"Many of the brutal scenes showing ANC forces attacking shack-dwellers could have been filmed in Apartheid era times, and S’bu Zikode sounds very much like a young Nelson Mandela fighting for his rights, and the rights of his people, against an uncaring and elitist authority"
- Jennifer Munro, writer
The award-winning documentary, Dear Mandela premiered in the UK at the Rich Mix theatre in Shoreditch on Thursday night. It was hosted by DocHouse, a non-profit organisation, established in 2002 to promote documentaries.
The film detailed an interesting and emerging phenomenon in South Africa: Post-Independence South Africans , who were not part of The Struggle, and who have often grown up without parents to install loyalty to the ANC, are revolting against the revolutionaries. There is a struggle against the heroes of The Struggle!
Many people have grown up in informal settlements around Durban in the KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa, and have formed a vibrant and well-supported protest movement of activists called Abahlali baseMjondolo, headed by S’bu Zikode. Abahlali challenges the government’s right to forcibly evict shack-dwellers from their homes, and move them to ‘transit camps’ known as the ‘Tins’- a pitiful huddle of corrugated iron sheds situated out of sight on remote hilltops far from the city centre.
The informal settlements, while hideously uncomfortable, lacking basic services, and certainly dangerous, are close enough to Durban town centre for the shack-dwellers to access work and education. The shack-dwellers have developed communities in places like Kennedy road where there are child care facilities and drop-in centres for food distribution. The Transit Camps are sometimes as much as 25 kilometres away, and look like depressing prisoner of war camps where human beings are dumped and forgotten. It is District 6 and The Cape Flats all over again.
Using the feared ‘Red Ants’ demolition crews, the police and armed gangs, the government has violently destroyed communities and social structures that have sustained people for decades, without consultation and without offering them viable alternatives. The members of Abahlali have fought back eloquently and vigorously, using film, traditional media, social media and the law.
As a young founding member of Abahlali, Mazwe says, ‘Just because you are poor, it does not mean you are poor in mind.’ And he demonstrates the truth of this by using the constitution to fight the ANC. The battle results in a judgement in the Constitutional Court of South Africa against the hated ‘Slums Act’, that allows local authorities to evict people without consultation.
Abahlale overturns the status quo, but earns itself many powerful enemies in the process. People have been killed and displaced, homes have been destroyed, and S’bu Zikode has been both a fugitive and a prisoner. While watching the film it occurred to me that many of the brutal scenes showing ANC forces attacking shack-dwellers could have been filmed in Apartheid era times, and S’bu Zikode sounds very much like a young Nelson Mandela fighting for his rights, and the rights of his people, against an uncaring and elitist authority.