Abahlali basemjondolo Occupy Central Durban for the First Time Since the Attacks in September Last Year
Libcom.org Mar 23 2010
Abahlali basemjondolo Occupy Central Durban on 22 March 2010 -'Human
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
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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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
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
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
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
S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo President: 083 547 0474
Troy Morrow, Chairperson of the Abahlali baseMjondolo Hillary Branch: 071
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
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
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
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