Recent development in South Africa's land occupation movement

Statement from the South African land occupation Abahlali baseMjondolo, on their growth in membership, new occupations of land, and the irrelevance of ANC's 'land reform'.

Submitted by Mike Harman on April 25, 2018

24 April 2018
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA Press Statement

Abahlali Continues to Grow and to Occupy and Hold Land

Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA held a successful UnFreedom Day Rally in Durban on Sunday. Abahlali came in their numbers to mourn the freedom that was fought for so hard by millions of impoverished and working class people and yet now serves a small elite, including a few people who are connected to the ruling party.

UnFreedom Day is a call to government and the general public that many South Africans, including shack dwellers, remain in crushing impoverishment and unemployment in a deeply unjust society. In his opening speech Abahlali President S’bu Zikode recognised and saluted those who came before us in struggle, and those who paid the ultimate price for freedom for all.

On the day which brought together more than 5 000 Abahlali and other activists two important announcements were made by the President of the movement. The first announcement was that Abahlali membership has grown immensely in the past years. Our membership audit is not complete and there are still more than ten branches that have not yet been audited. But our audited membership has now reached 50 000 members in good standing. Women have always been in the forefront of our struggle for dignity and the membership audit has confirmed that 60% of our members are women. The movement’s strength has meant that even those who did not want to recognise us in the beginning now respect us.

The second announcement was on the movement’s stance on the land issue. In recent months hundreds of Abahlali members have participated in various discussions that have been held at branch level for us to formulate a collective position from below on the land question. We know that when political parties talk about “expropriation of land without compensation” they only mean land to make profit, they mean agricultural or farm land to make money for themselves. They mean land for mining, industries, mines and mega projects like malls etc. They do not mean land to build houses for the homeless and the impoverished. And of course they say nothing about land for living (umhlaba wokuphila). Therefore, our stance as a movement is that land is a precious gift from God and must be shared equally. We believe that land must be used by all to live, survive and thrive. We believe that the re-emergence of the land question is a political agenda by the ruling party to campaign for votes in the 2019 elections. The ANC has lost credibility with millions of people. Now they want to regain that lost credibility by re-introducing the land question, something they should have discussed 24 years ago. We know that the new talk about expropriating land is about taking land from the white elites and giving it to black elites. Impoverished people are still being brutally driven off urban land occupations. The movement has been occupying and using land for living since 2005. Our principle is that the Social Value of land must come before its Commercial Value. Land must be collectively owned and democratically managed.

If the ANC government is serious about land reform they must best demonstrate that by transferring the land which shack dwellers have already occupied to the residents of those occupations and give some form of certificate as some form of tenure security. All evictions must come to an end.

We would like to express our gratitude to all the movements and organisations that supported us during the UnFreedom Day Rally. We are committed to building unity and solidarity with struggling communities and movements elsewhere.

However we would like to express our disappointment to some of the media who will only report on our struggles when we barricade roads, as if our struggle are a traffic issue, but do not see an open and legitimate public gathering of thousands of organised impoverished people as newsworthy. We will always support media freedom against the politicians but it is very disappointing that the lives, organisations and politics of impoverished black people continue to count for very little to most of the media.

We would like to express our solidarity to Amadiba Crisis Committee who were fighting for the land of their ancestors in Gauteng High Court. We know how much pain these comrades went through. We are glad that the spirit of comrade Bhazooka is still with them.

We are also in solidarity with the bus workers who are currently on strike as they are working under difficult conditions and are paid peanuts while their employers are getting high cheques. And we are in solidarity with the national shut down tomorrow in protest at the new labour laws.

For as long as the rights of impoverished people – including shack dwellers, the unemployed, workers, farm dwellers, hostel dwellers and rural people – are still undermined, we will continue to organise and resist in defence of our dignity. It is not yet uhuru.

Land. Housing. Dignity.
Occupy. Resist. Develop.