Call to join ‘army of light’ at Abahlali baseMjondolo interfaith vigil for KZN flood victims
‘We need to grieve together, to be in community together and to build hope and solidarity together. We love our country and we are working to improve the lives of those who live under inhuman conditions,” says the shack dwellers’ movement.
On the eve of Freedom Day, Abahlali baseMjondolo, which has been at the forefront of flood relief efforts for informal settlements, held an interfaith prayer vigil at the eNkanini sports grounds. The vigil was in honour of those who died as a result of the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal that have taken the lives of more than 400 people, with many more still missing and even more homeless and displaced. The floods have been especially hard on people who had been living in shacks. The organisation said the vigil was organised jointly with “organised hostel dwellers”, sex workers, grassroots environmentalists, as well as “radical lawyers”, church leaders, students, journalists and “progressive organisations”.
In a statement, the shack dwellers’ movement said: “Many families are still waiting hopelessly for their loved ones to be discovered under the ground or in rivers. They have come to accept that they will never find them alive, but they need to find closure by being able to bury their remains. In the Annet Drive settlement in Reservoir Hills, an eight-year-old has still not been found after her family’s home was washed away.
“We need to grieve together, to be in community together and to build hope and solidarity together. We love our country and we are working to improve the lives of those who live under inhuman conditions.”
Abahlali has also been part of a Solidarity food programme based on the names of people they have been collecting door-to-door to determine need, and giving them food parcels containing rice, maize meal, flour and other essentials.
Speaking at the vigil, political analyst and spiritual healer Aubrey Matshiqi said: “You are all being asked to join the army of light so that we can fight the forces of darkness in our politics, in our economy and in our social lives.”
Referring to the song Shona Malanga (“Let the sun set”) – the singing of which was led by Abahlali deputy president Mqapheli Bonono – New Frame editor-in-chief Richard Pithouse told the gathering it had “taken on new meaning now after the storms and the floods the sun will shine. It still gives people courage today, I still hear that song in Abahlali… but there’s another song that I remember that is not sung much anymore and it’s a sad song that people would sing when they were mourning and would sing at funerals, and today is a day where solidarity gives people joy but is also in a very, very sad time after what happened in these floods, and that song that I remember says Senzeni Na?” Everyone at the gathering voiced their agreement and erupted in a sombre chorus of the song which means “what have we done?”
Pithouse has researched and written extensively on the struggles of Abahlali baseMjondolo since 2008, including the research paper “Abahlali baseMjondolo and struggle for the city in Durban, South Africa”.
The vigil was characterised by prayer, religious and Struggle songs and even a poem by Abahlali national coordinator Busisiwe Diko that spoke of the destruction the floods had wrought and the lives lost, called ine imvula ayolalala amadoda ku shiyeka izibongo kuphela (“it rained and when the men went to sleep all that was left behind is their surnames”).
On Freedom Day, Abahlali, led by general secretary Thapelo Mohapi, was out again, surveying flood damage in the informal settlements of Kenville and Lindelani in the northern part of eThekwini and providing people with aid. DM/MC
Contact and account details for those who want to help:
Account name: ABAHLALIBASEMJONDOLO MOVEMENT SA
Bank name: First National Bank
Account no: 6278 6238 230
SWIFT Code (for international transfers): FIRNZAJJ
Reference: KZN Floods Relief
General secretary Thapelo Mohapi 084 576 5117
Deputy president Mqapheli Bonono 073 067 3274
National coordinator Busisiwe Diko 065 913 6881
Snenhlanhla Mncanyana 073 832 3331.