No Freedom for the Forgotten

In The Politics of Politics on April 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

Abahlali baseMjondolo KZN Press Statement
21 April 2011

No Freedom for the Forgotten

On the 27th April the whole country will be asked to commemorate the seventeenth year of so called “Freedom”.

We cannot forget that many people died and fought hard and with courage and determination to gain this freedom from apartheid. We honour those people all the time. Many of our members struggled in trade unions and in community organisations. We have members whose ancestors fought in the war fought from the Nkandla forest and in the rebellion on Nguza Hill. The struggle against apartheid is our struggle.

But we have a clear understanding of what that struggle was for and it was not just to replace white politicians with black politicians. That struggle was not just to force white business to take on some black partners. That struggle was to ensure that South Africa belongs, really belongs, to all who live in it. That struggle was to ensure that there would be land and housing for all, that the doors of learning and culture would be opened to all and that there would be work for all. That struggle was for equality, to ensure that every person counts and that every person counts the same.

It is so sad to still hear and see that seventeen years after the end of apartheid there are millions of people who are ‘forgotten’ and yet they are being told that they are free. They are being told that they must go to the stadiums on an empty stomach to listen to politicians tell them how far they have come and then go home to a shack.

We are told every day that freedom means voting plus service delivery. We do not accept this definition and we will not be intimidated by all those who say that our refusal to accept this definition means that we are immature and unprofessional. As a movement of the forgotten it is our duty to continually ask ourselves what freedom really means. Freedom is always something that should be defined by the people.

Is it true that people are free if they are still living under the fear of being evicted? Are people free if they are still living under the fear of dying in shack fires because authorities deny them their basic right to have access to electricity? Are people free if they must still fear rape? Are people free if their children are still dying from diarrhoea? Are people free if they are still living in shacks? Are people free when they are being forced into transit camps or tiny badly made houses out in the human dumping grounds?
Are people free when they vote for councillors that never come to speak to them again till the next election? Is democracy really supposed to be a system for the politicians to use the poor as ladders?

We are being told that there is a freedom of expression. Are we free if people that exercise their right to free expression are being beaten up and shot to death by the police who are supposed to be protecting us? Our movement and all the other movements of the poor like the Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Landless People’s Movement and the Unemployed People’s Movement, as well as many smaller community organisations around the country, have faced serious police repression for many years. Most of the middle classes have not had eyes to see the march bannings, intimidation, arrests, beatings, torture and even killings at the hands of the police. Most of the middle class have not had eyes to see how the police have supported party thugs to attack the autonomous organisations of the poor.

But after what happened in the Free State where a member of the community who was protesting against the lack of services delivered to them by their councillor was seen on a national television being beaten up by police, who were more than five, and being shot in the chest and dying on the scene no one can say that they do not have eyes to see what the police are doing to us. This is not the freedom that we fought for.

We are ignored when we do not resist and repressed when we do resist. This is not freedom. In fact it is oppression.

Therefore it is clear that the struggle must continue. It is also clear from the movements and protests around the country that the struggle is continuing.
The question is how we should struggle. Some people are still trying to force the parties to listen to the people from inside the parties. But in Cape Town and everywhere else people are protesting as their right to freedom of choice is being violated by the political parties who choose who should be the candidate of being the councillor, leaving out people who are being elected democratically by the members of their community. Yet we claim South Africa is a Democratic country. What kind of a democracy is this? It is a Demon-crazy.

Even if people are complying with the law and have peaceful marches the current situation is that the even if the authorities happen to come to collect memorandums they have this tendency of not answering to the demands of the communities. People organise and march and the response is either silence or intimidation. Is being poor in this country a curse?

Yet as we are towards local government election they politicians are busy telling people to go in their numbers to voting stations to vote for people who will not even listen to the people who have put them into power. The people on the grassroots are people who don’t count in this society except when it is time to vote. The politicians are making all kinds of promises when they want our votes. But when we ask them to keep those promises they tell the police to arrest us, beat us and shoot us.

If you are a worker the boss wants your work. Therefore you put pressure by refusing to work. If you are a tenant the landlord wants your rent therefore you put pressure by refusing to pay rent. If you are a citizen the parties want your vote therefore you put pressure by refusing to vote for them. All the parties oppress the poor. We are evicted and shot at everywhere in South Africa from Durban to Cape Town to Johannesburg and in all the small towns like Grahamstown and Ficksburg. Therefore there is no point in voting for one party to discipline another party.

The way for the poor to be able to discipline the politicians is for us to organise ourselves to build our own power. As a movement we have decided to continue with the No land, No house, No Vote campaign for this election. We are calling on the poor to boycott the election and to instead organise themselves and build their organisation that can defend their own interests.

We will not be going to the stadiums on the 27th of April to listen to the politicians. We will meeting amongst ourselves to mourn the death of freedom and to discuss the best ways to take our struggle forward. We are sending delegates to the funeral of Andries Tatane and we will begin with a report back from the funeral and a minute of silence for the all the people that have been killed by the police in the struggles of the poor since 1994.

We will, once again, call our event Unfreedom Day because there is no freedom for the poor. The racist government is gone yet most people are still suffering, most people still do not count in this society. We are not free if we are still:

• Living in shacks.
• Having no access to electricity.
• Without land.
• Having no access to water.
• Having no toilets.
• Without work.
• Being forcibly evicted and forcibly removed to transit camps and rural human dumping grounds.
• Being denied the right to plan our own future.
• Being repressed when we try to organise.
• Living in a society in which there is no dignity and no respect of the poor.

Our living conditions are the same as they were under apartheid. We are still treated with contempt and repression when we want to organise and to plan our own future. It is this reality that encourages us not to vote. It is not that we are not patriotic of our country. The problem is that we are living in a new kind of apartheid error under a new administration. The problem is that we are not yet free.

We want to be very clear that freedom is not only a question of service delivery and budget constraints. It is a question of our full participation in all discussions and decisions about the future of our own communities and our country. It is a question of honesty, respect and dignity for the poor. It is a question of full recognition that the poor count in our society.

In November 2005 our movement organised a march on Obed Mlaba from the Foreman Road settlement. That march was illegally banned by the notorious Michael Sutcliffe. We decided to march in peaceful defiance of that ban. As soon as we left the settlement the police attacked us with rubber bullets, stun grenades, tear gas and live ammunition. A number of us were seriously injured. Obed Mlaba did not condemn the police violence or the banning of march. He said that we were a third force that had been created to disrupt the elections in 2006 and that we would fail to exist after the 2006 election. Well it is now five years since that election and we are still here. We are still refusing to vote for our oppressors. We are still struggling for a real freedom, a freedom that will recognise the equal humanity of everyone.

The 2011 Unfreedom Day Rally will be held in Foreman Road Shack Settlement, Clare Estate, Durban, starting from 10:00 am on Wednesday, 27 April 2011.

For more information and comment please contact:

Mnikelo Ndabankulu: 081 309 5485
Zodwa Nsibande: 071 183 4388/031 304 6420
Bandile Mdlalose: 071 4242 815/031 304 6420


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