Land Occupation by Abahlali Good Hope takes a political turn

Leader claims that the problem is that politicians see Abahlali as political which it is not, they do not understand them. “Members join voluntarily and the movement has no political affiliation.”

Abahlali baseMjondolo’s Nomnikelo Sigenu says that the land occupation of Zikode Extension on the border of Germiston and Boksburg in Ekurhuleni has turned political, alleging that members of the ruling party are waging war against them. 

Sigenu said six members of Abahlali had received death threats, adding that unknown men were seen walking around the informal settlement asking for the whereabouts of certain leaders. 

In a statement released by Abahlali on Saturday, Sigenu alleged that ANC members were threatening them. 

MMC for Housing, Lesiba Mpya would not be drawn for comment on the allegations of threats from ANC members, saying he knew nothing about this.

“We try by all means to stay away from political agendas, we are a government of everyone regardless of political affiliation… Once it takes a political turn, we maintain that we are a government of the people by the people,” Mpya said. 

“The problem is that politicians see Abahlali as political which it is not, they do not understand them. Our members join voluntarily and the movement has no political affiliation,”says SIgenu.

Her eyes are red. Sigenu says they slept in Zikode Extension the night before (Sunday). Their shacks were demolished, and their building material set alight on Saturday at the unused land they have occupied and named after Abahlali president, S’bu Zikode. 

Just a week ago, eKukhanyeni chairperson S’fiso Ngcobo was assassinated by unknown men outside Durban. He was involved in the occupation in the area formerly known as eMasenseni in Marianhill, Durban.

Another Abahlali member, Ndumiso Mnguni was hospitalised and left in a critical condition after he was allegedly shot by the Anti-Land Invasion Unit at the Foreman Road settlement in Clare Estate.

Deputy Secretary of Good Hope’s Abahlali branch Siyambusa Mpolase was arrested and charged with public violence and malicious damage to property after several hours. He was released after appearing at the Germiston Magistrate’s Court last week. He alleged to have been badly beaten by police. 

Despite this, Sigenu says she is not scared and there is no turning back at this point. 

“I also have to push and look forward because at the end of the day, we are not fighting with the ANC, we are fighting with those who have not provided for our needs,” she said. 

Sigenu says as a result of Abahlali’s occupation of Zikode Extension, Good Hope settlement was excluded from the city’s budget speech which was delivered on May 24.

However, Mpya assured New Frame that there was a budget for Good Hope, but not for Zikode Extension which he said does not exist. 

He said they had set aside a budget for 780 units for Good Hope settlement, adding that it would be phased in between the 2018/2019 financial year.

He said Abahlali leadership did not turn up on Monday morning for a round table discussion on the way forward. 

“This is a grouping that is mobilising on the wrong sentiments. They are mobilising knowing that some won’t qualify. For instance, some have qualified before and received houses but they want to get their portions of land so they can rent it out,” he said, adding that some members of Abahlali are not South African citizens. 

Sigenu denied both allegations.

Sigenu told New Frame that the EMPD fired rubber bullets at community members on Monday morning after the Abahlali leadership did not meet with the MMC. 

Abahlali members blocked roads in protest against the illegal evictions and police violence, said Sigenu.

“Some of our leadership were at work, some were in meetings. When we asked (EMPD) to engage with the community, they said they only wanted to talk to Abahlali leadership or they would fire rubber bullets,” she alleges.

Sigenu says members retaliated by throwing stones back at the police.

The number of those injured could not be immediately confirmed. 

Lower Germiston Road was littered with bricks and remnants of burnt tyres. None of the traffic lights were operating down the main road.

Sigenu said they would continue to occupy the land until they met with the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura.

Abahlali’s Good Hope branch has occupied Zikode Extension for 18 days. 

Since their occupation in early May, they have been plagued by a heavy police presence, rubber bullet shots, tear gas, illegal evictions and demolitions. 

On Thursday Abahlali brought an urgent High Court interdict to stop the police from unlawfully evicting 50 families without a court order. 

It was dismissed by the South Gauteng High Court because the matter was not considered urgent.

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