South Africa—S’bu Zikode is Underground

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Summary: This urgent statement from Abahlali baseMjondolo, a revolutionary shack-dweller’s movement in South Africa that has done vital work in promoting public housing and opposing evictions, is in response to the dire threats being issued against one of its spokespersons, S’bu Zikode.

Our movement continues to be subject to regular threats, intimidation and violence in Durban, including constant telephonic death threats.

We have faced waves of serious repression over the years, including in 2009 and 2010, and again in 2013 and 2014. This repression has included armed attacks on the homes of our leaders, resulting in their destruction, sometimes while the police looked on, as well as arrests and detention on trumped up charges, torture, assault, death threats, and assassinations.

The current wave of repression was significantly worsened by the grossly undemocratic comments made by the Zandile Gumede, the Mayor of the eThekwini Municipality, on 12 June 2018. Our movement is a democratic coming together of the oppressed, with tens of thousands of members, in which all positions are subject to election, and all elected leaders are subject to the right of recall. Important decisions are taken in open assemblies. On June 12 the Mayor repeated the allegation, that has constantly been made by senior people in the ANC since 2005, that our movement is a ˜third force.” This is not just untrue, and typical of a colonial and apartheid mentality. It also works to justify violence against us, including murder.

At the same meeting that the Mayor called our movement a “third force,” the Chief Whip in the Municipality, Nelly Nyanisa, said that the President of our movement, S’bu Zikode, is “hell bent” on making the city ungovernable. She went on to say that as the ANC they will “deal with” Abahlali. Our movement is committed to participatory democracy. We are of the view that impoverished people should be included in all forms of decision making that affect them. We don’t accept that politicians, officials, NGOs and academics should take decisions for us without us. We want to deepen or radicalize democracy. We don’t want to make the city ungovernable. We want to democratize its governance by progressive organization and mobilization from below to enable the oppressed to participate in decision making, including decisions about land use and urban planning. This makes us a serious threat to the corrupt and to those who put profit before people.

Nyanisa’s statement that the ANC will “dealt with” Abahlali has given the ward councillors permission to openly threaten and attack our movement. It was an instruction to repress us, an instruction that will cost lives. We are not aware of any senior leaders in the ANC at Provincial or National level issuing statements to condemn Gumede and Nyanisa, or making it clear that we have a democratic right to organize outside of the ANC, and that the attacks on us are both criminal and anti-democratic.

We have had credible reports from various sources, including in the ANC and the police, that S’bu Zikode is in imminent danger of assassination. Once again he has had to go underground. For some time now he has been in a secret location, away from all cellphones and out of contact with his family. We have also put in place the most rigorous possible security measures to protect other people who are under threat but many people, including anyone who puts their name on one of our statements, continues to operate at serious risk.

The country has just mourned the anniversary of the massacre at Marikana. We are well aware that we are not the only people under threat. Anyone who successfully organizes the oppressed outside of the ANC is at serious risk. We continue to take a position in support of principled solidarity in action among all democratic and progressive formations that have emerged from among the oppressed.

Those of us who have accepted leadership positions in our movement have accepted the risk of death. We all understand that there will be more deaths. Despite the repression our movement continues to grow, and the struggle continues to advance. We have members on more than forty land occupations in Durban and in five provinces.

In June this year we wrote letters to both President Ramaphosa and the police minister requesting their intervention in the ongoing murders of Abahlali leaders. We have not received any response from the office of the President or that of the minister. There is a lot of talk about ANC leaders who are murdered by other ANC leaders but when it comes to the murder of our members there is silence.

We appreciate the solidarity that we have received from progressive organizations in South Africa and internationally. Real solidarity, living solidarity, is the only way that we can survive repression, overcome oppression, and build a world in which the dignity of every human being is respected.

Contact: Thapelo Mohapi 062 892 5323; Mqapheli Bonono 073 067 3274.

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