From Abahlali baseMjondolo – The South African Shackdwellers Movement based in Durban.
The truth remains. The truth frees. The truth cannot be hidden with lies for ever.
For lies to continue to hide the truth they must be constantly sustained and maintained. For truth to be able to emerge from under the lies we have to constantly remember what has really been said and done, by whom and for what purpose.
We have often said that the attack on our movement in the Kennedy Road settlement on the 26th and 27th of September last year was planned at a very high political level. It was planned outside of the Kennedy Road settlement.
The attack took the lives of two people; drove our leaders, their families, their friends and comrades out of the Kennedy Road settlement and left thousands of people homeless and displaced. Thirteen people were arrested for the crime that was planned after several meetings of the ANC structures in and outside the settlement. Eight months later five of those people remain in Westville prison without bail and without any evidence being brought against them.
We have warned that some of the people of Kennedy Road were made to be involved in the attack by turning their anger on their own brothers and sisters. This is something that happened elsewhere in the country in May 2008. It is now happening in eTwatwa. The residents of Kennedy Road who joined this attack had no idea of what was really going on, why
they were being made to attack their own neighbours or who their real enemies are. Even those whose lives were lost may not have known the real reasons why they were fighting. The anger and desperation of people was exploited by those who remoted them to attack their neighbours. Those whose homes and belongings were destroyed or burnt still cannot explain why the poor were used to attack the poor. It makes no sense for any one of us. It only makes sense for those who wish to divide the poor.
The South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Metro Police were at the scene during the attack and can also not explain how they were remoted by the political authorities that instructed them which lives to protect and which lives not to protect. They must have feared to lose their jobs if they acted justly and lawfully.
For a long time now the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) have been receiving calls from several individual and groups in the Kennedy Road settlement asking them to return to the settlement.
The people and groups that are demanding the return of the KRDC are saying that the daily life in the settlement has become very threatening and frustrating without the self organisation of the settlement by and for its residents. The KRDC were elected by that process of self organisation. Since the KRDC, as the representatives elected by the self organisation of the poor by the poor and for the poor, were driven from the settlement everything that had been built up and achieved in the settlement has been butchered. There is no more crèche. There is no more care for the sick. There is no more ability to negotiate with the police and the state for a position of collective strength. The crime rate has increased enormously. Kennedy Road has become a settlement of fear and hopeless where there is no law and there is no order.
Willies Mchunu, the MEC for Safety and Security in KwaZulu-Natal, replaced our elected leadership with a Community Policing Forum. But this has not brought safety or security. The community is being abused in many ways.
Once again fires are being used as an excuse to force people into the amatins. The eThekwini Municipality is constantly disconnecting people from electricity. When people
reconnect the connections are not properly organised and some connections are dangerous. The settlement has returned to darkness and fear.
Like they did in the old days, before we organised ourselves, the SAPS come to the settlement, kick in people’s doors and sometimes steal their belongings and money.
Once again, like in the past, the politicians are making their empty promises and disrespecting the people. After the attack Nigel Gumede, the Chairperson of the Housing Portfolio Committee in the eThekwini Municipality, together with Willies Mchunu, promised that the community will be housed by February 2010. Now Gumede and Mchunu are nowhere to be found.
No one tells the community anything. Once again the people of Kennedy Road are on their own.
The community has begun to reorganise itself and to remobilise itself. An underground branch of Abahlali baseMjondolo has been running for sometime.
Recently recruitment to the Abahlali baseMjondolo branch has become more open. In recent days there have been open discussions about the return of the KRDC, its families and others who were displaced. The KRDC has raised the issue of the safety of those who are being asked to return. They have also insisted that either everyone who was displaced will return or no one will return. Those who are calling for the return of the KRDC have said that they have suffered enough and that they will guarantee the safety of the KRDC. A petition calling for the return of the KRDC to the settlement has been openly circulated in the last two days and more than five hundred people have already signed it. Most of these people are women. They cannot guarantee the behaviour of the few people in the settlement who remain loyal to the local ANC councillor, Yakoob Baig, and the local chairperson of the Branch Executive Committee of the ANC, Jackson Gumede. But they have committed themselves to guarantee the safety of everyone that they have asked to return. They will not make this guarantee real with guns and knives. The will make it real with the right that every mother has to insist on the safety of her home and her family. Anyone who plans to attack the KRDC will have to face these women and the strength of their motherliness first.
Along with being the chairperson of the ANC BEC in the area Gumede is a shacklord in the nearby Lacy Road settlement. After the attack he, with the support of Baig and the police, seized control of the settlement. He was chased out of the Kennedy Road settlement in February this year after the ANC failed to respond to the community’s needs after the terrible fires in Kennedy Road.
The Abahlali baseMjondolo leadership and the KRDC have agreed and confirmed that that they will return to Kennedy Road this Sunday and hold an open and public meeting with the Kennedy Road community.
We are willing to return to Kennedy Road. The community understands that the attack on our leaders and our movement was a political plot driven from outside and high up. The history of the truth in this beautiful settlement, beautiful because it became the ground of our hope, will not be wiped away.
We believe that the demand for our return is a democratic and legitimate act by the community to express their vote of no confidence in Baig and those who are trying to impose their authority in the settlement.
Our return to Kennedy Road on Sunday will be completely different to the violence and hatred that drove us out. We will not come with weapons and division. There is no need for the government to send in the riot squad, the water cannons and their helicopters. We will come with open discussion, with isicathimyia and with prayer. Bishop Dladla from the Zionist Christian Church, who was able to remain in the settlement after the attack, will open the meeting with prayer. The Dlamini King Brothers, who were also exiled in the attack, will sing at the meeting.
The meeting on Sunday will be shaped by people’s discussions. We, as elected leaders, will be guided by those discussions. If those discussions conclude that we should return permanently then we will do so. If it is agree that we should return permanently then the first item that we will have to discuss will be to set a date for an election for the 2010 KRDC. The current KRDC were elected for 2009 and then driven from office and their homes in September 2009. Therefore an election needs to be held to elect a KRDC for 2010.
Those few in the settlement who joined the attack on us need not fear our return. We will not be seeking any revenge. We will not be demanding compensation for our destroyed homes, our stolen goods and our time in exile. We wish to move beyond the tragedy of the poor being remoted to attack the poor and to unite the community behind its self organisation. Our duty is to unite the poor and to demand justice from the rich and from the state. We refuse to be made to fight each other. Those who wish to remain active members of the ANC will be free to do so. We will ask only that they respect the democratic process in the settlement.
The meeting that has been called for the return of the KRDC and the AbM leadership to the Kennedy Road settlement will be held at 10:00 on Sunday 13 June 2010 at the Springfield College Sports Ground which is right next to the settlement.
While the rich are in their stadiums waving their flags and watching football, a game that many of our members play and love, we will be taking forward the responsibility of building the real nation. The nation that excludes no one, the nation in which everyone counts, the nation in which a shack settlement is a community to be supported and not a slum to be eradicated, a nation in which the self organisation of the poor is recognised as the foundation of our democracy and not a threat to society to be smashed by any means necessary.
The World Cup will go but our suffering will remain. Any responsible leader has a duty to concentrate on building the power of the people.
The meeting that will be held this Sunday will, as always, be open to all.
The media are welcome to attend.
We also wish to inform the media that yesterday the case of assault that Zibuyile Ngcobo had laid against Nozuko Hulushe was thrown out by the court. Nozuku is the AbM activist who was assaulted by Ngcobo after insisting, courageously, on her right to organise freely for AbM in the settlement. Nozuku’s case against Ngcobo is going forward.
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