The rise of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a militant non-aligned shack dwellers movement in KwaZulu-Natal province, is being met with increasing hostility by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government. The movement has been at the forefront of frequent service delivery protests. In the first quarter of 2010, there were 54 such protests throughout South Africa, compared with 105 protests in the whole of 2009.
Most service delivery protests are seen as spontaneous expressions of dissatisfaction, which sometimes degenerate into acts of arson and public violence, but Abahlali baseMjondolo has become organized and claims a membership of more than 20,000 people across 25 informal settlements in and around Durban, KwaZulu-Natal’s largest city.
The president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, Sbu Zikode, 37, who now lives in hiding with his family, told IRIN that the movement was formed for the purpose of working with the government and local authorities to improve the lives of shack-dwellers, but the response has been far from cordial.
Critics have accused Abahlali Basemjondolo of being a Third Force, agent provocateurs and counter-revolutionaries. In September 2009, an office of Abahlali baseMjondolo was attacked and two of its members were killed. The incident garnered national and international condemnation.
“Those in power are blind to our suffering because they don’t understand what it is like to live in a shack. They must come with us while we look for work; they must chase away the rats and keep the children from knocking over the candles,” Zikode said.
”Those in power are blind to our suffering because they don’t understand what it is like to live in a shack”
“They must care for the sick when there are long queues for the tap; they must be there when we bury our children who have died in shack fires, or from diarrhoea, or AIDS.”
Abahlali baseMjondolo has said it will stage protests to demand housing for the poor during the soccer World Cup finals, which take place in South Africa in June 2010. It has also started a campaign to boycott the 2011 municipal elections with the slogan: “No Land, No House, No Vote”.
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Source: IRIN, 21 Apr 2010