Solidarity with shack dwellers in South Africa
Following the announcement of the 21 day lockdown (27 March - 16 April) in South Africa, a clear order was given by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services stating that all evictions would be suspended for this period. Social movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, alongside 27 social justice movements wrote to the government, securing this moratorium on evictions. However, on 27, 29, 31 March and 2 April 2020, the shack dwellers' movement reported several illegal evictions undertaken by a private security firm on behalf of the eThekwini Municipality. These agents of the state used live ammunition in the presence of children and the elderly, destroyed people’s homes, broke building materials and burned them with petrol. Several people were seriously injured and hospitalized.
By carrying out evictions during the national lockdown period, the eThekwini Municipality is acting against the national directives and precautionary measures the South African government put in place. We condemn these ongoing evictions in the strongest terms. In addition to being violent, these evictions are also illegal as they have been carried out without a court order. We demand the national government to hold the eThekwini Municipality accountable for failure to follow the legal directions of the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the national directives and precautionary measures. We amplify Abahlali baseMjondolo’s demand for the immediate provision of water, sanitation and food relief for all those starving during this period in all settlements. The leaders of Abahlali must be granted permits to enable them to assist on the ground where they are needed. If the South African government is serious about stopping the spread of COVID-19 and fighting this virus, it will urgently follow up and act on these demands!
Deploying apartheid-style tactics such as these are an ongoing crime against landless people, at a time where states throughout the world have banned evictions in enforcing health regulations to slow the spread of Covid-19. Abahlali baseMjondolo has called for unity during this global pandemic. The social movement issued a statement at the start of the lockdown pledging solidarity with healthcare workers and indicating its willingness to work with the government to ensure the safety of shack dwellers and all people living in South Africa. Abahlali’s demands from government are:
All evictions must be stopped with immediate effect.
All disconnections from self-organised access to water, electricity and sanitation
must be stopped with immediate effect.
All shack settlements must be included in municipal refuse removal programmes with immediate effect.
All workers, including domestic workers, who are not required to be on the frontlines of working against the pandemic must be given paid leave until the crisis has passed. Workers who are on the front line of working against the pandemic must be given all possible forms of protection and care.
A guaranteed income must be made available to all people who are not able to earn an income during this period of crisis.
Steps must be taken to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient healthy food including the provision of free food parcels. Subsidies and price caps must be put in place on all basic food items. The measures that have been put in place against hoarding and profiteering must be strictly enforced.
Water and sanitation must be provided to all shack settlements as an urgent priority.
Sanitiser and all other medically required equipment must be made available to all at no cost.
All residents of shack settlements who test positive for the virus must be givensafe and dignified accommodation in which they can self-isolate. Where necessary appropriate buildings can be requisitioned for this purpose.
Scientifically based information about the virus, and how to protect people fromit, must be shared in all languages, in a way that is accessible and understandable to all, and is based on the understanding that millions of people live in shacks, that others are detained in prisons and migrant detention centres, and that millions of people will starve if they cannot continue to earn an income.
Payment must be suspended on all loans.
Free data must be made available to all by the cell phone companies so that people can stay in touch with family, friends, neighbours, hospitals and comrades.
All people detained by the state for non-criminal acts, such as beingundocumented, occupying land, participating in arranging self-organised connections to water, electricity and sanitation, and so on, must be released with immediate effect.
All hospitals and all other health facilities must be available to all people living in South Africa, including undocumented migrants, with immediate effect.
There must be free testing and treatment for all.
Shack dwellers remain subject to some of the harshest realities due to their precarious living conditions. With an audited membership of over 70 000 people, Abahlali baseMjondolo is a leading social movement in organizing and uniting people in the struggle against the capitalist system which systematically exploits and disenfranchises landless and homeless people.
We, the undersigned, stand in resolute solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo and all people throughout the world experiencing evictions and other forms of injustice during this time.
As people’s movements and organisations throughout South Africa, Africa and the world we call on an immediate stop to all evictions!
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa - NUMSA (South Africa)
Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party - SRWP (South Africa)
Socialist Forum of Ghana - SFG (Ghana)
Socialist Party of Zambia - SP (Zambia)
Frente Popular Darío Santillán - Popular Front Darío Santillán (Argentina)
Ciudad en Movimento - City in Movement (Colombia)
Movimento de Pobladoras y Pobladoras - Movement of Urban Dwellers (Venezuela)
Movimento Africano para os jovens da Guinea Bissau - African Movement for Young
People (Guinea Bissau)
World March of Women (Kenya)
Code Pink (United States)
Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Religion (United States)
Popular Education Project (United States)
Put People First! PA (United States)
Socialist Platform of Zimbabwe - SPZ (Zimbabwe)
United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe - UFAWUZ (Zimbabwe)
ALBA Movimientos - Social Movements towards ALBA - (South America: Continental
Social and Political Coordination Marcha Patriótica - Patriotic March (Colombia)
Congreso de los Pueblos - People's Congress (Colombia)
Comité de Unidad Campesina - Committee for Peasant Unity (Guatemala)
Movimiento de Pobladoras y Pobladores - Settlers Movement (Venezuela)
Corriente Revolucionaria Bolivar y Zamora - Boliviar a Zamora Revolutionary Current
OLP Resistir y Lucha - People's Free Movements Reist and Fight (Argentina)
Resumen Latinoamericano (Argentina)
Movimiento Popular La Dignidad - People's Movement, Dignity (Argentina)
FRENADESO - National Front for Défense (Panama)
Francisco de Miranda Front - FFM (Venezuela)
The Rodriguan Independence Movement (Rodrigues)
The Rodrigues Government Employees Association (Rodrigues)
The Rodrigues Workers Federation (Rodrigues)
The Rodrigues Private and Allied Industries Workers Union (Rodrigues)
Mazdoor Kisan Party (Pakistan)
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (South Africa)
Wentworth Development Forum (South Africa)
Merebank Ratepayers (South Africa)
Residents Association (South Africa)
Clairwoord Ratepayers and Residents Association (South Africa)
Isipingo Environmental Association (South Africa)
Poor Flatdwellers Associated (South Africa)
KZN Subsistence Fisherfolks (South Africa)
Democtratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - DFLP (Palestine)
United Textile Union of Lesotho - UNITE (Lesotho)
Friends of the Congo (United States/DRC)
Tanzania Socialists Forum (Tanzania)
Organisation of Communist Union of Tunisian Youth (Tunisia)
ATTAC Hungary Association (Hungary)
Karl Marx Society (Hungary)
Marea Blanca (Catalonia)
Workers Party of Bangladesh (Bangladesh)
Professor Firoze Manji
Professor Steven Friedman
Professor Michael Neocosmos
Professor Marie Huchzermeyer
Professor Raj Patel
Professor Tshepo Madlingozi
Professor Nigel Gibson