South Africa: Grassroots activists mourn UnFreedom Day, to mark the hard-fought freedoms still unwon

Friday 26 April , 2013
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA — Press Statement

UnFreedom Day in Durban

UnFreedom Day, 2012, Durban, Azania (South Africa)

UnFreedom Day, 2012, Durban, Azania (South Africa)

Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA, a democratic and membership based organization, has held its UnFreedom Day event in Durban every year since 2006. This year UnFreedom Day will be held in Durban and in Cape Town.

UnFreedom Day will be mourned at the eThekwini College, Springfield (adjacent to the Kennedy Road shack settlement) in Durban on 28 April 2013 and at the Sweet Home Farm Community Hall in Philippi in Cape Town on 27 April 2013. The event will begin at 09:00 in the morning in both cities.

We wish to acknowledge all the sacrifices made by many South Africans in the name of freedom and all of the gains that have been won. We also wish to salute all the international communities who fought hard with us to defeat apartheid. But we are sure that this is not the real freedom that so many people struggled and had suffered for. We do not want in any way to undermine the struggles of the past or the real gains that have been won. But who can say that they are really free when they must live without land, without homes, without jobs and without dignity? Who can say that they are really free when they do not have the right to organise freely and safely? Who can say that they are really free when women are not safe? Who can say that they are really free when they are being forced out of the city and taken to human dumping grounds in the middle of nowhere?

UnFreedom Day, 2012, Durban, Azania (South Africa)

UnFreedom Day, 2012, Durban, Azania (South Africa)

We cannot fool ourselves and pretend as if we are free. We decided long ago that we are no longer going to escort those few rich individuals who are tenderpreneurs, politicians and business people into the stadiums as if they are heroes so that they can sit on stages and tell us to celebrate our freedom. It just makes no sense for us to let these rich people tell us that we are free while we live, suffer, burn and die in the shacks without enough water, without electricity, without road access, without refuse collection, without land and housing and, of course, without dignity. We are very clear that as long as Nigel Gumede and his party remain in power there will only be freedom for the rich. Gumede and his cronies will only save their own comrades and their families.

The eThekwini Municipality claims to be building sixteen thousand houses per year and we discovered that they have only built less than four thousand houses in the last financial year. The city’s backlog of almost half a million houses remains unshaken. And the houses that they do build are tiny, so badly made that they are falling apart before they are even occupied, given only to party members or sold off corruptly and usually built far outside the city.  This Municipality evicts us illegally, tries to ban our protests, protects the gangster politicians, supports repression against our movement, ignores court orders, refuses to act against corruption, forces us into transit camps and leaves us to rot in the shacks.

We would be bluffing the nation if we agreed to go to the stadiums and say that we are free while we suffer police and politician brutality. Why are we told and even educated about our freedom? There are campaigns and expensive adverts on televisions and radios about how free we are. Real freedom would not come only once a year and we will not have to be told about it. Real freedom will be something we feel from inside our hearts each second, each minute, each hour and each day.

Our movement stands for the full restoration of the dignity of all people who live in South Africa. The poor have been left out of this new South Africa. We are a movement of the poor, by the poor and for the poor. The time has come for us to organize to take our place in this country. We are working, from below, towards the realization of a free society in a country where there is Peace, Justice and Equality. It is clear that in order to achieve Peace, Justice and Equality we will have to make sure that Land, Wealth and Power are shared fairly and equally and that no one is allowed to operate as if they are above the law of the land and no one is treated as if they are beneath the law of the land.

It is an urgent priority that all evictions must stop, that people must be allowed to occupy unused land and that the government must act to put the social value of land before its commercial value. We will not see progress in this country until we, as the poor are able to build our political power. We will not be able to build our political power if our struggles are constantly repressed. It is therefore an urgent priority that we must be allowed to organize freely and that repression of our struggles and organizations must stop.

No land, no house, no jobs, no dignity = no real freedom.

Sekwanele! No House! No Land! No Vote! Everyone Counts

For more information contact:

Mazwi Nzimande Abahlali Youth President 076 8433361
Mnikelo Ndabankulu Abahlali Spokesperson 081 2633462
Bandile Mdlalose Abahlali Secretary 071 4242815


Some background on the situation in South Africa, which has only gotten much worse, since it was described by Naomi Klein:

From an article, Democracy Born in Chains: South Africa’s Constricted Freedom,published in Amauta, 15 February 2011

“After more than a decade since South Africa made its decisive turn toward Thatcherism, the results of its experiment in trickledown justice are scandalous:

  • Since 1994, the year the ANC took power, the number of people living on less than $1 a day has doubled, from 2 million to 4 million in 2006.45
  • Between 1991 and 2002, the unemployment rate for black South Africans more than doubled, from 23 percent to 48 percent.46
  • Of South Africa’s 35 million black citizens, only five thousand earn more than $60,000 a year. The number of whites in that income bracket is twenty times higher, and many earn far more than that amount.47
  • The ANC government has built 1.8 million homes, but in the meantime 2 million people have lost their homes.48
  • Close to 1 million people have been evicted from farms in the first decade of democracy.49
  • Such evictions have meant that the number of shack dwellers has grown by 50 percent. In 2006, more than one in four South Africans lived in shacks located in informal shantytowns, many without running water or electricity.50

45. Scott Baldauf, “Class Struggle: South Africa’s New, and Few, Black Rich,” Christian Science Monitor, October 31, 2006; “Human Development Report 2006,” United Nations Development Programme,
46. “South Africa: The Statistics,” Le Monde Diplomatique, September 2006; Michael Wines and Sharon LaFraniere, “Decade of Democracy Fills Gaps in South Africa,” New York Times, April 26, 2004.
47. Simon Robinson, “The New Rand Lords.”
48. Michael Wines, “Shantytown Dwellers in South Africa Protest the Sluggish Pace of Change,” New York Times, December 25, 2005.
49. Mark Wegerif, Bev Russell and Irma Grundling, Summary of Key Findings from the National Evictions Survey(Polokwane, South Africa: Nkuzi Development Association, 2005), 7,
50. Wines, “Shantytown Dwellers in South Africa Protest . . .””

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