An Open Letter to Jacob Zuma from the Unemployed People’s Movement
Dear Mr. President
Today you will be awarded the freedom of Grahamstown by the Makana Municipality. Raglan Road, which runs up through the township, its shacks and broken down RDP houses, will be renamed Dr. Jacob Zuma Road. We have been told that the budget for the ceremony will be R250 000. We know that in reality it will cost more than this but the Municipality are refusing to give us all the documentation that would allow us to see the real cost of this ceremony.
The Makana Municipality is a failed Municipality. The needs of the people are not met, corruption is rampant and authoritarianism is worsening. Twenty thousand people remain without homes. When homes are built they fall down in the first storm. When a wall collapses people are given a plastic sheet to hang up. People go for months without water. Unemployment is at 60%. Activists are arrested on trumped up charges and given unconstitutional bail conditions that ban them from political activity. The thugs of the ANC Youth League close down meetings that they can’t control. A whole generation of youth live without hope.
Your presidency is a failed presidency. Under your authority the ANC has become, from top to bottom, very little more than a way for the politically connected and the politically loyal to feed off the public purse via access to the state. The state has become a site of patronage and self enrichment and not a tool for development. Democracy is being rapidly curtailed. The media are under serious attack, protesters are being murdered by the police in broad daylight and movements like Landless People’s Movement and Abahlali baseMjondolo, as well as local structures like the Makause Development Forum, are under open attack by the ANC with the support of the police. There is no vision for the homeless, the unemployed and the raped. The party is divided and an aggressive right wing demagoguery has taken centre stage.
A failed municipality wants to give the freedom of Grahamstown to a failed president. This is a farce. It is an insult to us. Every time we walk down Dr. Jacob Zuma road this insult will be repeated. It is unbelievable that liberation has ended in this fiasco. It is unbelievable that the unemployed and the homeless will be expected to celebrate this insult. Of course those who are looking for jobs and tenders will be in the front dancing and singing when you are given the freedom of Grahamstown. But when they lie in their beds at night they will know that by doing what they need to do for themselves and their families they are undermining the struggle of the people – a struggle that stretches back to battle led by Makana himself.
You will be given the key to Grahamstown while many of us do not even have a key to a falling down, leaking and tiny RDP house. The local politicians will herd people without water, electricity, homes, decent education, work or a decent livelihood and the freedom to organise independently to the streets to celebrate the award of your freedom of this town. The unfree will be expected to celebrate your award of the freedom of this town.
We will not be joining the celebration. If your government had brought us decent homes, jobs and schools we would gladly welcome you to our town. If you had brought us a deepening of democracy that gave us the opportunity to shift to a bottom up system we would welcome you to our town. But the reality is that there is nothing to celebrate and we will not be exploited by our councillors as they try to bring themselves closer to money and power while continuing to fail the people. We will not celebrate our own oppression.
The reception for you after the ceremony will be held at the monument to the 1820 Settlers. This monument is an insult to us. It is there to celebrate invasion, dispossession and occupation – a process that has left us shivering in the shacks of Grahamstown. We have previously called for it to be used to house the shack dwellers of Grahamstown. If you were a people’s President you would not set foot into this monument to settler colonialism in a town ringed with shacks.
We thought seriously of organising a protest against this celebration. We thought of covering the streets that your cavalcade will come down with shit from our buckets. We thought of creating a human chain across Raglan Road. But we know that that the police and the army will be there in full force. They are already all over town. We don’t want more Andries Tatanes. Therefore we have decided to meet you with ideas, with this open letter.
We will continue our struggle to win our own freedom – our freedom from poverty, our freedom from political repression. We invite all those who share our concerns about the failures of the Makana Municipality and the failures of the Zuma regime to join us in this struggle to turn a colonial town into a people’s town in which there is freedom from poverty, land and housing, water and electricity, work or an income for all, decent schools and full freedom to write, speak, and organise without fear.
The Unemployed People’s Movement, Grahamstown
Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462
Xola Mali 072 299 5253