a friend currently spreading her wonder- and mindful being in cape town sent me the hint to engage with the work the dedicated people of abahlali do some days ago. check out the homepage of this movement of shackdwellers, situated in durban. i want to quote a part of their statement on the issue of xenophobic violence in south africa, as to me these words are encouraging:
There is only one human race.
Our struggle and every real struggle is to put the human being at the centre of society, starting with the worst off.
An action can be illegal. A person cannot be illegal. A person is a person where ever they may find themselves.
If you live in a settlement you are from that settlement and you are a neighbour and a comrade in that settlement.
We condemn the attacks, the beatings, rape and murder, in Johannesburg on people born in other countries. We will fight left and right to ensure that this does not happen here in KwaZulu-Natal.
We have been warning for years that the anger of the poor can go in many directions. That warning, like our warnings about the rats and the fires and the lack of toilets, the human dumping grounds called relocation sites, the new concentration camps called transit camps and corrupt, cruel, violent and racist police, has gone unheeded.
Let us be clear. Neither poverty nor oppression justify one poor person turning on another. A poor man who turns on his wife or a poor family that turn on their neighbours must be opposed, stopped and brought to justice. But the reason why this happens in Alex and not Sandton is because people in Alex are suffering and scared for the future of their lives. They are living under the kind of stress that can damage a person. The perpetrators of these attacks must be held responsible but the people who have crowded the poor onto tiny bits of land, threatened their hold on that land with evictions and forced removals, treated them all like criminals, exploited them, repressed their struggles, pushed up the price of food and built too few houses, that are too small and too far away and then corruptly sold them must also be held responsible.
read the full text online and engage in the discourse they initiate and foster, with subversive actions like the introduction and the mourning of UNFREEDOM DAY as well as with political pamphlets. i’ll leave you with some lines i consider true and important:
We hear that the political analysts are saying that the poor must be educated about xenophobia. Always the solution is to ‘educate the poor’. When we get cholera we must be educated about washing our hands when in fact we need clear water. When we get burnt we must be educated about fire when in fact we need electricity. This is just a way of blaming the poor for our suffering. We want land and housing in the cities, we want to go to university, we want water and electricity – we don’t want to be educated to be good at surviving poverty on our own. The solution is not to educate the poor about xenophobia. The solution is to give the poor what they need to survive so that it becomes easier to be welcoming and generous. The solution is to stop the xenophobia at all levels of our society. Arrest the poor man who has become a murderer. But also arrest the corrupt policeman and the corrupt officials in Home Affairs.
(who ever waited with a person for their papers at home affairs, cnr plein/harrison, knows what this last line indicates)
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land
will again experience the oppression of one by another.
unfortunately updated May 2008.