On Sunday it will be Freedom Day again. Once again we will be asked to go into stadiums to be told that we are free. Once again we will not be going to the stadiums. We will, for the third time, be mourning UnFreedom Day. Since the last UnFreedom Day we have been beaten, shot at and arrested on false charges by the police; evicted by the land invasions unit; disconnected from electricity by Municipal Security; forcibly removed to rural human dumping grounds by the Municipalities; banned from marching by the eThekwini City Manager; slandered by all those who want followers not comrades; intimidated by all kinds of people who demand the silence of the poor; threatened by new anti-poor laws; burnt in the fires; sick in the dirt and raped in the dark nights looking for a safe place to go the toilet.
We have also opened an office with a library, launched many new branches, opened new crèches, successfully taken Ricky Govender and the eThekwini Municipality to court to stop evictions, taken the province to court to overturn the Slums Act, marched on Glen Nayager and Obed Mlaba, defended all of our members arrested for standing strong in the politics of the poor, organised in support of people struggling elsewhere, received powerful solidarity from other movements and some churches and thought and discussed how to make our own homemade politics, our living politics, into paths out of unfreedom.
It is clear that no one should tell someone else that they are free. Each person must decide for themselves if their life is free. Each community must decide on this matter for themselves. In each community women and men, the young and the old, the people born there and the people born in other places must decide on this matter for themselves.
In our movement we have often said that we are not free because we are forced to live without toilets, electricity, lighting, refuse removal, enough water or proper policing and, therefore, with fires, sickness, violence and rape. We have often said that we are not free because our children are chased out of good schools and because we are being chased out of good areas and therefore away from education, work, clinics, sports fields and libraries. We have often said that we are not free because the politics of the poor is treated like a criminal offence by the Municipalities while real criminals are treated like business partners. We have often said that we are not free because the councillors are treated like the people’s masters instead of their servants. We have often said that we are not free because even many of the people who say that they are for the struggles of the poor refuse to accept that we can think for ourselves.
We have often asked that our settlements be humanized, not destroyed. We have often asked that city planning be democratized. We have often asked for an end to wasting money on stadiums and themeparks and casinos while people don’t have houses. We have often asked that democracy be a bottom up rather than a top down system. We have often asked the Municipalities and the police to obey the law. We have often asked for solidarity in action with our struggles. We have often offered and asked for solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and Haiti and Turkey and in all the places where the poor are under attack.
But freedom is more than all of this. Freedom is a way of living not a list of demands to be met. Delivering houses will do away with the lack of houses but it won’t make us free on its own. Freedom is a way of living where everyone is important and where everyone’s experience and intelligence counts. Every Abahlali baseMjondolo branch and every settlement affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban, Pinetown, Pietermartrizburg and Tongaat has had a meeting to discuss the ways in which they are not free and has written a letter to the whole movement explaining why they are not free. Many new and important issues have been raised. These letters are being collected into a pamphlet that will be distributed and discussed at UnFreedom Day. We invite everyone who wants to think about Freedom and UnFreedom in our country to attend our event.
We welcome the participation of Christian Aid from Wales who have come to learn about our struggle
We welcome the participation of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, our comrades in struggle who are driving all the way from Cape Town to be with us.
We welcome the participation of Bishop Reuben Phillip and the other clergy who have bravely stood with us in difficult times.
At this time we express our solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe suffering terrible oppression in their own country and terrible xenophobia in South Africa. We also express our solidarity with the people battling eviction in Joe Slovo and Delft in Cape Town and the whole Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign as well as the Landless Peoples’ Movement and all organisations, big and small, standing up for the right to the city, the humanisation of the rural areas and for justice for the poor across the country. We also express our solidarity with the 1 500 people left homeless in the Jadhu Place settlement on Sunday morning after another of the fires that terrorize our people. We condemn the attempts of the City & the Province to misuse this fire, as the flood in the Ash Road settlement in Pietermaritzburg was recently misused, to advance their shack ’elimination’ agenda. We will resist this. We will resist all attempts to turn settled communities into transit camps.
We salute the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and Bishop Reuben Philip for their active solidarity with the Zimbabwean people. We call on others to follow their example. We call on all clergy to stand with the poor. We call on the South African Municipal Workers’ Union to refuse to carry out any instructions to evict the poor from the cities. We call on the Police and Prison’s Civil Rights Union to refuse to carry out any orders to assault and arrest the poor for exercising their democratic rights to protest. Solidarity in action is our only hope.
No Land! No House! No Vote! Land & Housing in the Cities! Bottom Up Democracy not Top Down Rule by Councilors!
*For information or comment please contact: Mr Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Abahlali baseMjondolo Spokesperson, 0797450653 or Ms Zodwa Nsibande, Abahlali baseMjondolo Organiser, 0828302707. You can also visit http://abahlali.org