South African general elections are nearing and one of the major social movements for human rights, Abahlali baseMjondolo say this year’s vote will be determined by who really is for the people. Speaking to the Daily Vox in an interview, the provincial chairperson Mqapheli Bonono says “our people are tired of being used as elevators for politicians to go on business sprees on uMhlanga while the poor face poverty and repression.”
In May this year, South Africa will hold its sixth national elections since the end of apartheid.
There’s not much optimism about the 2019 elections amongst Abahlali baseMjondolo, a civic organisation advocating for the rights of poor people.
“As we speak, they are out and about flocking the whole of the province, trying to convince our people otherwise. Their strategy has always been to divide the people when they can’t infiltrate the movement,” says Bonono.
He also said that this was the time where people in various informal settlements would see certain politicians coming out in numbers, trying to provide services they have failed to provide for years now in order to gain votes.
“Our people have lost their lives trying to defend their right to live, and the same politicians and councilors who were involved and claimed not to know them are the same people who are now frequenting these areas canvassing for votes,” he said.
In an interview with the Daily Vox in October 2018, the movement”s president S’bu Zikode reiterated that organisation was a civic movement and have no interest in participating in any political position. The point was reiterated by Bonono, who maintains that Abahlali will not be contesting the elections.
“We have had individuals and organisations reaching out to us for our vote, but we are not gullible because we know that politicians are the same. Yes, we will vote individually, and our people will vote but we will urge them to vote wisely, their vote must count for something. Those who want our votes will have to show us what best interest they have at heart for the people.”
“What’s the point of voting for someone who will come back and kill you once elections are over?” Bonono asked.
The movement with more than 60,000 members across the country says poor people have been failed by the government for the past 24 years, with many empty promises made.
“They will be going around making more promises to our people, but they have failed to fulfil them in the last 24 years since democracy. The sad thing is that they don’t only play with people’s minds, but they also create divisions,” Bonono says.
In eThekwini, Abahlali baseMjondolo have been expressing dissatisfaction over the ruling party over the years. Many informal settlements within the metro have suffered continued intimidation, evictions and lack of service delivery. This has seen shack dwellers’ movement holding the party to account for the poor’s plight, including numerous death incidents of activists.
Over the years, Abahlali baseMjondolo have raised concerns over many of their members who are being killed, and say the bane continues. With the movement’s president having had to be in hiding numerous times following alleged threats against him by ANC councillors, the organisation says some of their members are still targets.
“Although the president is back, he still has to be guarded by security personnel because his life is not out of danger. Individuals have been singled out and targeted for not allowing councillors to ‘eat well’.”
“It came to our attention that some threats were made by politicians posing as police,” Bonono said.
Meanwhile political parties are gearing up for the election which is set to take place in a few months from now, Abahlali says all people want is proper housing policies and transparency.
“We also want them to clearly communicate with our people, let them talk for themselves and hear them out. We can’t just have certain government departments delivering service that is not a priority to us. It’s important to ask people what their needs are, so that if it’s water then they bring water and not toilets. We want basic needs with water being one major need.”
“People must be included in discussions of service delivery, we want transparency not empty promises,” Bonono said.
The movement has expressed concerns over division it says is being fuelled by political parties who are targeting individuals and giving them contractual jobs, so as to disrupt the organisation.
“They have started giving people a 6-month jobs just to distract them. That’s their strategy of getting votes and this is creating divisions between the people. But we will soldier on,” Bonono said.