Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Thuli Ndlovu, 36, chairwoman of the KwaNdengezi branch of the shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), was killed a few hours after telling her mother, “today we are going to be shot”. She also called one of her comrades in the movement to express her concerns.  She had been suspicious of a car driving past her house in the afternoon.  Thirty-six-year-old Ndlovu, the movement's chairwoman in KwaNdengezi, was one of the delegates to counsel AbM's newly elected Western Cape board.
Sunday afternoon an armed man burst into her home and shot her seven times.   A teenager who had come to teach Ndlovu’s daughter maths was also injured in the attack. He was shot twice in the stomach and taken to RK Khan Hospital.

Her 19-year-old neighbor, Zinhle Nzimande, who vowed to carry on the fight, told the Daily News:

Thuli used to tell me she was going to die by the gun. And just before she died she told me she had received a death threat.

AbM last night named a local ANC politico as a suspect in the killing.  He was seen an hour before near her house.  An AbM statement on the shooting stated:

Our movement is shocked but not surprised. We have accepted that some of us will die in this struggle. We are well aware that our leaders have been removed from the housing list and placed on the death lists. Many of us have received threats. We knew that another assassination was coming... Senior police officers were also aware that another assassination was coming. They have done nothing to give protection to our members.

Dr. Richard Pithouse, an analyst with close links to AbM since its launch in the early 2000s says murders of AbM activists are a generally unacknowledged problem in South Africa.  Ground Up quotes Pithouse:

It's a problem that is quite unique to that province, so people in Cape Town in Johannesburg don't realise just how bad it is...Death threats and assassinations are a form of social control that is being endorsed at the highest levels of the province's police and government.....Violence and murder was part of the province's political make up during a period of virtual civil war (between IFP and ANC supporters) in the 1980s and early 1990s. With the transition to democracy there was a hope that a democratic dispensation would provide the space needed for a resolution to this violence. It's clear that this has not happened. Corruption, connections to criminal networks and political rivalries continue to result in activists and politicians being killed.

The movement has lost three members in violent deaths in the last year to what they allege are political assassinations.

Abahlali baseMjondolo describes itself as,

...a shack-dwellers' movement in South Africa. The movement grew out of a road blockade organized from the Kennedy Road shack settlement in the city of Durban in March 2005 and now also operates in the cities of Pietermaritzburg and in Cape Town as well as a number of smaller towns in KwaZulu-Natal. It is the largest shack dweller's organization in South Africa but has its strongest base in Durban where it is a real force in the city. The movement has faced serious repression including the destruction of its members homes, arrests, assaults and murder.

AbM has always been a target of some leftists who believe themselves to be the vanguard of the working-class struggle and who tthink the poor must be directed towards the “right politics”. 

The Mercury wrote:

Unlike most leftist organisations and political parties such as the ANC, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the DA, the movement has always been democratic – even while it is still, structurally, hierarchical. All major decisions are always taken back to communities, and final resolutions are ultimately taken in general meetings based on the collective wishes of each branch. This autonomous organising was truly Frantz Fanon’s work in practice. Abahlali has always been and still is a shack dwellers’ organisation, run not by privileged activists or academics but by shack dwellers themselves.

Over the course of the past year, a shift seems to have taken place in the rank and file of the movement in KwaZulu-Natal. Their original critique of the state has shifted to an overarching and focused critique of the ANC....The movement’s hatred for the ANC is unparalleled because the pain of its members at the hands of the ANC is so deep and pervasive.

The organization had until this year remained autonomous of any political parties.  In May 2014, news broke that a radical shack dwellers' movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, had thrown their weight behind the centre-right Democratic Alliance in Kwa Zulu Natal. This was a shock to most in the South African left.  Africa Reports wrote at the time:

Not only was non-participation in elections a defining feature of the movement's ideology, but the organization was portrayed as resolutely left-wing too. In countless academic papers, speeches and press-statements, Abahlali was cast as the organizational heir to the radical humanism of Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko...They were the Zapatistas of Africa, the Paris Commune of Durban. Kennedy Road, their headquarters, was a University of radical, 'living democracy', where every gogo could speak and decide.

The group attempted to explain its move, 

There was a long debate about whether or not we should invite the DA to address us. We all know that they have been illegally evicting our members and other poor people in Cape Town and that, like the ANC, their politic is highly anti-poor. Also, like the ANC, they can't understand that democracy is about more than voting and think that there must always be some other force behind our struggles. They do not understand that poor people think and organize their own struggles. However in the end, and after a long discussion, we decided that while we will ask the DA a long list of questions about their conduct if they do come to our meeting the meeting will be open to all political parties except the ANC because as much as the DA are oppressing our comrades in Cape Town they are not murdering our comrades.

Jared Sacks, although disagreeing to some extent with the decision, on the other hand spoke for many:

As a whole, the South African Left has taken to social media to attack and vilify Abahlali baseMjondolo, condemning them, spreading rumours, and calling the leadership sell-outs.

Few have attempted to see things from the perspective of its members. Most of the people attacking the movement have never lived a day of their life in a shack settlement – yet their self-righteousness is palpable. Under constant threat of death, what would you do? Do any of us really understand how much pain they have endured? 

The following is from Libcom. 

Another Abahlali baseMjondolo comrade has just been assassinated in Durban

Cato Crest residents fight eviction in June 2014
South African shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo have just announced that Thuli Ndlovu, their Chairperson in KwaNdengezi has been assassinated. As the statement below indicates there had been serious threats against another comrade, Ndabo Mzimela, but the hammer of oppression fell elsewhere. The Marikana Land Occupation has been attacked by the ANC since this statement was issued. It seems that the Land Invasions Unit stood back and let the party members do the work. A women who tried to resist was attacked and injured with a spade.
They are using Facebook for live updates.

We Are All Ndabo Mzimela
As everybody knows the struggle in Cato Crest against corruption and for land and housing has been seriously repressed. Last year Thembinkosi Qumbela and Nkululeko Gwala were murdered by the izinkabi and Nqobile Nzuza was killed by the police. Others have been shot and beaten. Some have been beaten in the police station. A number of activists, including those who are not members of Abahlali baseMjondolo and are part of other organisations, like the South African Communist Party (SACP), have had to leave the area. There are regular illegal evictions that are often in violation of court orders and are always in violation of the law. All these actions are carried out with impunity.
Both Qumbela and Gwala were warned to cease their activism before they were killed. They both knew in advance that they would be killed. For this reason we have to take any threat against any comrade very seriously.
In Cato Crest the local structures of the ANC are intertwined with the taxi business and with criminal networks. In Cato Crest corruption runs free and development exists to make the local politicians and their supporters in the Ward Committees and BECs, as well as their families, rich. The struggle of land today it becomes a threat to the politicians when people are homeless and the politicians are busy selling RDP houses to their friends and allocating them to ANC members. The ANC of today is no longer for the people and by the people. They are engrossed by their personal interest. They get in to power to feed themselves and their families. They abandon the poor and make them their audience while eating. Today loyalty to the ANC of Mandela, to the UDF, to the Mpondo Revolt, to the women of Cato Manor, to the ICU and Bambatha requires rebellion against the ANC.
No-one in the ANC has spoken out about the corruption and repression in Cato Crest. The ANC sees Thuli Madonsela as a problem. They see land occupations as a problem. They do not see the assassination of activists as a problem. They do not see corruption as a problem. They do not see a Municipality that tells the landless that they must remain without land, that those in rural areas must remain in rural areas and that those in the Eastern Cape must remain in the Eastern Cape as a problem. Most of civil society and most church leaders and academics are also silent. The only force that we can rely on for sure is our own inkani.
The ANC was very threatened by the road blockades that we organised in protest at repression last year. They were also threatened by the way in which we showed the world that they were acting against the law. They were also threatened by the Marikana Land Occupation and they remain threatened by the way in which the occupation has grown.
Last year S’bu Zikode wrote an article in The Guardian exposing what is happening in Cato Crest. There were also international protests and road blockades across Durban. After this the MEC, Mr. Ravi Pillay, contacted us to begin discussions. The death threats stopped.
Mr. Pillay promised to organise a meeting with the eThekwini Municipality. The last time that we meet with them Nigel Gumede, head of Human Settlements, openly threatened S’bu Zikode with violence. However we agreed to attend the meeting. We organise ourselves to take direct action and to protest but we also organise to negotiate with the state. It is better for the state to have a partnership with the poor rather than big business, the tenderpreneurs and the councillors and their ward committees and BECS.
The meeting was held at the City Hall on 16 September. It was a meeting with the MEC and the ANC of Ward 101 in Cato Crest, SANCO and SACP leadership. As we have explained despite Mr. Pillay’s good intentions that meeting was nothing but an attack on us. The meeting stated it very clear that Ndabo Mzimela and his constituency are disturbing the BEC’s development and taxi business. It was said that our movement is being funded by foreign agencies to cause riots, destabilize the country and undermine the ANC. Ndabo was told to take all his constituency and leave Cato Crest because they do not belong to Cato Crest. One of the taxi men clearly stated that if Ndabo does not back down there will be blood. Nkululeko Gwala was assassinated shortly after similar things were said about him and so we take it very serious when we here these things being said about Ndabo.
After the meeting with the MEC and the local Cato crest ANC leadership at City Hall the situation has never been the same. Further intimidation has been made to Ndabo and he was again warned stop the course that he is coursing in Cato Crest.
During this weekend strange men came to Ndabo’s home three times looking for him. The municipality came twice to check if any new shacks were being built. On the 22 September Ndabo was called to a meeting at the nearest police station by the Station Commander. The police said they were called by their top boss to call for a follow up after receiving a messenger that was saying that Ndabo had been shot by the izinkabi but was still alive despite the shooting. He was warned that the Movement of Abahlali basemjondolo have being declared as Amavukela Mbuso (rebels) and told to back off.
Our Mother Land, Our Democratic country and Our City have turned into a hunting zone whereby leaders who stand against corruption, for the right to land, the right to housing, the right to city and the right to equality are being hunted like animals.
We have taken the slogan from the trade union movement that says an “injury to one is an injury to all” into our movement. This is the foundation of solidarity. Without this we are weak and isolated. All members and supporters of Abahlali baseMjondolo are Ndabo Mkhaliseni Aaron Mzimela. We have twenty three vibrant branches in KwaZulu-Natal. We stand together.
If this democracy is about killing humble leader like Thembinkosi Qumbela, NKululeko Gwala and a school child like Nqobile Nzuza so let it be. We understand that more of us will die in this struggle. We are struggling for our children.
S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo President on 083 547 0474
Zandile Nsibande, Abahlali baseMjondolo Women’s League on 074 7675706
Thembani Ngongoma, Abahlali Spokesperson on 084 6139772
MaMkhize Nxumalo, Abahlali Chairperson on 078 4332719

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