Freedom News

South Africa’s Human Rights Day remains uncelebrated by the poor

Freedom continues its coverage of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a South African movement of shack dwellers who organise land occupations and communes. As South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day on March 21st, the movement responds to the failures of the ANC (African National Congress):

The poor and marginalised have not seen any gains in almost 30 years of democracy. The poor remain poor, and unemployment, poverty and inequality are worse today than at the end of apartheid. Many more people live in shacks than in 1994.

Those who live in shack settlements continue to be denied access to basic services such as water and sanitation. Violent evictions continue. Those in the rural areas continue to walk long distances to the nearest health facilities. Those who live on farms continue to be abused by farmers who see them as less than human.

For almost thirty years, we have been treated as human waste rather than as human beings. As long as our dignity and our existence as humans are not recognised, we will not celebrate Human Rights Day. As long as rights on paper do not mean rights in reality, we will not celebrate. Instead, we are mourning the betrayal of democracy by the ANC, a democracy that so many ordinary people fought so hard for.

The ANC is a corrupt government with immoral leaders who have no integrity. They came to power claiming to represent the people but have made themselves the enemy of the people. They have vandalised our humanity.

The ruling party will be using this holiday, which is held on the anniversary of the massacres in Sharpeville and Langa in 1960, for its own electioneering. It will do so despite the fact that it perpetrated its own massacre in Marikana in 2012, even though it has never acted to stop the assassinations of grassroots activists. It will do so, although the people of Sharpeville and Langa continue to live under inhuman conditions, like so many other poor people across the country. 

The rights to equality, dignity and justice – as well as the more concrete rights to land and housing – have not been realised because the ANC is led by people who do not care about society. They continue to steal from the poor and deprive us of even basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, and refuse collection. They continue denying us access to land, a fair share of the country’s wealth, and the right to participate in all relevant discussions and decision making. Thirty years of rule by the ANC has been thirty years of shame.

When we organise to build our power from below to struggle for justice, we are met with repression, including assault, arrest, imprisonment and assassination. Even our most basic rights to political freedom are denied under the ANC. For us, the rights and freedoms on paper do not exist in reality. Repression ensures that we remain oppressed.

For this reason, it is essential to use our collective vote to remove the ANC from power and to give a clear lesson to all politicians in all parties that if they disrespect the people and repress their struggles, they will also be removed. We know that there is no socialist or even progressive party on the ballot and that we cannot vote for freedom and justice in this election. Factions of the elite fund all the political parties, and not one of them is on the side of the people. Not one of them is a mass democratic formation. We know very well that whatever coalition of parties rules us after the election, we will have to keep struggling against them from the day they form a new government.

However, we can vote against repression, against the political party that has murdered our comrades and the government that has allowed it to happen and often acted in support of repression. We will be using our collective vote as the poor to remove the ANC. 

Outside of the electoral process we will be organising to keep building our collective democratic power from below and using it to advance towards a more just society.

Land & Dignity!

Image: Richard2704 / Abahlali Assembly, Foreman Road Settlement / Public domain

Discover more from Freedom News

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading