Freedom News

Celebrating victory and justice for South Africa’s Abahlali baseMjondolo

Freedom continues its coverage of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a South African movement of shack dwellers who organise land occupations and communes:

In 2019 the Abahlali baseMjondolo branch in Vusimuzi, Gauteng, resisted an imposed reblocking project by the Ekurhuleni Municipality. During the community resistance all lies and threats against Abahlali activists were masterminded by the local ANC ward councillor, Hendrick Selwana.

Despite the attacks perpetrated by the councillor against Abahlali the project was halted. The halt to the project provided Abahlali with the opportunity to negotiate the sizes of the stands as many residents were complaining about the municipality unilaterally reducing their yard sizes, often making their homes much smaller in the process. Some were facing eviction and denied access to electricity connections as a form of punishment because they were members of Abahlali.

During the resistance people were divided by the ward councillor as some were promised benefits from the forced reblocking project and told that those who were opposing the project were in the way of their personal benefits. As a result some people opposing forced development imposed above and demanding participatory development were assaulted, including our branch chairperson Comrade Melita Ngcobo

Although Melita was the victim of assault, our fearless Melita was arrested on the 20 November 2019 and charged with assault. As we know trumped up charges do not stand in courts. The state should have learnt this by now. But we also know that strong women leaders like Melita, Maphiwe Gasela, the late Nokuthula Mabaso and many others are a big threat to the corrupt system. Melita was never intimidated. She continued her leadership until the City compromised on the reblocking.

On the 9th February 2021 Abahlali launched a civil claim for damages against the Minister of Police. The damages claims were for wrongful arrest of Comrade Melita, for her assault at the hands of the police and for being refused medical attention while in custody.

On Thursday 30th February, the Rabasotho Magistrate’s Court found that indeed Melita was wrongfully arrested and that the state violated her rights. Abahlali welcomes the judgement and hopes that it will send a clear message to gangster politicians like Councillor Selwana who use state power to suppress popular movements.

We also wish to extend our gratitude to the Socio Economic Rights Institute of South Africa for representing us with honour. Their commitment to social justice is fundamental to the advancement of the rights of the poor.

Land & Dignity!

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