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South Africa, Abahlali: On Monday we march in #Durban in support of land occupation from below

South Africa. Abahlali will march to the Durban City Hall to submit our proposals on the Amendment Bill.

Submitted to Enough 14.

The Parliament of the Republic of South Africa has called on all South Africans to comment on the Amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. This follows a heated national debate on “expropriation of land without compensation”. A lot has been said by political parties and politicians on this important issue. We know that the land that is often talked about is commercial land used for business purposes, for private profit rather than public good. And we also know that a new programme of land reform driven by the elite, from above, will not benefit impoverished people.

We do not believe that land should be turned into private property and be bought and sold. We believe that land is a gift, that needs to be shared, worked, lived on and managed in common. We have always taken the position that the social value of land must be considered before its commercial value. We have also always insisted on the full and equal inclusion of women in the land question. Women have been side-lined over the decades when it comes to the distribution and management of land, including land under traditional authority in rural areas.

Since the end of apartheid politicians have been asking us to trust them now because land reform will come in the future. However not only do they not say how land will be allocated and managed if this reform ever really happens, they also repress ongoing struggles from below to access land.

Since the foundation of our movement land expropriation from below has been our key strategy for accessing the land. We have successfully occupied vacant and unused land to build our homes, as well as creches, halls, churches and community gardens. Today thousands of us have a place called home, and live in settled communities close to work and schools, because of our land occupation’s organised from below.

We currently have branches in five provinces. The current membership is at 75 023 people in 77 branches. Around 90% of our membership lives on occupied land. The same politicians who say that we must trust them now because they will ‘deliver’ land from above in the future have brutally repressed the ongoing struggle for land from below. In KwaZulu-Natal we have lost the lives of eighteen comrades in this struggle. They have been murdered by the izinkabi, the police, municipal security and the anti-land invasion unit. Apartheid might be over in law but, in reality, impoverished black people continue to live in a society in which the price for land is paid in blood. Women and men have lost their lives in the struggle for land. Children have been left without breadwinners, and left motherless and fatherless.

We have had series of long and careful discussions at our branches, at our monthly General Assemblies, and in community meetings, about Abahlali’s take on the land question. Through this process we have formulated a collection response to the “Expropriation Bill”.

We have decided to responded to the call to submit our proposal to the “Expropriation Bill”. Abahlali refused to leave this important task to individuals to do the online submission on behalf of the movement. Abahlali resolved that we are going to submit our proposals in the Abahlali way – together. This will be a way that will allow all our members and comrades from the Coalition of the Poor, and other progressive formations to actively participate. We will submit our proposal in a form of a protest march.

We have asked the Chairperson of the Ad hoc Committee on the Amendment Bill Dr Mathole Motshekga to come to Durban to receive our submission in person. We want to make sure that our voice is clear and loud. We do this because we have paid a high price for occupying land to build homes for our children. We want to make sure that land is not taken from white elites and given to black elites and that ordinary people remain landless and with no access to economic opportunities, as it stands today.

The land discussion and submission take place at a very difficult time in our movement when the eThekwini municipality is attacking and destroying people’s homes in occupations across the city. As always, all these evictions are violent and unlawful. This makes us deeply suspicious about the claims that the government makes about its intensions to restore the land to the people. If the state is serious about land reform they must first give us collective ownership of the land that we have occupied over the years. There must also be an immediate end to the ongoing vicious evictions in Durban, and the forced and often violent reblocking of our settlements particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Hence, we call for the expropriation of land from below. Our detailed statement on our position, worked out in numerous meetings involving thousands of people, will be issued to the media at the march.

The march will be held on Monday, 24 February. It will start at King Dinuzulu Park at 10:00am and proceed to the Durban City Hall.

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