Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape chairman, Siyamboleka James File picture: Jason Boud

Cape Town -

A row has blown up over DA claims that Western Cape members of the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo endorsed the party before last week’s elections.

Siyamboleka James, the movement’s provincial chairman, was angered by the Western Cape DA’s announcement in a widely reported press statement on the eve of elections that Abahlali supported the party.

The claims, said James, were consistent with “electioneering strategies to exploit the needs and desperation of poor people for political gain”.

James said that in protest he had spoiled his ballot at a polling station near the Sweethome Farm informal settlement. The movement’s call is “No Land! No House! No Vote!”

But just days before the elections, the KwaZulu-Natal branch of the movement said it would abandon this position and would support the DA. Its decision to “vote against the ANC” was informed by political repression at the hands of the ruling party.

The day before the election the KZN branch said: “We did not want to split our vote. We decided to collectivise our vote to make it stronger. Our main priority was that the ANC must be removed from office.”

Presentations by political parties were followed by a meeting at which the movement’s members could vote for which party the movement would support in the election. Most endorsed the DA, “because they wanted to have the strongest possible opposition to the ANC”.

But the Western Cape chapter had no input in this decision, and James said he found out about the KZN endorsement from the media. He was invited to a joint press conference with DA Western Cape leader Ivan Meyer and the movement’s president S’bu Zikode in Cape Town last Monday.

“It all happened very quickly, I did not have time to have a meeting with our local members in Cape Town,” he said. “We respect the Durban chapter’s decision, but how can it apply to us as well? We have experienced no change in our conditions and no willingness from the DA to engage with us since they won the province in 2009. Instead, the (DA-run) City of Cape Town and Western Cape government treat us with contempt.”

Meyer said the movement’s endorsement of the DA in the Western Cape came after the meeting with its national and provincial leadership on Monday last week. Claims to the contrary now by the provincial movement and James were disingenuous and did not reflect what he saw as a legitimate agreement.

He said the DA would work with Abahlali in the future because they were a “significant stakeholder”.

Cape Argus