By Bandile Mdlalose
On June 3, 2010 when I became the General Secretary of Abahlali BaseMjondolo Movement S.A. I vowed to die where Abahlali members die. I vowed to protect my country. I vowed to be loyal to the poorest of the poor. I vowed to uplift the Constitution of South Africa in respect for all those who fought for this country. I vowed to take forward the struggle for land and housing in the cities, to make sure that land, cities, wealth and power are shared.
As upon my vows I stand firm to implement them. No judgement, imprisonment or bullet will silence me while we, the poor, are being oppressed by those whose daily bread is the poverty and blood of the poor. I REFUSE to be silenced by any judgement of those who never gave themselves enough time to understand how it is to live in poverty. I REFUSE. I refuse to allow the silence to take control. The price of silence keeps me going because the price of silence is oppression, suffering, wasted lives and death. The price of rebellion is less than the price of silence.
When I was intimidated in Cato Crest on September 17, 2013 by Sâ€™bu Sithole who is the Community Liaison Office of Cato Crest no law, judge or police protected us. Instead of us being protected by the South African Police Services they chose to protect the municipality and support the African National Congress members in Cato Crest who are led by Mzimuni Ngiba who is the Ward councillor who is a leader during the day and a â€œhitmanâ€ at night.
When I was arrested on Monday 30, 2013 for being in solidarity with the family whose child was killed by the Station commander Mnganga in the Cato Manor Police Station, known as Kito, it was a way to silence me and others who were protesting against the murder of Nqobile Nzuza. No one has been arrested for the murder of Nqobile, or the murder of Nkululeko Gwala or Thembinkosi Nyathi.
And yet people protesting against murder are beaten and I was arrested. I REFUSE to keep quiet and the sell the people who really fought hard for me to have a Constitutional Right of Freedom of Expression. I REFUSE to keep quiet and sell the people who are being evicted, beaten, shot and murdered in Cato Crest.
When I was in Cato Manor police station I was isolated from other woman prisoners because it was said I will corrupt their minds. Basically they feared that I would open their minds into reality. I was kept in a cell with no water. It was smelling and had dirty blankets. They kept bringing in food which I did not eat because I suspected it might be poisoned to finish me off.
When they opposed bail on Tuesday I was not worried about myself who was going to be in prison for the first time. But I was worried about the reasons behind it. I was worried that the Municipality will continue demolishing houses in Cato Crest without respecting the constitution, the law and the orders of the court. I was worried that the police will continue to violate peopleâ€™s rights of having a peaceful protect and will attack them so it will be called a violent protest in the media.
My seven days in prison gave me time to think as I did not have enough time to think in the outside world as I was too busy. I had to think back and ask myself why did I join this movement. I had a chance to back off but once something is inside you, once you live it, once it is injected inside you no one else can stop it. Ubuhlali runs in my veins. I am unable to distance myself from it anymore. I donâ€™t need ubuhlali but my life needs it. It is what I live and breathe and what I am proud off. I had some time to think of how can I strengthen this struggle and this activism and realised that I need to do what I was doing before I was arrested ten times more. There is no turning back now. I have to fight much harder with the truth and for the truth than before.
When I came into the dock I was not alone. None is alone in this movement.
Evictions, beatings, arrests and murder are not suffered alone if you are in this movement. This makes us strong. And as repression gets worse it drives more people into the movement. It makes us stronger and stronger. When I was locked inside there were road blockades around the city every day. So many poor people have decided that enough is enough. The politicians wonâ€™t stop us now.
I wish to thank all Abahlali members for their solidarity as well as everyone else who has been in solidarity with our struggle as we face repression including War on Want, the Dear Mandela crew, Amnesty International and the solidarity that we have received from New York, Rio, London and Harare. I wish to thank all the famous intellectuals have signed statements in solidarity with us. I also which to thank the Socio Economics Rights Institute, the Church Land Program, the Diakonia Council of Churches, the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council, my family Amanyanda Amahle, friends from Facebook, Twitter and all those who believed in me, supported me and stood by me through this experiential time. It is true that it a LIFE LONG LEARNING. No judgment will keep me quite. I will speak outside Westville Prison and inside Westville Prison. I will continue to mobilise in or outside Westville Prison. The choice for them is only where they prefer me to organise.
A luta Continua – Amandla Awethu Ngenkani!!!!
Abahlali BaseMjondolo General Secretary
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