Wikileaks Garbage Targets South African Government's Housing Policy

The text of a cable from the U.S. Embassy to Washington on January 8, 2010, according to WikiLeaks:

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. What began as a Durban road blockade in 2005 has become a shack-dwellers movement in South Africa.

Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM, which means 'those who live in the shacks' in Zulu) now includes thousands of shack-dwellers from more than 30 informal settlements throughout the country. AbM has garnered international support and has won legal battles against the African National Congress's (ANC) attempts at forced removal. While the ANC claims to be making efforts to clean up slums and provide the poor with adequate housing, AbM leadership claims intimidation and anti-democratic tactics are used against its members by the ruling party. AbM represents a true test of democratic governance for the ANC. END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) Kennedy Road (KR) is a shack settlement located next to Durban's largest dumpsite, southwest of central Durban.

Homeless individuals began living in KR in the late 1970s. As the number of residents grew, local government attempted to force people out of KR but was unsuccessful. By the late 1980s, the City of Durban ended its eviction efforts. However, in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, the local ANC government began its own eviction campaign. KR now has approximately 10, 000 residents, who live in squalor. A lack of electricity, potable water, and toilets has resulted in daily fires, open sewers, and rat infestations, according to local media.

Birth of a Movement

3. (SBU) In 1999, residents of KR formed the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) as a way to petition local authorities for basic utilities in their settlement while they awaited permanent housing. S'busiso Zikode was elected chairperson, and under his leadership, KR was able to secure interim services from the city of Durban, said Zikode to Pol/Econ officer during a two-hour December 3, 2009 meeting.

Encouraged by municipal promises of permanent housing and better living conditions and hoping to increase his credibility and influence with city lawmakers, Zikode joined the ANC in 2000.

By 2004, however, KR residents had not yet seen any movement on their promised housing. Zikode also claims he began to feel pressure from the Durban municipality to avoid discussing housing and service delivery issues during KRDC meetings.

Zikode withdrew from the ANC, and he along with other KR residents declared that 2005 would be a 'year of action.'

4. (SBU) On March 19, 2005, KR residents protested the demolition and sale of a tract of land that had been promised to the residents of KR by the Durban municipality as a new housing site, said Zikode. The protest drew over 800 participants, including residents from other informal settlements, who blockaded a major Durban road for several hours. The protesters were ultimately dispersed by police dogs, and 14 people were arrested, according to local media.

Subsequent to the protest, residents from KR and 13 other informal settlements formed Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM). In September 2008, AbM joined the Landless People's Movement, the Rural Network, and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign to form The Poor People's Alliance, the largest shack-dwellers organization in South Africa.

AbM Philosophy and Demands

5. (SBU) Zikode emphasizes that AbM is a 'radical poor people's movement that is democratic. Our movement is a homemade politics that everyone can understand and find a home in.' The politics of AbM are conducted 'by the poor, for the poor, and where the poor people live,' said Zikode. AbM shuns top-down 'self-enriching,' 'professional' politics and refuses representational roles, personal power, and financial reward.

'Such a top-down system has terrorized our society. In fact, it is an insult to assume that poor people cannot think for themselves, that someone else must talk for them without their concern. Our demands are simple: land and homes in the cities where we live,' said Zikode. And while AbM members wait for the local government to act, they demand water, electricity, and basic sanitation facilities.

Shack Dwellers Movement Flexes its Muscle

6. (SBU) In 2007, the KZN Legislature passed the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination & Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act. The act was controversial because it gave the provincial MEC (Member of Executive Committee, like a 'provincial minister) for Housing authority to forcibly remove residents from informal settlements. AbM contested the act in the KZN High Court, arguing that it was repressive, anti-poor, and unconstitutional.

AbM also argued that rather than evict slum residents, KZN was mandated to deal with the lack of inadequate housing in the province. AbM lost in the KZN High Court but on October 14, 2009, the South African Constitutional Court ruled that the act was unconstitutional. This was a great blow to the ANC and municipalities in other provinces that had hoped to pass similar acts, Imraan Buccus - who teaches politics at the University of KZN - told Pol/Econ Officer on November 22, 2009.

Intimidation and Oppression

7. (SBU) AbM members have endured harassment from the state in the form of unwarranted arrests, and repeated and severe police violence in people's homes, in the streets and in detention, according to Zikode. On a number of occasions the police have used live ammunition, armored vehicles and helicopters in their attacks on unarmed shack dwellers, according to local media.

AbM has filed numerous police brutality and wrongful arrest charges against the police, to no avail. To date, not one of the AbM members who was arrested has ever been convicted of an offence, according to Zikode.

The Kennedy Road Attack

8. (SBU) On September 26, 2009, 40 local tavern owners disrupted a AbM youth camp, demanding that the youth join them in a protest against AbM, said Secretary of AbM Youth League Zodwa Nsibande to Pol/Econ officer on December 3. The tavern owners gathered outside AbM's office and called for Zikode and Nsibande to come out, accusing them of being Xhosa-speaking meddlers intent on ruling the lives of Zulus living in KR, said Zikode. Nsibande and Zikode hid from the tavern owners, but the mob ransacked and demolished AbM's office, Zikode's home and those of several other AbM members in the presence of the police, said Nsibande and Zikode. The attacks continued through September 28, and five people were killed, reported local media.

Thirteen AbM members were subsequently held without bail or charges until early December when eight were released. In the aftermath, ANC Ward Councilor Yakoob Baig reported to local media that 'harmony has been restored now that the Abahlali criminals are gone.'

9. (SBU) Nsibande and Zikode claim that the September 26 KR attack was 'planned by the ANC at the very highest political level.' According to Zikode, the ANC retaliated against AbM because the party was incensed that 'a group of dirty shack dwellers would dare to expose the ANC's corruption' and challenge them in the highest courts of the land. 'Although we have won some important battles against the ANC, we are now paying for those victories with our lives. Thousands of us no longer have homes, and many of us live in fear in our own country. I am a refugee in my own country, in my own city,' declared Zikode to Pol/Econ Officer.

10. (SBU) KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison

DURBAN 00000003 003.2 OF 005

Willies Mchunu denied in an October 20 op-ed piece that the ANC was behind the September 26 KR attack. Mchunu argued that the attack on AbM members was the result of an illegal curfew imposed on KR residents by an illegal safety and security forum formed by AbM. Zikode acknowledges the formation of the forum, but insists that the curfew was a 12a.m. sales curfew imposed on illegal taverns selling liquor 24 hours a day. Also, Zikode points out that the forum was formed with the consent of the local police commissioner and therefore was empowered to impose such a curfew. Mchunu has since placed under investigation the police commissioner who authorized the forum. He declared the forum a 'vigilante group that must be dissolved.' Mchunu also placed KR under a 24-hour police watch and promised improved lighting and that a new housing project for 600 households would begin in January 2010.

NOTE: Wikileaks is considered by many political analysts to be a CIA funded operation to seed disinformation shaped to disrupt stable societies targeted by globalist interests. The above document may or may not be true. The Architect Africa Editorial Board believes that the intent of this "leak" is highly questionable as it completely distorts the truth pertaining to the South African government's (ANC) commitment to solving the housing needs of the country and completely misrepresents the indigenous politics particular to the case in question.