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South Africa: Resolutions from general assembly after wave of serious repression in KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape

Abahlali baseMjondolo held a special general assembly, open to all members and branches in good standing, in Durban on Sunday. The assembly was very well attended and important resolutions were taken.

Submitted to Enough is Enough.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

The general assembly was held to deal with some serious issues confronting the movement. As everybody knows our movement continues to suffer a wave of serious repression in KwaZulu-Natal, and now in the Eastern Cape too. People have been killed in both provinces, threats of various kinds, including death threats, are an everyday bread and a large number of people are sleeping outside their homes, and moving from different place to different place each night. Some people had to move to different provinces for their safety. S’bu Zikode has been completely underground since July. All of this puts a huge strain on our movement, and on the people, families and communities most directly affected by repression.

In June our movement was approached by senior people in intelligence. They said that they had information about a plan in the ANC in Durban to assassinate Zikode. They had incredibly detailed and accurate knowledge about the internal workings of our movement and showed us that knowledge. The accuracy of their knowledge was a new development. Previously when our members have been questioned by intelligence while in police custody we have seen that their views on the movement have taken the form of a few facts scattered into wild stories that are completely and laughably untrue. Usually they are obsessed with inventing theories about external manipulation to explain what is in fact the democratic self-organisation of the oppressed as if it was a conspiracy. It became clear to us that, along with the usual forms of surveillance, intelligence now have access to detailed and accurate information from within our movement.

The intelligence officer who approached us said that the arrest of the eThekwini Mayor, Zandile Gumede, was imminent. He also said that it would not be good for the country’s international reputation if Zikode was assassinated as he was a high-profile figure. He offered to provide security for Zikode via people in the police that he said can be trusted. He asked that Zikode stay in touch with himself and these people in the police at all times so that they could ensure his safety. They also said that Zikode should agree to testify against the Mayor and that he and his family should leave Durban as soon as they could and go into witness protection in Cape Town.

Our analysis of the situation was that there are different factions in the police and in intelligence. Some are loyal to Ramaphosa and some remain loyal to Zuma. Those loyal to Ramaphosa do not want the assassinations to continue while those that are loyal to Zuma and the ANC in Durban are complicit with the murders. However, both factions want to neutralise our movement before the 2019 election. If Zikode agreed to go into witness protection in Cape Town his personal safety would be assured but he would lose his political autonomy and be politically neutralised. For this reason Zikode took a decision to not co-operate with intelligence, or the state, and to instead rely on our own comrades for his safety. He gave up all cellphone access, and contact with his family, and went completely underground.

Before Zikode went underground it started to become clear that our movement had been infiltrated by the ANC. Three people with important positions in our movement began to try and drive an agenda in support of the ANC and the eThekwini Mayor, Zandile Gumede.

None of these people had any popular support for their new positions in the movement but they did have significant bureaucratic authority. They attempted to use that authority to prevent people from making public criticisms of the ANC and the mayor. This was done in a highly public way at our annual UnFreedom Day rally. The same person who tried to stop public criticism of the Mayor at the rally also ordered a choir in one of our land occupations to sing at an ANC event. This group also developed a relationship with the pro-Zuma National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA (Nafupa-SA) and VBS bank. They saw this as a way to translate our growing membership, which is now more than 55 000 people, into personal wealth. They did not make this relationship a secret and vigorously tried to push this agenda.

They had no success with this project. Key decisions in our movement are made in open public assemblies. The people elected to positions in the branches and the provincial and national councils are all aware that they can be recalled from their positions at any time by a popular vote. For these reasons it is not easy for people who have been elected or appointed to positions that carry bureaucratic authority to substitute themselves for democratic processes. Our members were clear that our movement exists to struggle for land and dignity, and is not a vehicle for making business deals with our oppressors.

The attempt on Zikode’s life, and the threats that followed, were made because he was seen as the main obstacle to the attempt to capture our movement by the ANC. In fact this is not true. Elites, whether in the ruling party, NGOs or universities often tend to think that our insistence on our autonomy must really be because some or other individual is telling us what to do. In reality it is the views of our members, and that fact that our movement has remained committed to a democratic form of organising, that has made it impossible for the ANC, or various NGOs, to capture our movement.

There is an intense popular hostility to the ANC in general, and to the eThekwini Mayor and the Durban ANC in particular, in our movement. Not long ago a decision was taken that any member of our movement seen wearing an ANC T-shirt must have their membership withdrawn. This decision came from the members and was very popular. This does not mean that our movement is planning to work with any other political party. We have not met with any other party and have not had any discussion on our position on the 2019 election. It just means that our members take the view that we cannot be complicit with a corrupt and, in Durban, gangsterised and ethnicised organisation, that is oppressing us, attacking us in our settlements and assassinating our leaders.

However, when Zikode went underground the three people who are now in open support of the Mayor and the ANC were emboldened. They moved quickly to try and remove bureaucratic authority from democratic control and to try to use their bureaucratic authority to push an agenda in support of the Mayor and the ANC. But because the movement’s democratic spaces remained large and vibrant, despite the severe repression, these three people had no capacity to shape the political direction of the movement. The political direction continued to be determined in open and democratic assemblies.

As a result the three individuals in open support of the eThekwini Mayor and the Durban ANC avoided open democratic spaces and continued to actively try to centralise some forms of decision making in our office. They were mostly unsuccessful.

However, they did misuse their bureaucratic positions to deny support to the rapid growth of the movement in the Eastern Cape and in Gauteng. In both provinces they tried to parachute in separate pro-ANC individuals to try and undermine elected structures and control the movement in these two provinces. In the Eastern Cape this person supports the mining companies as well as the ANC and is in fact now employed by one of the mining companies. In Gauteng they have tried to insist that branches must get permission from them to occupy land, and to prevent branches from forming their own relationships with progressive lawyers. In Durban they even went so far as to insist that our movement must attend the ANC’s launch of their manifesto for the 2019 elections!

As it became clear that they would not succeed in selling our movement to the ANC they began making arguments about authority that are completely against ubuhlali. For instance, they insisted that because they are older younger people must obey them. They also insisted that because they have been in the movement longer than some others those people who are newer to the movement must obey them. Our movement has always been clear that people in an elected or appointed position must take direction from the members through democratic processes. They are not there to give direction to the members or to take decisions on behalf of the members. That is ANC politics and NGO politics. It is not ubuhlali.

The three individuals who have been captured by the ANC were able to take considerable control over our office, and our official email address. It has always been our practice that when invitations are received for the movement to send a delegate to meet with other movements or organisations that invitation will be discussed in a meeting. If a decision is taken to accept the invitation and to attend the meeting a delegate is selected and mandated, and will then report back when they return from the meeting. This is basic democratic practice. However, this pro-ANC group monopolised the opportunities to represent the movement for themselves. Invitations were no longer referred to meetings and subject to democratic forms of discussion and decision making.

The situation quickly became clear to everyone. It became clear that there had been an infiltration of our movement by the ANC. It became clear that the infiltration was driven by the possibility of personal enrichment, and not ideology. It was also clear that this infiltration was restricted to a tiny number of people, who have some bureaucratic power but no democratic power.

The situation came to the point where it had to be dealt with. The reason for this is that a decision was taken to organise a mass protest against repression on 8 October. This protest will target the eThekwini Mayor. This decision was taken in an open assembly, attended by hundreds of people. However, the three people who have been co-opted by the ANC openly and desperately tried to prevent the march from going ahead. They openly misused their bureaucratic power to frustrate organisation and mobilisation for the march. It was clear to everyone that they were doing this because if the march does go ahead their relationship with the ANC will be at risk and the deals that they have made with the ANC will fall apart.

Provincial structures and more than twenty branches formally raised the matter with the General Secretary. As a result, the movement had to call a general assembly open to all members. When the assembly was announced the three people who have been openly supporting the ANC received some support on Facebook from a former member of our youth structure who, after some time as a supporter of the pro Zuma and pro Gupta front Black First Land First, is now a SASCO (ANC) member at the Durban University of Technology. He no longer represents any constituency in our movement. In typical ANC fashion he said that ‘We can’t be undermined by lumpens’. This is what the ANC thinks of us, and of our right to form our own organisations and to make our decisions about our own lives, communities and struggles. In their view we are ‘lumpens’ who are preventing them from eating.

The assembly was held today. It was open to all members and was very well attended. S’bu Zikode agreed to attend the meeting and made his first public appearance since going underground. This was a very emotional moment for our members.

The General Secretary opened the meeting with Amilcar Cabral’s famous statement: “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.” He also quoted from Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

The matter was discussed and a collective decision taken on the way forward. Although the membership does have the option to recall any person from any elected position the decision that was taken was to immediately dissolve the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Council, and the National Council, and to call a congress and elect a new leadership within 30 days. This was the most democratic way to resolve the situation as it ensures that everyone who holds an elected position in these structures must now seek a new mandate to hold office – including those who have opposed the infiltration by the ANC.

An interim committed was elected and mandated to ensure that this process is undertaken fairly, and that all members and branches in good standing have the same rights to participate freely in the congress. That committee consists of the following people:

Mqapheli Bonono

Thapelo Mohapi

Zanele Mtshali

Nomnikelo Sigenu

S’bu Zikode

There was a small group of people who are not known to us, and who do not hold membership of our membership, who attended the general assembly today. At least four of them were visibly armed.

The attempt by the ANC to capture our movement was decisively defeated today. We are aware that this will raise the risk of further repression even higher and are taking very serious precautions to ensure the safety of our members, and in particular the five elected to the interim structure.

As long as decision making power continues to be held by our members, and to be exercised in democratic spaces, and especially in open and public assemblies, the ANC will not succeed in capturing our movement. The right to recall individuals and to dissolve structures in an open and public assembly will protect our movement form any further attempts at capture by the ANC.

Unlike the ANC our movement is a democratic organisation.

Our movement is not for sale.

The struggle for land and dignity continues.

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