[DEBATE] : No Democracy in Durban
Pithouser at ukzn.ac.za
Sun Feb 12 20:03:20 GMT 2006
** High Priority **
Durban City Manager Mike Sutcliffe appears to have (illegally and unconstitutionally) banned Abahlali baseMjondolo from marching in Durban with no consequence. It appears that, with the noble exception of the FXI, no one in any elite public thinks that this ban is a fact worth remarking on. Sutcliffe is allowed to speak about our wonderful democracy, and his wonderful self, and about how fabulous it is to spend millions of public money on casinos, stadia and sports events without any kind of challenge.
But despite Sutcliffe's political thuggery, and their complete disinterest in that attack on democracy, the media have been giving Abahlali lots of space recently. Tonight S'bu Zikode was supposed to reprepresent Abahlali on Asikhulume. He was formally invited, in writing, and asked to bring 60 supporters. The same invitation was extended to Mayor Obed Mlaba and representatives from the IFP and NADECO. The programme was to be broadcast live from Cato Manor community hall.
The Abahlali delegation arrived in good time in their red shirts. ANC heavies were at both doors and they simply refused to let anyone in a red shirt enter the building. Even Zikode, invited panellist, was prevented from entering. The police were at both entrances and actively endorsed what the ANC goons were doing. The other three panelists were allowed in, people in ANC t-shirts were waved through and a few IFP people were let in. NADECO people were also excluded (although their speaker was allowed in). The significance of this is that the politics that developed from the Cato Manor road blockade (just after the Kennedy Road blockade last year) developed in a different direction to that of Abahlali. The leader, Thembinkosi (I don't know his surname) spent 6 months in Westville prison, refused a bribe of a house and car and R40 000 to stop the rebellion there and then, finally, turned to NADECO as a way of opposing the ANC. However they have made it clear that NADECO was just a route to express opposition and that they are looking for a more militant political home.
The 60 Abahalali people protested outside the hall. The police were quite aggressive and brought out the tear gas etc. But the show went on air with one of its 4 invited panelists prevented from entering the building. After a while the police allowed S'bu to come to the front. He showed his written invitation and politely asked to be let in. He was then assaulted by the police - hit with batons and punched. The protests intensified and people managed to get through to the glass doors and start banging. At that point they had to let S'bu in. Just like the cops had to release Stanely Naicker during the UKZN strike. One other person, Colin, slipped in as the door was opened but although there were empty chairs at the back no other Abahlali people were let in. People looking through the side windows said that Obed's smug expression faltered a little as S'bu strode into the hall and was given the microphone. He was able to speak for about 3 minutes and then there was a torrential cloud burst that put the programme off air.
The 60 Abahlali people then went to Independent Newspapers to tell their story. Councillor Robert Mdetse from eMandeni went with them to confirm what happened as an independent witness. No one was particularly interested. At one point I (the only white person) was told (by black people) that I would be the only person allowed in to the building. But eventually we got S'bu and Mnikelo in to tell the story and, after a lot more dancing and singing, we eventually got a photographer to come out and take a picture.
There is only democracy in Durban for as long as dissent poses no challenge to power. The second that there is a realy challenge political thugs like Sutcliffe and Mlaba use the tactics of Botha and Mugabe to try and crush it. This is the reality that we need to face up to if we are going to be effective agents of progressive of change. People who deny this reality are with dangerously stupid or dangerously ignorant.
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