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Abahlali basemjondolo Occupy Central Durban for the First Time Since the Attacks in September Last Year

Abahlali basemjondolo Occupy Central Durban on 22 March 2010 -'Human Rights Day'

Around 3 000 Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) members braved serious intimidation from the intelligence services, local party goons and the notoriously violent South African Police to occupy downtown Durban yesterday - which was the South African public holiday in honour of 'Human Rights'.

The notoriously authoritarian Durban City Manager, Mike Sutcliffe (who calls himself a Marxist), had first tried to ban the march with an illegal diktat. AbM promised to march in defiance of the ban forcing Sutcliffe to compromise. He then 'allowed' them to march through the periphery of the City. They went to court to contest this restriction of their right to protest but lost on a technicality. But yesterday they set off on the route that they had originally intended to take and were able to occupy the main streets and the downtown area in violation of both Sutcliffe and the court. However they could not get past the huge and armed police presence cutting them off from the City Hall. But the comrades in Durban are thrilled - they have shown the ANC that they have not been defeated by the attack on the movement in September last year and the incredible intimidation and repression that followed the violence by a state backed party militia.

A Memorandum of Demands to President Jacob Zuma
Monday, 22 March 2010 14, 2005

We, members and supporters of Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Rural Network in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, are democrats committed to the flourishing of this country. We speak for ourselves and direct our own struggles. We have no hidden agendas. We have been mobilised by our suffering and our hopes for a better life. We believe that it is time to take seriously the fact that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

We come from the townships of Inanda, KwaMashu and Lamontville. We come from the farms in eNkwalini, New Hanover, Howick, KwaNjobokazi, Melmoth, Utrecht, Babanango and eShowe. We come from the flats of Hillary, Portview, Ridge View (Cato Manor), Wentworth and New Dunbar. We come from the shacks of Joe Slovo, Foreman Road, Clare Estate, Palmiet Road, Quarry Road, Motala Heights, Siyanda, Umkhumbane, New eMmaus, Pemary Ridge, Arnett Drive, Lindelani, Richmond Farm and, yes, Kennedy Road. We come from the transit camps of Richmond Farm, eNsimbini, Ridge View (Transact Camp), Cato Manor and New Dunbar.

We are all agreed that there is a serious crisis in our country. The poor are being pushed out of any meaningful access to citizenship. We are becoming poorer. We are being forced off our land and out of our cities. The councillor system has become a form of top down political control. It does not take our voices upwards. The democracy that we won in 1994 is turning into a new system of oppression for the poor.

We are all agreed that this country is rich because of the theft of our land and because of our work in the farms, mines, factories, kitchens and laundries of the rich. That wealth is therefore also our wealth. We are all agreed that the democratic gains that were won in 1994 were won by the struggles of the people and that we, the poor, are part of the people. Those victories are therefore also our victories. We are all agreed that we can not and will not continue to suffer in the way that we do. We are all agreed that we can not and will not give up our hopes for a better life and a fair world.

We have had meetings in all of our areas to discuss this march. Each area has developed its own set of demands which we are presenting to you. We have also taken all the demands that are common to many areas and put them together into this statement of our collective demands. We offer it to you as a statement of our demands. We also proclaim it to ourselves and to the world as a charter for the next phase of our struggle.

For too long we have been subject to evictions from our homes, be they in shack settlements or farms. These evictions are often unlawful, they are often violent and they often leave the poor destitute. Therefore we demand an immediate end to all evictions so that we can live in peace and with security.

For too long our communities have survived in substandard and informal housing. Therefore, we demand decent housing so that we can live in safety, health and dignity.

For too long those of us living in shacks have suffered without enough water and without toilets, electricity, refuse collection and drainage. Therefore we demand decent social services in all our communities so that we can live in safety, health and dignity.

For too long many of those of us who are formally connected to water and electricity have not been able to afford the costs of these services and face disconnection. Therefore we demand that these services be made free for the poor.

For too long the promise of housing has been downgraded to forced removal to a transit camp. These transit camps are more like prisons than homes. If they are ‘delivery’ then they are the delivery of the people into oppression. Therefore we demand an immediate and permanent end to all transit camps so that the dignity of the people that have been taken to the camps can be immediately restored.

For too long the housing that has been built has been built in human dumping grounds far outside of the cities and far from work, schools, clinics and libraries. Therefore we demand immediate action to release well located land for public housing. Where necessary land must be expropriated for this purpose. The social value of urban land must be put before its commercial value.

For too long people that are already languishing in human dumping grounds have been unable to access the cities. Therefore we demand the immediate provision of safe and reliable subsidised public transport to these areas.

For too long there has been rampant corruption in the construction and allocation of housing in transit camps, RDP housing and social housing. Therefore we demand complete transparency in the construction and allocation of all housing and an immediate end to corruption. We demand, in particular, a full and transparent audit into all the activities of the social housing company SOCHO – including its CEO, general manager and board of directors. We demand a similar audit into all the activities of Nandi Mandela and her associates.

For too long poor flat dwellers have suffered from unaffordable and exploitative rents. Therefore we demand the writing off of all arrears and the institution of an affordable flat rate for all.

For too long the poor have been forced to sign exploitative rental agreements under duress and threat of eviction. Therefore we demand the cancellation and collective renegotiation of all rental agreements signed under duress.

For too long farm dwellers have suffered the impoundment of their cattle, demolition of their homes, the denial of the right to burry their loved ones on the land, the denial of basic service and brutality, and sometimes even murder, at the hands of some farmers. The bias that the justice system has towards the rich has meant that it has systematically undermined farm dwellers. Therefore we demand immediate and practical action to secure the rights of farm dwellers.

For too long a fair distribution and use of rural land has been made impossible by the fact that land –a gift from God – has been turned into a commodity. Therefore we demand immediate steps to put the social value of rural land before its commercial value.

For too long the attack on our movement, its leaders and well known members, their family members and its offices in the Kennedy Road settlement in September last year has received the full backing of the local party and government structures. Therefore we demand

• a serious, comprehensive and credible investigation into the attack and its subsequent handling by the local party and government structures. This must include a full investigation into the role of the South African Police Services.
• the right to return for all the victims of the attack, including the Kennedy Road Development Committee and all its sub-committees. This right must be backed up with high level protection for the security of all the residents of the settlement.
• full compensation for everyone who lost their homes, possessions and livelihoods in the attack.
• a full and public apology by Willies Mchunu for the attack and its subsequent handling.
• the immediate release of those members of the Kennedy 13 who are still being held in detention.
• that immediate steps be taken to ensure that Willies Mchunu, Nigel Gumede and Yakoob Baig are not allowed to interfere in any police or judicial processes resulting from the attack.

For too long our communities have been ravaged by the cruelest forms of poverty. Therefore we demand the creation of well-paying and dignified jobs.

For too long the right to education has been reserved for the rich. Therefore we demand free education for the poor.

For too long we have not been safe from criminals and violence. We are especially concerned about the lack of safety for women in our communities. Therefore we demand immediate practical action to secure the safety of everyone and, in particular, the safety of women.

For too long the poor have been turned against the poor. Therefore we demand an immediate end to all forms of discrimination against isiXhosa speaking people (amamPondo) and people born in other countries.

For too long the legal system has been biased against the poor. Therefore we demand serious practical action to ensure that access to justice is no longer distorted by access to money.

For too long the councillor system has been used to control the people from above and to stifle their voices. Therefore we demand the immediate recognition of the right of all people to, if they so wish, organise themselves outside of party structures in freedom and safety.

Furthermore, just as people from around the city, the province and the country are uniting in support of our struggle we express our support for our comrades elsewhere. We have stood with, and will continue to stand with our comrades in Wentworth, our comrades in the Poor People’s Alliance and struggling communities and movements across the country. We thank everyone who has demonstrated solidarity with our struggle including church leaders, students and our comrades in other countries. We will do our best to offer the same support to your struggles.

Sunday, 21 March 2010 – Human Rights Day
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release

Sutcliffe’s Dirty Tricks Will Not Keep Us from Marching in Our City Tomorrow

Our political rights are always taken from us with technical arguments.

When we are evicted we are always told that it is because the land is ‘too steep’, the soil is ‘not right’ and so on. Of course once our shacks are demolished flats or businesses for the rich are quickly built on the same land that we were told was ‘unsafe’ for us.

When we are denied bail we are always told that it is because the police ‘need time to complete their investigations’, or even to ‘type documents.’ This is how it goes.

Technical arguments are always used against us because it is assumed that technical questions can only be answered by experts. The state has their own experts on their payroll and so by making important social questions into problems to be resolved by experts they seize the right to answer these questions on their own – they expel the people from any chance to debate these questions. The Freedom Charter said that ‘the people will govern’. It didn’t say that the experts will govern. It didn’t say that there will be democracy if the city managers decide to allow it.

Today we went to court to ask the judge to interdict Sutcliffe against his attempt to limit our right to protest by keeping us away from the City Hall and the main streets. We have won similar cases against Sutcliffe twice before. But this time the City played a dirty trick. They told the court that they could not allow us to march through the main streets and to the City Hall because the City Hall is being repaired and it would be ‘dangerous’ for us to come too close to it. They argued that our basic political rights could be stolen from us because of a technical issue.

Our lawyer pointed out that yesterday SADTU marched to the City Hall. Their response was that Abahlali baseMjondolo is a mass movement and that our march will be much bigger than the march organised by SADTU. This is true but it remains clear that the repairs to the City Hall are just being used as an excuse to prevent us from protesting freely in our own city. We would have been happy to keep a safe distance from the building. Anyway even if it was dangerous to come close to the City Hall that would not make it dangerous for us to protest in the main streets.

Unfortunately the judge allowed the City to use a technical argument to take away a basic democratic right. We have asked our lawyers to explore the option of launching an urgent appeal first thing tomorrow morning.

But irrespective of the outcome of that legal process we will be marching tomorrow. The marchers will decide, democratically, when we are all together, how to respond to this attack on our basic political rights. But one thing that we are very clear on is that amandla remains with us. We go to court to confirm the rights that have been won in prior struggles but we are very clear that the only real defence for these rights, and the only way to win new rights, is through the power of the organised poor. For example everyone can see that organised communities are not evicted. Unorganised communities are evicted, illegally, every day.

Many of us spent today with our comrades in the Rural Network in eNkwalini where farm dwellers who have been subject to a reign of terror by a farmer called Mark Channel mourned Human Rights Day. Their homes have been demolished, they have been shot and their cattle have been impounded. They live on this land but they do not live in any Republic of South Africa. They live outside of the protection of human rights and the law. We spent the day listening as they shared their stories. It is clear that from the flats to the shacks and the farms there is no place for the poor in this democracy.

Sutcliffe has decided to protect the name of the City Hall by using dirty tricks to keep us away from it – to keep our protests as hidden as a transit camp. But tomorrow we will be coming into the city from the townships, the farms, the flats, the shacks and the transit camps. We will be coming into the city from the townships of Inanda, KwaMashu and Lamontville. We will be coming into the city from the farms in eNkwalini, New Hanover, Howick, KwaMjolokazi, Melmoth, Utrecht, Baba Nango and eShowe. We will be coming into the city from the flats of Hillary, Russell Street, Mayville, Wentworth and Dunbar. We will be coming into the city from the shacks of Joe Slovo, Foreman Road, Clare Estate, Palmiet Road, Quarry Road, Motala Heights, Siyanda, Umkhumbane, New eMmaus, Pemary Ridge, Arnett Drive and, yes, Kennedy Road. We will be coming into the city from the transit camps of Richmond Farm, eNsimbini, Ridge View, Cato Manor and New Dunbar. We will be joined by representatives of some churches and NGOs. All of these struggling communities will bring their own demands to Jacob Zuma. We will also issue our collective demands to Jacob Zuma.

Many journalists have been phoning us and asking if our ‘service delivery protest’ will be going ahead tomorrow. We appreciate the interest of the media but we really want to stress that this will not ‘be a service delivery protest’. We have never organised ‘a service delivery protest.’ In fact our first marches were to announce that we rejected top down rule by the councillors and that we would, as we have done for the last five years, begin to rule ourselves. The language in which people’s struggles are turned into ‘service delivery protests’ is a language that has been imposed on our struggles from outside – it is not our language. Of course we are struggling for land and housing, water and electricity. But we do not accept the limited way in which these ‘services’ are ‘delivered’. Often an important part of our struggles is to reject that the way that services are delivered. For example we do not accept transit camps. We are struggling for the full recognition and realisation of our humanity in a society that denies our humanity at every turn. We are struggling for real equality. We are struggling so that the world that God gave to humanity is shared fairly by all of us. To call our struggles ‘service delivery protests’ is a way of making them safe for our oppressors.

We appeal to the media, and to other groups too, like academics, NGOs and churches, to please exercise an important discipline when talking about struggling communities and movements. That discipline is a simple one but it is a very important one. That discipline is to speak to people before speaking about them or for them. As we have said so many times before we are poor in life, not in mind. If you want to know why we are struggling just ask us and we will tell you. If you want to know why people are protesting in Mamelodi, Orange Farm or anywhere in the country you don’t need researchers or analysts or spies – you just need to ask them.

We have a clear message for all those who believe that they have a natural right to rule the poor from above be they in government, civil society or the left. We have a clear message for all those big men like Willies Mchunu, Michael Sutcliffe or Ashwin Desai who believe that they have the right to ruin any organisation of the poor that they cannot rule. Our message is this:

We have been evicted, forcibly removed, beaten, slandered, publicly threatened with death, arrested, jailed, tortured and driven from our homes. Some of us have lost everything that we ever owned in this world. But we will not give up. We will not be turned against each other. We will work and work and work to unite the poor against the politicians and the rich. The problem in this society is the deep political disempowerment of the poor and we will solve this problem by organising ourselves to build our political power. Struggle is hard and it is dangerous. But struggle is the only way to defend our humanity and the humanity of our children. We have a deep responsibility to continue with this struggle until we achieve real equality and a fair sharing of this world.

The march will be supported, with a physical presence, by the Rural Network and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. It will also be supported, without a physical presence, by our comrades in the Poor People’s Alliance – Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Landless People’s Movement in Gauteng.

For more information on the march please contact:

S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo President: 083 547 0474
Troy Morrow, Chairperson of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Hillary Branch and march convenor: 071 511 8446
Zodwa Nsibande, Abahlali baseMjondolo General Secretary: 082 830 2707

Representatives of the following organisations that will be in solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo can also be contacted for comment:

Reverened Mavuso Mbhekeseni, Rural Network: 072 279 2634
Des D’sa, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance: 083 982 6939
Ashraf Cassiem, Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign: 082 337 4514
Mzonke Poni, Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape: 073 256 2036
Maureen Mnisi, Landless People’s Movement (Gauteng): 082 337 4514

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release
Friday, 19 March 2010

Sutcliffe Continues His War on the Poor

The notorious Michael Sutcliffe continues to launch illegal attacks on our basic democratic rights.

He has now given in to our pressure and removed his illegal ban on our right to march but he has issued a permit that only allows us to march from Botha Park to Albert Park. Our march on Jacob Zuma, scheduled for 22 March 2010, was planned to go from Botha Park through Pixley KaSeme Street and to the City Hall. But Sutcliffe’s unilateral imposition of unreasonable restrictions on our right to protest means that we will only be able to march about 600m and that our march will be kept far away from the centre of the city – it will be hidden away, just like a transit camp.

Our members from across this city – from Lamontville, to Pinetown and Umlazi – are determined to march because it is essential that we demonstrate our dignified anger and our mass support in public. We are the people who are being swept out of the cities like dirt. We are the people who are being hidden away in transit camps. We are the people who are supposed to suffer in secret in the human dumping grounds like Park Gate. If our protest also has to be hidden away and contained on the outskirts of the city then there is no point in having a march. The whole point of having a march is to show our power and our determination to assert our right to the city in the city. We cannot and will not accept that we must hold our protests in secret.

It is clear that we who are from the jondolos have to pay a very high price for our rights. When we ask for what is promised to all citizens we are attacked, driven from our homes, slandered, beaten, tortured and jailed. A simple procedure like arranging a legal march becomes a complicated game that takes all of our time and energies. Now it is clear that we will have to go to court to ask a judge to defend our basic rights against Sutcliffe. We are briefing a lawyer right now. But why do we have to pay such a high price to realise our basic rights? The only logical answer seems to be that these rights are no longer intended for us – that we are the people that don’t count and who must be silent as we are driven out of the cities.

When the media first reported on Sutcliffe’s illegal ban of our march the police spokesperson said that all marches would be banned due to the World Cup. If it is true that our basic democratic rights are being removed as a result of the World Cup then we say, very clearly, that the World Cup is a new kind of colonialism that every person who is right in their mind must reject and resist with all their force in their mind and in their muscles.

Sutcliffe insults Human Rights Day, he insults our democracy and he insults Pixley KaSeme and the memory of the struggle for our democracy when he bans us from marching down Pixley KaSeme Street and taking our anger to its rightful home - the City Hall - on the national public holiday to celebrate Human Rights Day.

We strongly recommend that journalists and the police familiarise themselves with the legislation governing the right to march. The system whereby permits had to be granted for marches to be legal was struck off the statute book in 1993. These permits have had no basis in law since then. And the Gatherings Act prohibits the authorities from imposing unreasonable conditions on our right to protest. Our right to protest is not negotiable. There is a good summary of the Gatherings Act available online at: http://fxi.org.za/PDFs/Publications/RGAHandbook.pdf

For further information and up to the minute updates on the legal battle to have Sutcliffe’s attack on our basic democratic rights overturned please contact:

S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo President: 083 547 0474
Troy Morrow, Chairperson of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Hillary Branch: 071 511 8446
Zodwa Nsibande, Abahlali baseMjondolo General Secretary: 082 830 2707

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
11 March 2010

Mike Sutcliffe Bans another Abahlali baseMjondolo March

The notorious Mike Sutcliffe has banned another Abahlali baseMjondolo march. We have, as always, scrupulously followed the laws that govern protest and we have informed the City in good time that we intend to march on Jacob Zuma on 22 March 2010. Yesterday the march convenor, Troy Morrow from the Hillary AbM branch, was verbally informed that permission to march has been denied. The excuse that has been given this time is that the City does not have enough police officers to be able to ensure security at our march.

We know that all decisions about marches in Durban pass through Sutcliffe’s office. We also know that he has a long history of illegally banning our marches and of endorsing violent police attacks on our peaceful marches.

As always the excuse that has been given this time has no legal basis. The Gatherings Act does not allow City Managers to ban marches. In fact it does not even allow them to issue permits for marches – that was only allowed under old apartheid legislation. The Act only requires us to inform the City of our intention to march. They have no right to ban our march. Public protest is a cornerstone of democracy and democracy is not negotiable. It is a permanent and non-negotiable right for everyone. The job of the City is in fact to facilitate our right to march.

The City uses all kinds of tactics to undermine our right to march. They create long delays before responding to us when we inform them of our intention to march. Often they only issue their permits (a practice that has no basis in law) the day before a march or on the same day of the march. This is a tactic that is used to undermine our mobilisation.

Using verbal bans is another tactic that they use to try and demoralise us. By issuing verbal bans they hope to set us back without committing their illegal action to paper.

We have taken Sutcliffe to court before after he issued an illegal ban of an AbM march. We won that court battle. We are prepared to return to court again and to, once again, ask a judge to interdict Sutcliffe from his ongoing and systematically unlawful attempts to deny us our basic democratic rights. We are also prepared to engage in serious and sustained political mobilisation against Sutcliffe and in defense of what is left of our democracy.

We are calling for Sutcliffe’s immediate dismissal from his post on the grounds that he has made himself a determined and ruthless enemy of our democracy. We are calling on our alliance partners, the movements with which in are in soldarity around the world, all progressive organisations, and anyone who feels that our democracy should be defended, to join the call for Sutcliffe’s immediate removal from his position. We are calling for our comrades to picket any meeting or organisation that hosts Sutcliffe if he visits their city - whether it is Johannesburg, Cape Town, Rio, Istanbul, London, Miami or New York. Let there be no shelter anywhere in this world for the enemies of democracy. We are very clear that the enemies of democracy are also the enemies of the poor.

After the violent state backed attack on our movement last year this banning of our right to march makes us wonder if we are now a banned organisation?

Our memorandum of demands is attached to this statement.

For more information please contact:

Troy Morrow, march convenor: 071 511 8446
Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesperson: 079 745 0653

Posted By

red jack
Mar 23 2010 08:53

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