On Saturday 26 September, Abahlali baseMjondolo, the shack dwellers movement, was attacked in the Kennedy Road settlement, Durban, by an armed mob chanting ethnic slogans and backed, fully, by the ANC. This article is based on a report from an Abahlali member in Durban.
Kennedy Road is one of the poorest shack settlements in Durban. Local police appear to be entirely complicit in these attacks, as do local members of the African National Congress.
Many residents of the settlement were beaten and two were killed. As the community defended itself spontaneously two of the attackers were also killed - with their own weapons. The police refused to intervene and then arrested eight of the local Abahlali leaders in the settlement on murder charges. Most of those who were arrested were in fact away from Kennedy Road at a dance performance in another part of the city at the time. The others, including S'bu Zikode, one of the shack dwellers movement’s elected leaders, had their homes destroyed and had to flee the settlement. ANC politicians and the police were present while the houses were destroyed.
The settlement is now controlled by an armed pro-ANC group who have the full backing of the police and the party. Abahlali are banned from the settlement, which they were elected to lead, on the pain of death. At least a thousand people have fled and many are sleeping rough.
This will all be terribly familiar to those who know something about the struggles of popular movements in places like Brazil, Mexico or Nigeria. For South Africans this is very familiar from the 1980s when the apartheid state employed these tactics. But no one expected to see this in South Africa after apartheid. It came out of the blue.
Kennedy Road’s residents and their supporters are shocked and don't have the resources to deal with the situation – they are struggling with basic things like accommodation and food for the displaced. They are also struggling with the organised propaganda from the state. The media has been told that the settlement has been 'liberated from criminals'. The ANC are openly celebrating the 'liberation' of Kennedy Road and are threatening to arrest S'bu Zikode too. They are calling the movement 'criminals' and, at the same time, saying that the human rights entrenched in the post-apartheid order are giving criminals a free ride and that police need to be given permission to shoot to kill. The ANC’s ‘criminals’ are your ‘terrorists’ - people who are defined as being outside of the protection given to those that count.
Please have a look at the Abahlali website –http:/www.abahlali.org - and share the information there widely.
There is a particularly strong statement from Bishop Phillip - who struggled with Steven Biko and who has, in the face of this attack, decided to cross the river into open opposition to the state once more.
You can sign up to a petition asking President Joseph Zuma to intervene and reminding him and those involved in the violence that the world is watching, here: