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Abahlali baseMjondolo: Mcdonald’s is dumping rubbish in our community

Abahlali baseMjondolo: Mcdonald’s is dumping rubbish in our community

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

The Lindokuhle Mnguni Occupation is now one year old. The land was occupied in early February last year. Most of the comrades who first occupied the land rented in Extension Five of the Good Hope shack settlement in Germiston, nearby; they could no longer afford to rent and did not believe land should be bought, sold, or rented. Also, the Good Hope settlement is between a busy road, a mine dump and a scrapyard and the dust from the mine dump and the scrapyard is toxic. The dust is making people sick. Shacks have been built there without any community planning, and it is massively and dangerously overcrowded, with all the shacks on top of each other. Living there is very stressful.

Other comrades have come from places like Soweto, Rosherville, Tembisa, Vosloorus, Katlehong, the Johannesburg CBD and the Germiston CBD. There are comrades from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, other provinces, and Swaziland, Mozambique, and Malawi. 

The Lindokuhle Mnguni Occupation in Rosherville, Johannesburg, organised strikes on Monday and Wednesday last week. On Monday, South Rand Road was blockaded the whole day, from 3:00 am to 4:00 pm. On Wednesday it was blockaded from 5:00 am till 12:30 am.

The police were not violent to the protestors, but some taxi drivers did assault comrades on the blockade.

We decided to find land where we could live well and safely and build a community. Dignity, community and homes all require land, so occupying land is always the first step towards freedom. We prayed together, asking God to show us the land we needed to go to, where we could fight for our freedom, and then we occupied together. Now, we are working from this land with comrades across the country, Africa and the world to build a free, democratic and socialist society. Comrades from movements in countries like Swaziland and Argentina have visited the occupation to share ideas and experiences.

We chose the land we have occupied because it is not far from where we used to stay, because it is close to where we work and because it is a beautiful and peaceful place full of trees. Although there is a mine dump on one side, it is covered with trees and other plants, so there is not much dust. The land is close to industrial areas, and people living here are mostly working piece jobs or selling vegetables, fruit and amagwinya nearby. However, some children attend school in Ekurhuleni, so we need scholar transport.

We named the occupation after Lindokuhle Mnguni, the leader of the eKhenana Commune in Durban, who was assassinated on 20 August 2022. Lindo had a vision of freedom for the oppressed, led the building of the eKhenana Commune and died fighting for poor people, for the forgotten people of this country, and for people who are not even recognised as human beings. His spirit is always with us. 

The Eskom Rotek Industries head office is about 200 meters from the occupation, but we do not have any electricity. We use wood fires to cook. We do have one person’s connection for water, but the water comes very slowly, and residents of Elandspark keep sending Rand Water to disconnect us.

There are no political parties here. Our occupation is democratic, and our elected council meets on Saturdays, and on Sunday, all residents are invited to a big meeting, an assembly.

There is no private land ownership here, and renting is not allowed. Shebeens and drug selling are also not allowed. Women led the decision to not allow shebeens as they are associated with rape, violence against women and robberies.

There are 150 homes in the occupation. There are several small gardens growing crops like spinach and mielies. We are doing careful grassroots urban planning and have included open spaces and streets. We have measured out spaces for building, including future projects such as a community garden and poultry project, creche, workshop, community hall and political school. This land will not get overcrowded like Good Hope. It will be carefully planned and well managed like the eKhenana Commune.

Our occupation is a democratic occupation that is moving towards becoming a commune.

We are facing several serious problems, though.

The first serious problem is evictions. The City of Johannesburg has come to evict three times. They didn’t talk to us the first time they came to evict us. They came with metro police and red ants (private security). The metro police turned down their name tags. The red ants destroyed the homes on one side of the occupation. After the homes were demolished, they destroyed the building materials. They destroyed many things in the homes and stole money, blankets and a phone. They stole our collective community money as well as money from individual comrades. We rebuilt.

The second time they came to evict us, they demolished every shack. Again, we rebuilt.

The third time they came to evict, they engaged us. This time, they destroyed 13 incomplete shacks. 

Another very serious problem is that rich people from Elandspark, building contractors, and businesses, especially fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and KFC, are dumping their rubbish here on a huge scale. The building contractors dump rubble and broken glass here, which is dangerous to our children. McDonald’s dumps here every Monday and Friday. Dumpers have threatened to shoot us when we tell them not to dump here.

They often dump building rubble on the road into the occupation, and we have to continually work to keep the road open. We hired a grader to clear the building rubble, but the guy took our money and ran away.

It is very painful that all these people and businesses dump rubbish in our community. There are dumps where rubbish should be taken, and one is not far away, but they just continue to dump their rubbish in our community. We do not count as human beings to them. We do not count as human beings to the municipality, which leaves the rubbish here and does not stop the dumping. We are staying here with small children, and everyone can see that, and yet they continue to dump. It is clear that we are seen as rubbish, that our community is seen as rubbish and that our struggle to free ourselves by building a commune on this land is seen as rubbish.

Another issue is that the zama zamas (informal miners) came to the occupation and offered money to be able to take the land to rent and sell it. They also dug holes, blasted rocks and threatened us. In Durban, our comrades have been assassinated because local gangsterised ANC structures try to take over occupied land to rent and sell it. It is possible that there could be problems with the zama zamas in the future.

There was also a problem with establishing whether or not the Ekhuruleni or Johannesburg municipalities are responsible for providing services to the land we are living on. For almost a year, we got contradictory information. In December, the ward councillor Faeeza Chame, who is a DA councillor, told us that the land we have occupied belongs to Ekhuruleni. We went to city planning in Johannesburg and Ekhuruleni and confirmed that the land belongs to the City of Johannesburg. On Monday, after the first day of the strike, the councillor agreed that we belong in Johannesburg, so this issue has been resolved.

We made the following demands during the two strikes:

• The land must be left under the democratic and collective management of the residents. There must be no more evictions.

• The municipality must provide electricity, water, sanitation and waste collection.

• We need scholar transport for our children to travel to and from schools

• The massive amount of rubbish dumped on the land must be removed, and the dumping must be stopped.

• We need to be given an address to apply for grants, jobs and schools and register to vote.

• There must be an accessible voting station

On the second day of the strike, Nokuthula Xaba from the Premier’s Office came. She is deployed in Ekurhuleni and said that she would refer us to the right person in the Johannesburg Municipality. The ward councillor, Faeeza Chame, refused to come. 

We are going to continue the strikes until our demands are met. We are not going to stop the struggle.

When we came to this land, it was bush. We opened the land. We brought Ubuntu. We are no longer renting, and we live peacefully here. We can live in socialism here, like in the eKhenana Commune. 

Land & Dignity!

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