Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release
Unfreedom Day March – 27 April 2012
Friday is freedom day. This means that the time for annual lies to our democracy has come. The time to pretend that democracy and freedom came to everyone in 1994 has come. The time to escort tender entrepreneurs, their families and friends to the big stadiums has come. The time for the rich and powerful to take their platforms in those stadiums to tell the shack dwellers and other poor people that we are all free has come.
But winter is also here and once again the poor are burning. Kennedy Road has burnt. Jadhu Place has burnt. There will be many more fires before winter has passed. What kind of government leaves people to burn year after year? What kind of government rushes to tell the media, year after year, that fires are caused by ‘illegal electricity connections’ when we all know that it is candles and paraffin stoves that cause most fires? What kind of government wants to blame the poor for their suffering? What kind of government tries to depoliticise poverty by treating the poor as ignorant and criminal when in fact our problem is that we are oppressed?
We understand that it would take even the most progressive government a long time to build houses with all the people and for all the people. But there are so many things that could easily be done right now to stop or reduce fires.
There could be lots of taps and fire extinguishers in every settlement. People could get fire proof building materials. The City could stop sending in the police to disconnect people. Shack dwellers could be provided with legal electricity. Roads could be built for fire engines. We are left to burn because we don’t count to this government as anything other than voters and people to full stadiums on days like Freedom Day.
Some people are saying that we must be ‘educated’ to understand the struggle so that we will not embarrass the politicians by mourning ‘UnFreedom Day’ every year. We understand the struggle very well. It was our struggle too. But we also understand that no human being is supposed to live in fire and so it cannot be denied that we remain oppressed.
Abahlali will therefore still remain celebrating this day as an UnFreedom Day till there is real freedom for every man, woman and child. Freedom means that everyone must be safe. It means that everyone must have a good place to live.
It means that everyone must be able to have a decent job or a guaranteed income. It means that the land must be shared fairly. It means that everyone must be able to get good education and travel on affordable and safe transport.
It means that everyone must be able to speak and to organize freely. Fire, rape, evictions, disconnection, exclusions, repression and hunger are all enemies of freedom. What freedom we do have, including the freedom that we have created for ourselves, is continually under attack. How can anyone say that this a free country when activists have been openly chased from their homes, and had their homes destroyed, without the state taking any action to stop this or to investigate this?
We cannot afford to be excluded, oppressed, attacked and burnt in our shack for
364 days a year and then just accept to be told that we are free on Freedom Day. We believe that we should feel freedom for ourselves rather being educated and told that we are free. We would be bluffing the nation and the world if we were to celebrate anything while our children are burnt in shack fires, beaten by big rats, living without electricity, living without adequate water and sanitation, without road access and without refuse collection. We cannot claim any freedom when organised crime and organized corruption in governance continue to ruin our society without any action being taken against those who are carrying out these crimes that keep us in the shacks. Over the years we have made many calls to law investigation and enforcement agencies to investigate some of the crimes of corruption.
Abahlali baseMjondolo will be collaborating with other community organizations, groups and individual activists in Durban, Howick and other surrounding areas in the province of Kwa Zulu-Natal to stage a march demanding Real Freedom for everyone. These community organisations include organisations that represent shack dwellers, flat dwellers, street traders, subsistence fisher folk, small farmers, rate payers, climate justice activists and the Right 2 Know campaign.
Our demands include land and housing in our cities, an end to evictions and transit camps, the provision of basic services to all shack dwellers, serious action to address the crisis of shack fires, an end to repression and respect and dignity for the poor. Abahlali still stands by its position that Nigel Gumede is a disgrace to our democracy and that he must go if the city is serious about democracy and about housing Durban’s poor.
The march participants will be gathering at King DinuZulu Park (Botha Park) from 8:30 am at the corner of Dr. Pixley Ka Seme Street (West) and Anton Lembede Street (Smith) and the march will finish off at the Durban City Hall by
12 pm. The Memorandum will be handed over to the City Manager Mr S’bu.
Sithole, a representative from the Premier’s office and a representative from Eskom.
For enquires call:
S’bu. Zikode 083 547 0474
Bandile Mdlalose 071 424 2815
Zodwa Nsibande 071 183 4388
Mnikelo Ndabankulu 081 263 3462