From the squatter camps of South Africa

On November 6th: From the squatter camps & shanty towns of South Africa – a rare opportunity to hear first-hand from a black South African grassroots activist, about their daily struggles to sustain a basic existence in the face of state oppression and corporate greed.

Lindela Figlan is a prominent member of Abhlali baseMjondolo (AbM), the Shack Dwellers Movement, that originated largely in the shanty towns and squatter camps on the outskirts of Durban in South Africa around 2005, but is spreading further afield. AbM were invited to send a speaker over for the London Anarchist Bookfair on 27 October. Via a loose network of anarchist bookfair collectives & social centres, a whirlwind 20 day tour was put together, taking Lindela around the UK, and to Bristol on Tuesday 6th November.

Bristol Indymedia & Permanent Culture Now presents: Abahlali baseMjondolo
At the Cube Cinema, 4 Princess Row, Kingsdown, Bristol BS2 8NQ
Tuesday November 6th 8pm sharp. Entry £3/£4 (But nobody turned away due to lack of funds).

Typical AbM flyer

Lindela Figlan of AbM will speak about his experiences, ways of organising and other community based issues. In terms of people mobilised, AbM is the largest militant poor organisation in post-apartheid South Africa. Social movements like AbM, the Landless People’s Movement in Johannesburg and the Anti-eviction Campaign in Cape Town, linking up to form the Poor Peoples Alliance, pose serious challenges to the ruling party, the ANC, because of their refusal to vote (wikipedia). Prominent activists such as Lindela have been targetted by state-sponsored thugs, who often exploit old tribal rivalries and their own political connections to attack activists and burn down their homes.

AbM’s ‘red shirts’ march in 2010

AbM’s key demand is ‘Land & Housing in the City’, or ‘No Land No House No Vote’, and since 2006 along with its allies has refused to vote in any state-run elections. It has also successfully politicised and fought to end forced removals of squatters and evictions of whole shack-dweller settlements, and for access to education and the provision of water, electricity, sanitation, health care and refuse removal. AbM has shown it will fight in the courts, and in the streets, to get justice and to win its demands. AbM also champions bottom up popular democracy, with  decisions made in mass meetings by the community, and any elected reps serving only for short periods of time. Recently AbM have voiced support for the wildcat strikes across South Africa’s mining industries, which has seen dozens of miners gunned down, and thousands sacked.

Nearly two decades on from the end of apartheid rule, little has changed for the vast majority of South Africa’s black and coloured people as power and wealth remains in the hands of a tiny minority. Whilst the ANC & COSATU leaders have proved that power does corrupt absolutely, the people they once claimed to represent are finding new avenues of organisation & struggle but are simultaneously being criminalised for doing so.

More info:
Short intro to Abahlali baseMjondolo with links
Excellent 30 minutes doc film about AbM by Jenny Morgan (on YouTube)
Article worth reading about the conflict with the ANC/SACP