Maverick Citizen


‘We must mobilise and organise because, if we don’t, they will defeat us,’ say social activists

‘We must mobilise and organise because, if we don’t, they will defeat us,’ say social activists
Left, Nokuthula Mabaso was shot dead in front of her children at her home in the informal settlement of eKhenana where she was an activist. Lindokuhle Mnguni, the Abahlali baseMjondolo chairperson of the eKhenana commune who was recently killed. Abahlali base Mjindolo leader Nokuthula Mabaso was shot dead. KZN eKhenana Commune and local Abahlali baseMjondolo leader Ayanda Ngila was gunned down. (Photos: GroundUp / Abahlali baseMjondolo / Nomfundo Xolo / Supplied)

The Anti-Repression Collective on Wednesday held a webinar aimed at demanding an end to the repression of social movements — not only in southern Africa but across the world.

A webinar held on Wednesday by the Anti-Repression Collective came in the wake of the murder of Abahlali baseMjondolo member Lindokuhle Mnguni in August. He was the 24th member of the shack dwellers’ movement to be killed.  

Kicking off the discussion, the president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, S’bu Zikode, said the struggle of Abahlali was one to improve the living conditions of shack dwellers and the organisation wanted “to see everyone given an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of our democracy”. 

Zikode said the current site of struggle was eKhenana near Durban, where in 2018 Abahlali occupied the vacant and unused land. Since then it has faced a number of violent and illegal evictions from the City of eThekwini, often at gunpoint and without court orders. The vision of eKhenana was to create a space for people to have housing, and Abahlali had established a community garden where people can farm their own food.  

Zikode said Abahlali members had been jailed on bogus charges — sometimes for up to six months — only to have their cases thrown out of court when they were determined to be baseless. With the jailing and intimidation not working, Zikode said Abahlali leaders had now been targeted for assassination. This year alone, four leaders have been killed: Ayanda Ngila, Siyabonga Manqele, Nokuthula Mabaso and Mnguni.  

“We have reported this to the director of public prosecution, the South African Human Rights Commission, the minister of police and the deputy minister of correctional services, but unfortunately have not been able to get any support or action,” Zikode lamented.  

He said it was not only Abahlali members who were under attack but others such as whistle-blowers. 

“We hope the international solidarity will help bring about change and stop the killings,” said Zikode.  

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Swaziland solidarity

Mlungisi Makhanya, the president of the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) in Swaziland, said his organisation felt that the plight of Abahlali was not receiving the attention it deserved.  

“We’ve always viewed ourselves as not just in solidarity with Abahlali but we see ourselves in them as we endure and know this similar repression under the autocratic regime of [King] Mswati. Just last night, the home of Pudemo’s national organising secretary was sprayed with 30 bullets and his car burnt by Mswati’s state agents,” said Makhanya. 

“If we do not condemn repression, violence, classism and exclusion of poor marginalised people, what kind of revolution can we claim to be pursuing in Swaziland?” Makhanya asked. He said it was important to empathise with the struggles of social movements fighting for the rights of the marginalised across borders. 

“What we have witnessed at Pudemo is that giving our solidarity is reciprocated unconditionally and without expectation, which is the kind of solidarity any organisation should pursue,” Makhanya said.  

Nonhle Mbuthuma, the spokesperson for the Amadiba Crisis Committee in Xolobeni, which was part of a recent court case fighting against the Department of Minerals and Energy granting Shell exploration rights to search for oil and gas, said communities needed to mobilise and organise. She said her community had for years been facing violence and intimidation from the government and private mining companies who were trying to destroy their communal land and take away their livelihood.  

“It’s time for social activists to mobilise and organise, because if we don’t they will defeat us,” Mbuthuma warned. 

Social movements had stepped in where the government had failed, offering an alternative for the poor, said Ruben Kondrup, from the International Network for Economic Social and Cultural Rights. He pointed out that internationally, land activists were the victims of violence and criminalisation, which reflected a global shift towards authoritarianism. 

Violence, said Kondrup, was used to protect and promote the interests of the elite and was a core part of the capitalist system. 

Dandara de Araujo Pinto, from the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, said the struggle for land and housing was strongly repressed in Brazil because it touched the very basis of capitalist society.  

“Human rights are more important than keeping large pieces of private property unused while there are people with nothing who need and could benefit from it,” said Pinto.  

“We are saying we want the land to work it, produce healthy food to feed humanity; all of this generates the power to capacitate people to resist repression. We cannot be intimidated or scared of the violence; we have to continue the struggle, which is the greatest form of political power.  

“MST stands in absolute solidarity and will help in whatever way we can. The deaths will not be in vain. For each comrade that we lose we will not be silent but struggle our entire lives.” DM/MC


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