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#Abahlali: Statement on the South African elections

South Africa: Abahlali baseMjondolo decided for “a tactical use of the vote” during the upcoming elections. “We have discussed what it means to vote but still remain impoverished. What it means to vote but remain landless and homeless. What it means to vote but to be denied basic services…” The movement is still commited to the struggle on the ground: ” We understand very well that parliament is only one terrain of struggle, and that our power comes from below, from the struggle waged from the occupations and in the streets.” Altough we do not even see parliament as “only one terrain of struggle” and we do not believe in the typical western parlamentary democracy model, we decided to publish the following statement of Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Submitted to Enough 14.

Abahlali baseMjondolo press briefing on the 2019 General Election

Today we held a press conference in Durban to announce our position on the election. This statement was given to the journalists present.

Last year our membership audit in KwaZulu-Natal exceeded 55 000 members in good standing. Our movement has continued to grow since then, in KwaZulu-Natal, and elsewhere in the country.

Since 2013 the ANC in KwaZulu Natal has regularly assassinated our leaders. As S’bu Zikode said in his Unfreedom Day speech voting for the ANC is like digging our own grave.

Even now, just a few days before the election, the ANC continues to attack impoverished black people in Durban. This is done in the name of the ‘new dawn’ and ‘growing South Africa together’. The Azania land occupation in Ward 29 in Mayville has come under serious attack from the local state. A total of 76 homes were demolished and burnt down by the Anti Land Invasion Unit on Sunday. At the same time the very people are promised a better life and asked to vote are rendered homeless by violent state acting outside the law.

A vote for the ANC is a vote for the izinkabi, for the gangster councillors, for the Anti-Land Invasion Unit and the casspirs. A vote for the ANC is a vote for violent dispossession, violent repression and death. A vote for the ANC is a vote for corruption. A vote for the ANC is a vote for capitalism, for land to be allocated on the basis of money rather than need.

We have had series of serious discussions about this general election. Over many meetings held over a number of months, including large assemblies, and an all-night camp, and including all structures of our movement in KwaZulu-Natal, the KwaZulu-Natal section of the movement has come to a consensus about our strategy for this election.

We have discussed what it means to vote but still remain impoverished. What it means to vote but remain landless and homeless. What it means to vote but to be denied basic services that our constitutional democracy and international laws and standards have promised us. And we have discussed what it means to vote but get killed by the very same people you have voted into power.

We have learnt that we live in the most economically productive history of our time. A time where there is more wealth than ever before. This is a time where there is enough food, clothing and educational resources for everyone, where there should be decent housing, and safe and inclusive cities for everyone. There is enough wealth for everyone to have access to excellent schools and hospitals. There is also enough land for everyone if no one takes too much for themselves, and if land is allocated according to a social logic rather than a capitalistic logic. However the rich continue to take most of the land, and to capture most of the wealth, leaving billions of people impoverished across the world.

We have discussed how the current economic system creates poverty, inequality, landlessness and unemployment amid abundance. We also know that the promises that are being made for the election are mostly lies that cannot or will not be fulfilled. This is simply because our economy remains in the hands of the few elites, black and white.

We have listened carefully to all the political parties that have been brave to engage with us. We realised that almost all of them are the same. All they want is an opportunity to eat for themselves. In other words they think it is just their turn to eat for us and on our behalf. Many of them want to turn neighbour against neighbour in order to divide the oppressed and sustain the power of our oppressors. We cannot accept this.

We were agreed that we wanted to vote for a party of the left – a party that was committed to sharing land and wealth equally. We were also agreed that we wanted to vote for a party that would build solidarity among the oppressed in struggle and refuse the politic that turns neighbour against neighbour.

We have decided to make a collective tactical vote for the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, a newly formed workers’ party with a base in the trade union movement. The SRWP has called on all working class people, employed or unemployed, to join forces and destroy the exploitative class system that is monster capitalism and build a society free of oppression and economic exploitation where power will rest in the hands of the majority. They have called for socialism. This call resonates with our daily struggle hence we have decided to support them in this election. This party has made no empty promise to us. They have been open about the fact that not all power resides in parliament and they have committed to struggle with us outside of parliament. They have committed that elected leaders that do not serve the people well will be able to be recalled. They have engaged us with respect and committed to treat us with respect and dignity.

However Abahlali will not take membership of the party or join the party. We will keep our autonomy separate from the decision making structures of the party. We do, though, hope that we can build and sustain unity in struggle between all the progressive forces among the working class, including precariously employed, unemployed and impoverished people.

We have always been a movement of the left. We have always opposed capitalism and we have always been committed to participatory democracy as a means of struggle and as a goal of struggle. We are committed to democratic worker control in the workplace, and democratic community control in communities.

We understand very well that parliament is only one terrain of struggle, and that our power comes from below, from the struggle waged from the occupations and in the streets.

However, our oppressors have mobilised constant violence against us, including armed, violent and illegal evictions and disconnections, as well as the use of lethal force during evictions and protests, and targeted assassinations of our leaders. It is, therefore, vital that we contest the authority of our oppressors on every terrain of struggle, and that we use all means at our disposal to remove those who have murdered and assassinated so many of us from access to state power. This includes collective decisions about tactical use of the vote.

Therefore, we will vote against the ANC and for the SRWP on Wednesday, and, at the same time, continue to build our power from below, and to work to build unity in struggle with all progressive forces.

We also wish to state that this was a collective decision taken at the Abahlali General Assembly in Durban and not by other provinces where there are branches of Abahlali. It is therefore a decision by and from the membership in KwaZulu-Natal. However the leadership of Abahlali will continue to engage these provinces as well as we work towards building the movement and establishing elected provincial councils across the country.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, May 7, 2019


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2 thoughts on “#Abahlali: Statement on the South African elections

  1. Sad that this formerly radical organisation, which in the past opposed voting, now believes that „parliament is … one terrain of struggle“, when others are more clearly opposed to the con of elections. For instance, on 6th May, in the North West region, an electoral officer’s car and empty ballot box were torched (https://allafrica.com/stories/201905070138.html) and in Mpumalanga service delivery riots forced the closure of voting stations (https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/south-africa/2019-05-07-riots-mar-special-elections/). In Gauteng a guy who’s refused to vote since 2009 said „The only difference I’ll be making in their lives is for them to go and stay in Dubai.“ (https://www.iol.co.za/the-star/news/angry-joburg-resident-reveals-why-he-has-not-voted-since-2009-22835761). If Abahlali baseMjondolo had anything radical left about them they’d at least oppose elections. And what does „we will … continue to…work to build unity in struggle with all progressive forces“ if this means voting for the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, yet another Leninist racket ? Progress down a blind alley.

    Can’t see the point in publishing this crap.

  2. Just to note this expression of opposition to the elections, showing once again the rearguard nature of Abahlali – in the Northern Cape region of SA there were further clashes around the election on 8th May – „While a majority of residents motioned towards the humble voting station, other disgruntled community clashed with police and electoral officials. Reports of voter intimidation summoned a strong police contingent to the local voting station. Protesters, unwilling to back down, pelted police officers with stones, who, in turn, opened fire with rubber bullets. Although the protesters dispersed, protracted running battles severely disrupted voting….Disgruntled residents claim that they are unwilling to partake in governmental operations, citing inadequate service delivery as the main source of their discontentment. According to some protesters, government had failed to improve their community since the first democratic elections in 1994.“ (here: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/holpan-protests-ruin-election-day-8-may-2019/ )

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