unFreedom Day 2009

Every year the militant South African shack dweller's movement Abahlali baseMjondolo holds 'unFreedom Day' on the national public holiday 'Freedom Day'. This year it went ahead with a police helicopter circling just above the assembly after an initial police attempt to ban the event was seen off.

Friday, April 24, 2009
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Abahlali baseMjondolo to Mourn UnFreedom Day on 27 April 2009

Walala Wasala, Wavuka Usuhlala ema-Thini

Monday 27 April will mark the 15th anniversary of the first democratic elections in South Africa. Once again the poor will be herded into stadiums so that the politicians can tell the people to celebrate their freedom. Once again Abahlali baseMjondolo will be decelebrating. We will be holding our fourth annual UnFreedom Day.

On the Sunday before unFreedom Day we will launch the beautiful new crèche that has been built in the Motala Heights settlement.The Motala Diggers have already been running a large community garden for sometime and the community have now decided to take the initiative and to build and run their own crèche.

On unFreedom Day a major announcement will be made about the next step in the movement’s ongoing struggle with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Housing and their notorious Slums Act.

The unFreedom Day event will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will be held in the Kennedy Road settlement in Clare Estate, Durban. We will be joined by comrades from all of the organisations that make up the Poor People’s Alliance – Abahlali baseMjondolo in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, as well as the Rural Network from KwaZulu-Natal, the Landless People’s Movement from Gauteng and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign. The eMacambini Anti-Removal Committee will also attend the event and participate in all the discussions leading up to it.

Bishop Rubin Phillip has been invited to address the gathering. There will also be performances from the famous Kennedy Road isicathimya choir the Dlamini King Brothers, the maskhandi group Cupha Mbonambi from Taflekop, the Motala Gospel Group as well as the Vibe Jammers, a dance group from Siyanda, and new isicathimiya and hiphop groups from Joe Slovo.

unFreedom Day has been organised by the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League. While others were voting on Wednesday we were planning unFreedom Day. The day before the election some of us attended a small University of Abahlali baseMjondolo seminar on the idea of a living communism. Our hands are clean.
Nobody can come with any facts to condemn unFreedom Day. The fact is that we are not free. Everyone can see that. Even on Election Day, where everyone is supposed to be equal as voters, the poor stand in the queues while the politicians are rushed to the front. Even on Election Day there is no equality. There is a constant oppression that promotes inequality in its simplest forms.

We are never given a platform to say what is inside our hearts. Therefore we have provided the platform for ourselves so that we can speak for ourselves and speak freely. It is up to us to tell the truth about our suffering and our struggles.

How can we be free when the system has completely excluded us? How can we be free when:

* we do not matter, we do not count?
* we are given not a platform and when we make our own platform we are not heard?
* we don’t have land and we don’t have houses?
* evictions continue?
* a promise of houses for all is changed to ‘housing opportunities’ for all and a ‘housing opportunity’ means forced removal to a government shack (i.e. a so-called ‘transit camp’)?
* we still lack adequate access to water, toilets, electricity and refuse removal
* our children live and die with running stomachs (diarrhoea)?
* instead of jobs we get free food before elections?
* our children are still forced out of the good schools?
* women are still not safe in our cities?
* people continue to be oppressed by ward councillors and BECs?
* we get no reply to the memorandums that we hand over at marches?
* what development does happen is always top down and is always corrupted?
* the government only assists those that are close to them and that uphold their authority?
* street traders are still being forced out of the cities and people born in other countries are still being taken to Lindela?
* ten thousand families in eMacambini face forced eviction at the hands of S'bu Ndebele and Ruwaad holdings?
* our comrades in Symphony Way face eviction?
* the Legal Aid Board joins the police in openly and blatantly working for the rich in Motala Heights?
* the system lies – the government’s papers say that development was completed in New Maus in 2003 but people are still living in poverty there, even dying from the poverty?

The politicians tried various strategies to get the people to vote in these elections.

In Reservoir Hills the ANC councillor is Jayraj Bachu. He is strongly supports the eviction of all shack dwellers from Reservoir Hills and he has withheld basic services from shack dwellers and said nothing when people are shot by private securities for connecting electricity. On the Sunday before the election Bachu slaughtered 16 sheep and sent buses to the Pemary Ridge, Arnett Drive and Shannon Drive settlements to fetch people to come and eat the sheep. Those that went had no toilets to go to after they had digested Bachu’s sheep.

In Joe Slovo the strategy to force people to vote was to cut off the water the night before the election. People were told that it would only be switched back on after they had voted. It was made clear that services will only be provided in exchange for loyalty. It is not surprising that there was a road blockade in that area.

In Motala Heights there is a long record of people denied access to pensions and grants if they do not have a voter’s stamp in their ID book. In Foreman Road people were told that child support grants would be stopped if people did not vote. Again the message is clear.

Yet all these politicians that want our votes continue to treat us with contempt. Nigel Gumede said, in a public election meeting, that the people in Kennedy Road are eating from the dump. He must apologise. Terror Lekota said on Ukhozi FM that people are staying in shacks because they are uneducated and yet they are demanding to get tenders and contacts despite being uneducated. He must also apologise.

Nigel Gumede also publicly offered a house to Nonhlanhla Mzobe in the same meeting. Some years ago Nonhlanhla was the deputy chairperson of the Kennedy Road Development Committee. She played a big role in the beginning of our struggle in 2005. She has taken the house and moved out of her shack. This is also a corruption, a political corruption, an attempt to buy off our movement.

Over the years many people in our movement have been offered houses and jobs by politicians wanting to buy off the movement. Almost all have said no. The NGOs have also offered many people moneyand travel. Almost everyone has said no. There was a reason why one of our earliest slogans was ‘Phanis Breyani!’.

We are not fighting with Nonhlanhla. We do not judge people who decide to do what they think that they must do for their families. Everyone has the right to make their own choices. But once you decide to become a breyani chower you are no longer an Umhlali. Politics is about choices, sometimes hard choices. But we are making it clear to the politicians that we note the deep corruption of the system and that we have always been clear that when we struggle we struggle collectively. We will always insist that the fruits of our struggle must be shared collectively. From time to time the politicians or the NGOs will succeed in persuading an individual to take their houses, or their money or their fancy trips. But from the moment that person agrees to take the breyani their membership in the movement ends so the movement is never for sale.

Delivery according to political loyalty must end. All forms of corruption must end. Some of us have corrupt relatives in government. We condemn their corruption with no reservations. State money is the people’s money. A thief is a thief.

There have been many clear demonstrations of dissatisfaction from poor people’s organisations in recent days. All the organisations in the Poor People’s Alliance decided to boycott the election. The Anti-Privatisation Forum in Johannesburg and Sikhula Sonke in Cape Town took the same position.

In Gugulethu and Alexandra people demonstrated next to polling stations. In Durban people organised road blockades from Kennedy Road (21 April & 23 April), Lamontville (20 April) and Siyanda (14 April).

We are still warning that the anger of the poor can go in many directions.

We are issuing a clear warning to those who wish to remote the world that we will not be silent. We will not be good boys and girls. We are men and women who have resolved to take our place in the world. We are determined to participate in the construction of this country.

John Minto’s refusal of the O.R. Thambo award, and his decision to reject the 5 star hotels and red carpets offered by the politicians and to instead visit the organisations of the poor, shows that the progressive world is watching South Africa and taking a clear side with us.

We are not alone in our struggle to break the power of the rich, and their money, over the use and distribution of land. We are not alone in our struggle to build the power of the poor and to reduce the power of the rich.

Abahlali baseMjondolo has a long way to go in our struggle to overcome inequality. On unFreeedom Day we will strengthen ourselves for the long road ahead.

For more information and comment please contact:

Mazwi Nzimande: 074 222 8601
Lindo Motha: 074 460 5806
Mnikelo Ndabankulu: 079 745 0653
Zodwa Nsibande: 082 830 2707

27 April 2008
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release

Police Attempt Illegal Ban of unFreedom Day

Today Abahlali baseMjondolo plans to mourn unFreedom Day. We have done this for the last four years. See: http://abahlali.org/node/5040

However the police have descended on to Kennedy Road settlement in large numbers and are attempting to ban our meeting. They are claiming that we did not apply for a permit to stage a gathering.

The first point to make here is that it was the old apartheid law that required people to apply for permits before staging a protest. The post-apartheid law makes no mention of a permit. It simply states that people wanting to organise a protest must inform the authorities before hand. In February 2006 the notoriously authoritarian City Manager of Durban, Mike Sutcliffe, banned an Abahlali baseMjondolo march on the grounds that he had denied us a permit. The police were then sent to attack the people and many were severely beaten. We went to the High Court and we won an interdict against Sutcliffe. It was Sutcliffe and his police, and not us, who were breaking the law. The court recognised that in a democracy we have the right to gather and to protest and that neither Sutcliffe nor the police can take that right away from us. See: http://abahlali.org/node/820

But the second and more important point to make is that unFreedom Day is not a protest. It is simply a meeting that happens inside the Kennedy Road settlement. The Regulation of Gatherings Act makes it 100% clear that it only regulates gatherings in public spaces like roads. It does not regulate gatherings held in buildings. If that was the case we would have to ask the state to approve every single meeting that we hold! And we hold many meetings each week. It is therefore completely clear that any attempt by the police to use the Regulation of Gatherings Act to ban unFreedom Day will be 100% illegal. Once again it is the police that are the criminals.

Our movement was constantly subject to unlawful oppression from the police and municipal officials from 2005 until 2007. The illegal attacks on our basic democratic rights stopped in November 2007 after the police brutally attacked a peaceful protest without warning. Many church leaders who witnessed this attack signed a statement condemning the criminality and brutality of the police. After that we were allowed to protest and gather freely as the post-apartheid law allows. See: http://abahlali.org/node/2508

Once this oppression of our movement stopped we were able to enter into negotiations with the eThekwini Municipality and just over a year later, in February 2009, we signed a memorandum that agreed that they would provide services to 14 settlements and upgrade three settlements where they are. We thought that we were beginning to move forward in Durban. However our comrades in the Landless People's Movement in Johannesburg and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town continued to face unlawful police oppression.

But now we are faced with a return to state criminality in Durban and a return to attempts to use the police to ban us from exercising our most basic democratic rights. We will resist this oppression. We will do what we can to confront it on the ground although this is always difficult with a police force as violent and cruel as ours. We are also looking for a lawyer so that we can rush to court and interdict the police against any attempt to ban our meeting. We ask all media to rush to the scene so that they can witness first hand the fact that, once again, THERE IS NO DEMOCRACY FOR THE POOR IN DURBAN. We are allowed to vote for the political parties of our choice but when we try to create the politics if our choice, a politics of the poor, for the poor and by the poor - we are confronted with the police.

There are two things that journalists need to be aware of when speaking to the police:

1. The police are routinely dishonest in their communication with the media. If they attack a peaceful protest they will claim that they were being stoned. If they shoot someone in the back with live ammunition they will claim that they shot the person in the stomach with a rubber bullet. The truth always comes out in the end because there are many witnesses to these public events and they are often filmed. But by that time media interest in the story has waned or disappeared entirely. It is therefore absolutely necessary to seek independent confirmation of all claims made by the police.

2. The police and officials are often entirely unaware of the changes to the law after apartheid. Over the years Abahlali baseMjondolo has very often found that the police, as well as local government officials - even as high up as the city manager of Durban, are entirely unaware of the post-apartheid law especially as it relates to evictions and the right to gather freely. They continue to operate on the basis of apartheid laws. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to seek independent expert confirmation of the understanding of the law held by the police and government officials.

For up to the minute updates from Kennedy Road and Abahlali baseMjondolo's attempts to resist this blatantly unlawful attack on our basic democratic rights contact Zodwa Nsibande on 082 924 8268.

For independent top level expertise on the Regulation of Gatherings Act contact the Director of the Freedom of Expression Institute Dr. Jane Duncan on 082 786 3600.


To view an excerpt of 'A Place in the City' visit

To view 'Dear Mandela' visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caBo002T4eI

To find out more about 'When the Mountain Meets its Shadow', a new film about life and struggle in Cape Town, visit http://when-the-mountain-meets-its-shadow.com/

Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People's Alliance - an unfunded national network of democratic membership based poor people's movements.
Abahlali baseMjondolo http://www.abahlali.org

Khayelitshastruggles http://www.khayelitshastruggles.com/

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign http://antieviction.org.za/

To join the contact list for the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, go to: http://groups.google.com/group/antieviction/subscribe

To contact Abahlali baseMjondolo please do not use this address - please use the contact form at: http://www.abahlali.org/contact.