thursday March 4, during the state visit to England of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, members of the Abahlali Solidarity Campaign in the UK staged a picket outside 10 Downing Street to raise public awareness of the repression and problems faced by Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) in recent months.
As Zuma had breakfast with Gordon Brown, protesters held up placards demanding an end to the intimidation and political repression the movement has suffered since the attacks on the Kennedy Road settlement in September 2009.
Information was handed out to passersby explaining the poverty faced by shack dwellers in South Africa, and demanding proper land rights for the poor.
It was hoped the protest would also highlight the failure of the South African government to provide services for the poor and the continued lack of deep and proper democracy for those affected by poverty.
As Zuma left Downing Street by car, he was forced to face the protest, confronting the failure of his government to provide for the poor.
As the run-up to the 2010 World Cup begins, global solidarity is as important as ever, both to keep the pressure on decision makers in South Africa and show that the struggle of AbM is an international one, uniting all those fighting for land, services and democracy through direct action against government neglect and corporate control of society.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Abahlali baseMjondolo Solidarity group in association with SOAS War on Want Society Presents:
The Right to Know: The Fight for Open Democracy in South Africa
- A Short Film Showing and Discussion -
7pm - Wednesday 3rd March
Room 4418 (4th Floor, SOAS Main Building)
Since the mid-2000s, a number of social movements in South Africa have organised and acted to improve the lives of those living in substandard housing and working, if at all, precariously in the informal economy and fighting against privatization, evictions, water-collection and electricity turn-offs.
These community-oriented struggles are based in the “illegal” settlements which are mushroom in and around major cities and sections of the countryside because of South Africa's ongoing housing crisis. Loosely linked together in the Poor People's Alliance, movements like AbM, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Landless People's Movement, and Abahali baseplasini (Rural Network), have taken direct action against government policy and official neglect.
All are welcome to enjoy the short film and discussion on these movements, as well as learn how YOU can help support their struggles.
A result of this pressure is that the five remaining in custody have been remanded further until 4 May 2010, which is a ridiculously long time to wait in detention. However, one piece of good news is that the seven who are on bail have been allowed to come and stay in Durban (they were prior to this restricted to Pietermaritzburg). Their stringent bail conditions have, however, not been loosened.
In a statement by the Diakonia Council of Churches, which held a prayer service outside the court during the hearing, clergymen evinced their anger at the situation of injustice.
Revd Roger Scholtz said: "How is it possible that in this land, this land that has tasted the sweetness of captives being set free after the bitterness of unjust bondage for so long, how is it possible that in this land we find justice being denied in a seemingly wilful and orchestrated way?"
He asked how it is possible that the liberators of yesteryear have become today’s oppressors, saying, "How can it be, that those who are in power, who themselves knew what it was like for the voices of the poor and powerless to be silenced, how can it be that they now seek to silence those very voices that are crying out in lament from under the crippling burden of poverty that they are bearing alone?"
Immediately after the magistrate’s admission and decision, Barry Wood OMI, the Catholic Bishop of Durban, burst with outrage at the way the Kennedy 13 have been persecuted by the state since 26 September 2009: “This calculated act of the unprovoked and unjustified harassment and persecution of Abahlali by the authorities who have themselves failed to deliver on their electoral promises, this sadism of the highest order shows to what despicable moral levels our leaders have sunk. This must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all people of conscience”.
Friends, we must continue our support for Abahlali together with all those in South Africa and beyond. We must not allow injustice to go unchallenged.
Monday, 22 February 2010
Dear church leaders in the United Kingdom,
I would like to draw your attention to a situation of great injustice that is festering in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal South Africa. In response to their campaigns for economic and social rights for shack dwellers, members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali), a community movement based in the shack settlement of Kennedy Road, have been subjected to violent attacks, forced evictions and unjust court proceedings since September last year. The most worrying fact about these travesties is that they appear to have been conducted with the knowledge and tacit support of local authorities and structures of the governing party. This repression of a democratic organisation, brings back memories of the oppressive days of apartheid in the country.
The church, particularly the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, has been exemplary in its response to the injustice inflicted on Abahlali and its members. Rubin Phillip, the Bishop of Natal, was one of the first to speak out when the attacks occurred and has consistently done so up till today. Archbishop Thabo Cecil Makgoba endorsed one of Bishop Phillip's first statements. Other South African churches, including the Methodist Church, the Catholic Church and numerous others have banded together to express their solidarity through organising prayer meetings outside the courts where proceedings – highly questionable in their fairness – are being brought against Abahlali members. Joint statements have also been issued under the South African Council of Churches and the Diakonia Council of Churches.
In Archbishop Rowan Williams' address to Anglican leaders in South Africa during the TEAM Conference in 2007, he stressed that the in the Bible, justice requires that no-one be forgotten and no-one be invisible. Poor people in South Africa, disempowered as they are, are commonly forgotten and 'made' invisible by more affluent citizens and the global community. One sometimes wonders how the history of the church in this period will be written. If the church is to bear witness to our crucified Lord, it must indeed not only walk humbly, but also act justly and love mercy. I believe part of all this is speaking out against the injustices occurring in our world today.
Bishop Phillip, in a statement released shortly after the attacks, urged concerned people to convey their concerns to South African political leaders. Church leaders, it is my hope that all of you will be gracious enough to use your good offices and communicate to President Jacob Zuma your concerns on the matter, supporting the calls made by your fellow leaders in South Africa for justice to be served and an independent inquiry into the attacks made. I also hope you would consider either making your intervention public, or at least issuing a statement in this connection.
I believe this is of the utmost importance because, as one prominent theologian has stated, 'if any one is deprived or diminished, something is wrong with everything in the Church.'
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Soo Tian Lee
P.S. I have compiled a short list of weblinks to the statements by church leaders referred to in this letter, as well as a couple of other background documents here: http://tinyurl.com/sa-links
Sunday, 21 February 2010
On Monday, 28 November 2009, the Kennedy Thirteen appeared in court for their 6th attempt at requesting bail. All charges were dropped against one of the thirteen, six were granted bail, while the remaining five were kept in custody awaiting evidence by the police of their guilt. The leader of the ANC in Ward 25, Jackson Gumede, and ANC Councillor for Ward 25, Yakoob Baig, were in court and openly advised the prosecution, as they had been doing prior to this.
On Friday, 11 December 2009, the five of the Kennedy Thirteen remaining in detention returned to court for Attempt No. 7 at requesting bail. This time the investigating officer and prosecutor did not turn up for the hearing. Instead of throwing the case out of court, the Magistrate granted a further extension to the state and set the hearing for 22 January. It should be noted that by that date, the five would have been detained for nearly four months, without an scrap of evidence presented accusing them of any wrongdoing. ANC supporters continued their intimidating ways at the court, and even had the gall to bring with them the Abahlali sound system which was stolen during the attack on Kennedy Road!
On 16 December 2009, Amnesty International released a statement on the attacks on Kennedy Road. The statement went through most of the facts that were already known, but included one extra piece of information provided by (interestingly enough) the police. This was that a day after the attacks on Kennedy Road, 500 people appeared at Kennedy Road wielding machetes and demanding the arrest of 8 Abahlali supporters. After the eight were arrested, this armed mob went on a rampage, throwing petrol bombs and attempting to burn down the shacks of those arrested. Amnesty reported that to its knowledge no action was taken by the police to arrest or charge anyone linked to this armed attack.
Also on 16 December, S'bu Zikode, president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, was awarded the Order of the Holy Nativity by Rubin Phillip, the Anglican Bishop of Natal. Bishop Phillip gave a speech praising the work of S'bu and Abahlali, and also stated that the decision to confer the award was made before the September 26 attack on Kennedy Road. This last statement is important because it shows that the Order was not granted merely as an act to stir up support for Abahlali in the aftermath of the attack.
On 22 January 2010, the remaining five of the Kennedy Thirteen appeared in court for the 8th time. A call was put out by church leaders to gather for a prayer meeting outside the Durban Magistrates Court to give support to the five, their family and friends. Once again, however, the case was postponed, this time until the 5th of February.
On 27 January 2010, a statement dated 19 January 2010 was posted on the Abahlali website with an update on the situation in Kennedy Road after the September 26 attack. The text of this statement, as mentioned above, has been reproduced on this blog in the post immediately preceding this one.
5 February 2010 marked the ninth time the last five of the Kennedy Thirteen appeared in court. Bail was once again refused, and the next date for the hearing was set for 19 February. Meanwhile, the seven who were granted bail on 28 November 2009 still have their freedom of movement restricted to Pietermaritzburg because the state has not as yet confirmed their new accommodation in Durban. At the prayer service outside the court, Revd Sue Britton warned the authorities that the church is watching them and expressed her disgust for the manner in which the state has handled this case – clearly politically motivated – which has been brought against Abahlali members.
No statement has yet been released regarding the hearing which was to take place two days ago on 19 February. As ordinary people outraged at the injustice that is continuing to take place against members of Abahlali baseMjondolo whose only 'crime' is that of fighting for justice for the poor, we must continue to give our support and express our indignation towards those who are complicit in this indefensible attack on those who fight for the oppressed, which includes themselves.
Here are some links for additional information regarding what has been summarised in this post:
The Amnesty International statement: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR53/011/2009/en/53fce922-d49e-4537-b3bb-84060cf84c85/afr530112009en.html
On the conferment of the Order of the Holy Nativity on S'bu Zikode: http://www.abahlali.org/node/6132
Coverage of the (second) latest court appearance on February 5: http://www.abahlali.org/node/6251
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Statement by the Kennedy Road Development Committee (K.R.D.C)
What is happening in Kennedy Road after the Attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo?
After the 26th September 2009 attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo in Kennedy Road by the shebeen owners and the ANC the life of the people has changed into misery. Everything is out of their control and some people are even abandoning the area due to a high level of crime activities making it unsafe. These activities are being started in the shebeens which are operating right through the night again.
The operation of evicting relatives, friends and very active supporters of the so called ‘forum’ and the K.R.D.C. is still continuing. They are under the severe intimidation and their shacks are being demolished mostly every weekend during the night. Our movement is banned from the settlement. But people are also fleeing from the shacks for the safety reason as substantial criminal behaviour is happening during the night.
What is very surprising for this saga is that there is now a group of people calling themselves the new Kennedy Road Committee of the ANC. This committee was selected by the Ward Councillor, Yakoob Baig, and the chairperson of the ANC in the ward, Jackson Gumede, together with the Provincial Minister of Safety & Security, Mr. Willies Mchunu. Mr. Mchunu is also a prominent member of the ANC in the province but nothing has been done to get this situation into order.
What we have perceived is that their intervention was not intended to get the solution in this matter. They were one sided. Even today nobody speaks about a peaceful solution where everybody can be accommodated. Nobody speaks about the fact our homes have all been destroyed or that we have been driven from our community. Soon after the attack Mr. Mchunu declared a commission of inquiry to investigate and interrogate with the intention to find out what was the source of the violence which left two people killed and numerous people injured. The only result that we can see from that inquiry is that five members of the Kennedy 12 continue to be unlawfully detained without a bail hearing or a trial. None of the people who attacked us, threatened to kill us and destroyed our homes has been arrested.
On the 25th of December 2009 there was another violence that occurred in one of the shebeens. Two people died on the scene and 3 were injured seriously. The late news said that even those 3 were later died in the hospital. This was not a political violence. Mr. Mchunu told the world that we were ‘criminal’s’ and Mr. Baig said that ‘harmony’ had been returned to the settlement after we were evicted. But now they say nothing about these deaths. These deaths show the wisdom of the closing hours that had been put on the shebeens.
The community mandated us to put a closing time on shebeens because the shebeens were running all night and that was making the community unsafe. We negotiated that closing time with everyone, including the shebeen owners and the police, and discussed it in mass meetings. Every community has a right to make sure that it is safe and to make its own decisions about how to organise itself. But for this we were presented as criminals by the politicians! Now they say nothing as people are killed in the shebeens.
There is also a lot of rumour since Abahlali baseMjondolo has been displaced from Kennedy Road – even in the court of law. During the last appearance of the detainees the prosecutor could not appear in court to attend the case and so it was delayed once again - for the 7th time. What was very surprising was that sooner after the magistrate remanded the case the prosecutor was found sitting outside the court. When our advocate asked him about his absence from the court he said that he wasn’t aware that the case was on that day.
What we observed to the whole situation is that there is a lot of political conspiracy against Abahlali baseMjondolo in order to discredit what the movement has done for shack dwellers in this country. This movement has given poor people a voice at every level of society from our communities, to the media and even the constitutional court. Those whose power and money depends on the silence of the poor will never forgive us for this. But most poor people know the truth about our movement and about this country and so we are confident that our movement shall prosper.
As the K.R.D.C. we are still regarding ourselves as the legitimate representatives of the settlement because we were democratically elected by the people of Kennedy Road. We were removed by violence and force – we were not removed democratically. We are still determined to continue to work together with the Project Preparation Trust and the Municipality to move forward with the victory won by Abahlali baseMjondolo for Kennedy Road which was the agreement to upgrade the settlement where it is in a participatory and democratic way.
Written by the K.R.D.C. For more information or comment please contact Mzwake Mdlalose on 072 132 8458 072 132 8458