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18 years of Abahlali baseMjondolo

Freedom continues its coverage of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a South African movement of shack dwellers who organise land occupations and communes. Abahlali Youth League issued this statement:

Youth paving the path to a just and equal society for all humankind

The 4th of October marks the day of the establishment of the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, AbM in short. In 2005, the movement was established because the impoverished, the marginalised and the shack dwellers of South Africa were continuously rejected or left out by the system that had promised to be democratic and free to every citizen of South Africa.

The movement was formed in the Kennedy Road settlement and other settlements in Ward 25 in Durban by young people tired of the inhumane conditions they had to go through every day, faced evictions, and were deprived of their rights to political freedom. Since the movement’s establishment, 25 lives have been lost during the struggle for land, housing and dignity. Amongst the 25, there are young people who were determined to change the oppression faced by the shack dwellers. As the Youth League of the movement, we continue to salute and honour every soul who dedicated their lives to struggling for an equal society in which the dignity of all people is respected. 

In 2008, the Youth League and Women’s League were formed to give the youth and women their space within the wider movement and build the next layers of leadership. The Youth League has been committed to organising and agitating the youth. For the Youth League, the marking of 18 years since the movement’s founding means a journey that has been severely brutal, a journey that has left bruises, a journey that has cost lives and resulted in imprisonment. This journey has created anger but also a journey of learning, celebrations, solidarity and most of all, a journey of dignity and unity. The movement has created a space of belonging and meaning for young people who are otherwise denied a place in an oppressive society, a space where we can be together, learn together and advance and be respected within the movement and our communities. 

One of the achievements for the people was the defeat of the Slums Act of 2007, which was reminiscent of apartheid policies and seen by many as an attack on the poor. It was judged unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of South Africa on the 14th of October 2009.

Through the movement, new land has been opened for the poor through occupations, services have been won for shack settlements, and there have been almost no evictions in settlements affiliated with the movement due to resistance against evictions in the streets, occupations and the courts. Through the movement, the impoverished are given attention simply because we have insisted that all people matter regardless of our living conditions. We have opposed xenophobia and insisted on the equality of women.

As young people of the movement, we will continue to struggle for decent jobs, land, free quality education and health care, service delivery, inclusive economic distribution and more, and for our voice to be recognised and heard in all discussions and negotiations. Thus, we say NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US.

The Youth League continues to stand with our hero Lindokuhle Mnguni, who fearlessly said, “Socialism or death, the struggle continues”, and his commitment to building radically democratic socialism from below in a set of linked communes that together make a movement that is part of a world-wide movement of movements.

We know that as the movement grows stronger, the ANC government and its allies will form ties to demolish it. The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, has failed the young people of the movement and continues doing so because there are many cases of assaults, assassinations, evictions and violence that have been reported but have never been investigated. Kanti kuyoze kubenini? [Zulu: and how long will it take?] 

The shootings and continuous bogus charges against us are evidence that the change that the AbM is trying to build is not what the ANC wants. Our leaders are continuously being threatened and have been fearing for their lives every day for the past 18 years just because they want equality amongst the people, they want justice for all, and they want to create progressive movement to movement international relations. 

As young people, we have realised that even the education we are being taught doesn’t suit our needs as the people of the grassroots but serves the needs of the capitalists and the bourgeois system, as well as the propaganda of the ANC. Hence, we demand a democratic education that greets all learners and students as full human beings.

As the movement, we believe in popular education, which will benefit the people; hence, we have our own education programmes within the movement, including at the Frantz Fanon School in Durban. We have also sent our comrades to the political schools that promote popular education in other countries, such as the ENFF school of the MST in Brazil, the Amilcar Cabral school in Ghana and many other schools which continue to shape our leaders.  

We say no to regressive politics that create greed, patriarchy, broken families, and vulnerability to oppression. We say no to regressive politics that fight the spirit of ubuntu and the unity of the organised masses. This includes xenophobia, ethnic politics and patriarchy. As the movement, we are against gender-based violence, violence against minorities, gangster politics and all forms of violence within society, including crime and murder. The movement provides a safe space for all the victims. We have many workshops that deal with every social ill accordingly. The movement has gone a long way, and as young people, we will continue to fight for what belongs to us and all people living here in South Africa. We will continue to pave the way for a just and equal future for future generations.

One major crisis the youth faces is that we have been hit very hard by the unemployment crisis. We have many unemployed graduates. We need an economy that works for all, an economy where land, wealth and power are fairly shared. 

The Youth League appreciates all the national and international movements, other organisations, parties and friends who continue to stay in solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo. The solidarity we have received has made us even stronger, and we always try to be in solidarity with all struggles for human dignity to be recognised. In doing so, we will remain a people’s movement.

As a movement that is growing rapidly through the people’s struggles, we will continue to be comrades, militants and leaders of the socialist revolution, a revolution from below.





Land & Dignity!

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