Bandile Mdlalose of Abahlali writes about her arrest

October 9, 2013

Seven Days of Thoughts in Westville Prison

On June 3, 2010 when I became the General Secretary of Abahlali BaseMjondolo
Movement S.A. I vowed to die where Abahlali members die. I vowed to protect my
country. I vowed to be loyal to the poorest of the poor. I vowed to uplift the
Constitution of South Africa in respect for all those who fought for this
country. I vowed to take forward the struggle for land and housing in the
cities, to make sure that land, cities, wealth and power are shared.

As upon my vows I stand firm to implement them. No judgement, imprisonment or
bullet will silence me while we, the poor, are being oppressed by those whose
daily bread is the poverty and blood of the poor. I REFUSE to be silenced by
any judgement of those who never gave themselves enough time to understand how
it is to live in poverty. I REFUSE. I refuse to allow the silence to take
control. The price of silence keeps me going because the price of silence is
oppression, suffering, wasted lives and death. The price of rebellion is less
than the price of silence.

When I was intimidated in Cato Crest on September 17, 2013 by S’bu Sithole who
is the Community Liaison Office of Cato Crest no law, judge or police
protected us. Instead of us being protected by the South African Police
Services they chose to protect the municipality and support the African
National Congress members in Cato Crest who are led by Mzimuni Ngiba who is
the Ward councillor who is a leader during the day and a “hitman” at night.
When I was arrested on Monday 30, 2013 for being in solidarity with the family
whose child was killed by the Station commander Mnganga in the Cato Manor
Police Station, known as Kito, it was a way to silence me and others who were
protesting against the murder of Nqobile Nzuza. No one has been arrested for
the murder of Nqobile, or the murder of Nkululeko Gwala or Thembinkosi Nyathi.
And yet people protesting against murder are beaten and I was arrested. I
REFUSE to keep quiet and the sell the people who really fought hard for me to
have a Constitutional Right of Freedom of Expression. I REFUSE to keep quiet
and sell the people who are being evicted, beaten, shot and murdered in Cato

When I was in Cato Manor police station I was isolated from other woman
prisoners because it was said I will corrupt their minds. Basically they
feared that I would open their minds into reality. I was kept in a cell with
no water. It was smelling and had dirty blankets. They kept bringing in food
which I did not eat because I suspected it might be poisoned to finish me off.

When they opposed bail on Tuesday I was not worried about myself who was going
to be in prison for the first time. But I was worried about the reasons behind
it. I was worried that the Municipality will continue demolishing houses in
Cato Crest without respecting the constitution, the law and the orders of the
court. I was worried that the police will continue to violate people’s rights
of having a peaceful protect and will attack them so it will be called a
violent protest in the media.

My seven days in prison gave me time to think as I did not have enough time to
think in the outside world as I was too busy. I had to think back and ask
myself why did I join this movement. I had a chance to back off but once
something is inside you, once you live it, once it is injected inside you no
one else can stop it. Ubuhlali runs in my veins. I am unable to distance
myself from it anymore. I don’t need ubuhlali but my life needs it. It is what
I live and breathe and what I am proud off. I had some time to think of how
can I strengthen this struggle and this activism and realised that I need to
do what I was doing before I was arrested ten times more. There is no turning
back now. I have to fight much harder with the truth and for the truth than

When I came into the dock I was not alone. None is alone in this movement.
Evictions, beatings, arrests and murder are not suffered alone if you are in
this movement. This makes us strong. And as repression gets worse it drives
more people into the movement. It makes us stronger and stronger. When I was
locked inside there were road blockades around the city every day. So many
poor people have decided that enough is enough. The politicians won’t stop us

I wish to thank all Abahlali members for their solidarity as well as everyone
else who has been in solidarity with our struggle as we face repression
including War on Want, the Dear Mandela crew, Amnesty International and the
solidarity that we have received from New York, Rio, London and Harare. I wish
to thank all the famous intellectuals have signed statements in solidarity
with us. I also which to thank the Socio Economics Rights Institute, the
Church Land Program, the Diakonia Council of Churches, the KwaZulu-Natal
Christian Council, my family Amanyanda Amahle, friends from Facebook, Twitter
and all those who believed in me, supported me and stood by me through this
experiential time. It is true that it a LIFE LONG LEARNING. No judgment will
keep me quite. I will speak outside Westville Prison and inside Westville
Prison. I will continue to mobilise in or outside Westville Prison. The choice
for them is only where they prefer me to organise.

A luta Continua - Amandla Awethu Ngenkani!!!!