If you are poor and black your life does not count to the government. Your dignity can be vandalised at any time. Your home can be destroyed at any time. You can be humiliated, robbed, assaulted and murdered by the police, the anti-land invasion units, private security or the army.
It is assumed that you are beneath the law, and that law enforcement and the state as a whole are above the law. Unless we go to court the law is not applied to us. We are evicted all the time in violation of the law but there are no consequences for the people who give the orders to attacks us, or the people who carry out those orders. We can be humiliated, robbed, assaulted, tortured and murdered with impunity. If we try to open a case against a police officer or government official at a police station we are most likely to be insulted and chased away. We might also be assaulted.
This reality is our daily bread. This reality is often ignored by the elites. It is taken as something normal.
Just as the video of the police murder of George Floyd shocked the world the video of the eviction of Bulelani Qolani in eThembeni, near Empolweni, in Khayelitsha has shocked South Africa. It spread like a wild fire.
What happened to Bulelani was not just illegal. His humanity was vandalised by the state.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika he said: “"Liphi ilungelo lo mntu omnyama apha eKapa?"
Speaking to GroundUp he said: “I will stay at eThembeni - I need my rights. I want my dignity. Where is my dignity in the City of Cape Town? I want my dignity, I want my house, I want to be safe.”
The politic of dignity has always been a foundation of ubuhlali. The question of dignity is at the centre of our struggle.
We extend our full solidarity to Bulelani. We are deeply saddened by what happened to him. He is always welcome to visit any of our occupations. He has a guarantee that he will be received with respect and dignity. We also extend our full solidarity to all communities under attack by the state across the country.
We are encouraged by the outpouring of grief and anger after people saw the video which shows, so painfully, how the state treats poor black people. We hope that more and more people will start to understand why we need to abolish evictions, decommodify land and affirm the right to the cities. We hope that more and more people in society will start to turn against the state and capital, and start to put human dignity before private property and private profit. Land, cities, wealth and power need to be shared.
However, we are very concerned with the hypocrisy and double standards of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. She issued a press statement saying that she is “appalled by the victimization and abuse of residents of Empolweni in Khayelitsha Cape Town by the Metro police led by City Councillors”. She described the eviction of Bulelani as “barbaric”. She indicated a clear intention to take the side of the residents.
This is what we expect of any progressive government. However, Minister Sisulu is silent when people in Johannesburg and Durban are subject to violent and illegal evictions. She only speaks up when people are evicted under the DA. When people are evicted under the ANC, under her party, she says nothing. Of course, she is not alone in this silence. The National Command Council led by the president of the country has also been silent.
In Durban the eThekwini Municipality has not just been humiliating and evicting people who are already poor and vulnerable. In the eKhenana occupation there was an attempted murder in broad day light. Comrade Yamkela Vezi was shot by Mr Mkhize of the eThekwini Land Invasion Unit shortly after their actions were ruled unlawful in court. Mr Mkhize continues with his daily duties as we speak. We have written to Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda who has not responded to us to date. The City refused to suspend Mr Mkhize because he was acting on their official instruction. Minister Sisulu has never said a word about this. She has never come to Durban to meet the people who have suffered from repeated state violence. She does not even say a word when her ANC comrades are killing people in KwaZulu-Natal.
It cannot be right that an illegal and violent eviction is barbaric in Cape Town but acceptable in Johannesburg and Durban. There is one law. There is one humanity.
We wish to say very clearly to Minister Sisulu that she is a hypocrite, a hypocrite who is playing politics, dirty politics, with people’s lives and dignity.
Every person must be counted as a person and respected as a person. On this point there can be no compromise.
Minister Sisulu’s silence on all the illegal and brutal evictions carried out under the ANC is a disgrace to the long struggle of the oppressed that brought her to power. We are saying that the Minister must stop cheap politicking. She must not only be the Minister of the City of Cape Town. The Minister must be consistent in the pursuit of justice. Abahlali have buried 18 mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, all killed by the state, private security employed by the state or the ANC. The Minister has not said a word about this.
We call on all progressive forces to work together against the twin monsters of the DA and the ANC. They have gone too far.