Durban - Shackdweller movement Abahlali Basemjondolo will be taking to the polls for the first time in its nine-year existence, in a bid to topple the ANC.
Speaking at their Unfreedom Day Rally at the Siyanda Informal Settlement in KwaMashu on Monday, president Sbu Zikode announced that the movement would abandon their No Land, No House, No Vote campaign and cast a “strategic vote” in the May 7 elections.
The movement, which boasts a membership of thousands in 84 branches around KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, has previously boycotted elections, saying voting only gave power to those who oppressed them.
However, Zikode now said they would announce which political party they would be voting for by the end of this week. “It is no longer enough to withhold our vote from the ANC, we are now willing to make a tactical vote against the ANC.”
Abahlali last week extended an invitation to all political parties, but the ANC, to address them.
Playing on an ANC catch phrase, Zikode said they had a different story to tell. One in which, after 20 years of democracy, they were still living in shacks, with no electricity, water, sanitation, roads or jobs.
“Do we have a reason to celebrate 20 years of freedom?
“We are being left in poverty on purpose; there is enough money in South Africa. Millions are spent building pools, chicken coops and kraals, yet there are people who do not have toilets,” said Zikode.
He made it clear that the movement was not calling on shack dwellers to become members of the political party they would be encouraged to vote for, but it was rather based on certain conditions.
These included the guarantee to “seriously commit to house all those driven from their houses in Kennedy Road by the ANC in 2009”.
They also called for opposition to evictions and to place the social value of land before the commercial. “This must include a serious commitment to the immediate transfer of the ownership of all occupied land to the occupiers,” he said, calling it a disgrace that black people did not own land in the land of their forefathers.
Zikode said these conditions would be the basis of a legal agreement to be entered into with the political party.
The movement would then hold the party to account should they win and not perform as agreed. He said this was a national initiative, starting in eThekwini. “The ANC must be removed from office; things need to change,” he said.
Under ANC leadership, the lives of the poor had got worse, said former Abahlali president Mzwakhe Mdlalose.
The organisation was born out of the inhumane circumstances under which people lived in informal settlements. “We did not expect things to get worse as they are today. We are living in deep poverty and yet people talk of a good story to tell,” Mdlalose said.
Describing the ANC as capitalists who only left their offices when they wanted people’s votes, he said they had forgotten their promises. “They come to us with TV crews so everyone can see them sitting in your house eating your food that you work so hard for. They give you grants to buy your vote because you are afraid you will starve, but there is no real economic progress.
“Why would you continue to vote historically, continue to vote for the ANC while you are living in a shack and your life will not change?”
Abahlali Women’s League president Zandile Nsibande likened 20 years under ANC rule to being in an abusive relationship or dating someone who had no intention of marriage. “Why would you go back to an abusive man? That is what you are doing by voting for the ANC which does not respect women. If a man does not pay lobola for you after a few years of dating, leave him and find another one who will. Vote for change on May 7,” she said to an amused crowd.