Via Richard Pithouse:
If you have not heard Abahlali baseMjondolo, the shack dwellers movement of which I spoke often at Crotoff, has been attacked in the Kennedy Road settlement by an armed mob chanting ethnic slogans and backed, fully, by the ANC. Many were beaten and two were killed. As the community defended itself spontaneously two of the attackers were also killed - with their own weapons. The police refused to intervene and then arrested eight of the local Abahlali leaders in the settlement on murder charges. Most of these who were arrested were in fact at a dance performance in another part of the city at the time. The others, including S'bu Zikode who some of you know something about, had their homes destroyed and had to flee the settlement. ANC politicians and the police were present while the houses were destroyed.
The settlement is now controlled by an armed pro ANC group who have the full backing of the police and the party. Abahlali are banned from the settlement, which they were elected to lead, on the pain of death. At least a thousand people have fled and many are sleeping rough.
This will all be terribly familiar to those of you who know something about the struggles of popular movements in places like Brazil, Mexico or Nigeria. For us this is very familiar from the 1980s when the apartheid state employed these tactics but none of us expected to see this in South Africa after apartheid. It came out of the blue. We are totally shocked and really don't have the resources to deal with it - we are struggling with basic things like accommodation and food for the displaced. We are also struggling with the organised propoganda from the state. The media has been told that the settlement has been 'liberated from criminals'. The ANC are openly celebrating the 'liberation' of Kennedy Road and are threatening to arrest S'bu Zikode too. They are calling the movement 'criminals' and, at the same time, saying that the human rights entrenched in the post-apartheid order are giving criminals a free ride and that police need to be given permission to shoot to kill. Our criminals are your terrorists - people who are defined as being outside of the protection given to those that count.
Please have a look at the Abahlali website - http:/www.abahlali.org - and share the information there widely. There is a particularly strong statement from Bishop Phillip - who struggled with Steven Biko and who has, in the face of this attack, decided to cross the river into open opposition to the state once more.