Sbu Zikode addressed hundreds of delegates, saying this was not the year for cowards.
He said it was clear that the land would not be given to them, but instead they must take it.
“This is the year to be brave. It cannot be business as usual when we do not have places to live, when we are unemployed and when we are made to be poor. Our country is rich and yet our money is taken out of our country through corruption,” he said.
He said the main reason why shack dwellers were poor was because of corruption.
Zikode lashed out at the leadership of the province, in particular eThekwini mayor Zanele Gumede, for failing Abahlali.
“Elections are coming up in 2019. Very soon the same people like the mayor, who had approached us with many promises in the previous elections, are going to want to become our friends again.
“This time we are not going to fall for their empty promises,” he said.
He said the organisation had taken a decision to fight for the things they want and demand things like electricity and water and sanitation.
“We are not going to be given the land. We are not going to get water and electricity.
“We are going to take the land and we are going to demand services.”
He said they were now confident of the power they had built as a movement and gained the power they needed to fight back. “We have taken a decision to shut our door on politicians. We are united by the fact that we are poor and we are not about to give away this power to politicians with empty promises. Where were these politicians when shacks were demolished in Durban? When we were left homeless. The same politicians were silent,” he said.
Members who packed the Surat Hindu Association Hall cheered Zikode’s address.
“We have been betrayed many times before and we are not about to fall into the same trap again.”
He said they continued to expand the movement across the country and build alliances.
Mthunzi Gumede, the mayor’s spokesperson, said every political party had the freedom to campaign freely.
He said while the mayor’s office was open to constructive criticism, he assured people that the mayor was working around the clock to deliver on promises made during their election campaigns, including those made to Abahlali.
“All promises made will be delivered and that goal has not changed,” he claimed.
Gumede urged citizens to participate in the budget hearing processes for an opportunity to voice their grievances.