Here is a piece by Sibusiso Zikode, the head of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) shack dwellers’ movement, about the aftermath of politically-motivated violence against members of his community:
The ANC Has Invaded Kennedy Road
The ANC has invaded Kennedy Road. We have been arrested, beaten, killed, jailed and made homeless by their armed wing. This is what it took for Yakoob Baig and Jackson Gumede to finally take back the settlement.
This is not just an attack on the KRDC [Kennedy Road Development Committee]. It is not just an attack on AbM. It is an attack on our politic.
This attack is an attempt to suppress the voice that has emerged from the dark corners of our country. That voice is the voice of ordinary poor people. This attack is an attempt to terrorise that voice back into the dark corners.
Yakoob Baig says that ‘harmony’ has been restored. For the ANC harmony means their power and our silence. For us our silence means evictions, shack fires, children dying of diarrhoea and the organised contempt that we face day after day. Therefore we have to speak. We have to break the ‘harmony’ that is our silence in the face of our oppression.
Our movement has won many victories. We have forced the state to accept that there will be nothing for us without us. We have forced the state to accept that they must negotiate our development with us. Our politics is a common politics. We have, in many places, raised the common politics above the politicians’ politics. For this some politicians hate us.
And we must not forget that we have exposed the corruption of many senior officials – most recently in Siyanda, eShowe, Mpola and Howick. We have also exposed how ‘housing delivery’ is actually a form of oppression breaking up communities and forcing people into ghettos far outside the cities. We have done this most famously with our case in the Constitutional Court against the Slums Act. That judgment will be coming out very soon.
For all these reasons the strength of the movement, the strength of those who are supposed to be weak and silent and powerless, is taken as a threat.
Our crime is a simple one. We are guilty of giving the poor the courage to organise the poor. We are guilty of trying to give ourselves human values. We are guilty of expressing our views.
In this time when we are scattered between the Sydenham jail, hospitals, the homes of relatives and comrades, or even sleeping in the bushes in the rain, we are asking for solidarity. In this time when we do not know if the state will allow us to continue to exist we are asking for solidarity. In this time when we do not know if we will also be attacked in Motala Heights or Siyanda or anywhere else we are asking for solidarity.
Our message to the movements, the academics, the churches and the human rights groups is this:
We are calling for close and careful scrutiny into the nature of democracy in South Africa.
Sibusiso Innocent Zikode
President of Abahlali baseMjondolo (and, consequently, political refugee)