Abahlali baseMjondolo– a non-political organisation known for campaigning against evictions – has found an effective strategy to deal with the xenophobic strife and violence against women: its gatherings are attended by hostel residents, women, and leaders representing foreign nationals.
The movement, which is the largest body in South Africa that has taken up the plight of residents of informal settlements – in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town – grew out of a road blockade staged at the eThekwini Kennedy Street shack settlement in early 2005.
“We have never stopped educating ourselves about the dangers of hate and xenophobia,” said Abahlali spokesperson Mqapheli Bonono.
“This is a permanent part of how we organise ourselves.
“In fact, before we can talk about land, housing and dignity, we touch on ubuhlali [being a resident] and ubuntu [humanity] in all our community meetings.
“We talk about the kind of society we are struggling to build, where justice, equality, respect and dignity become the order of the day.
“We have discovered that those who attack migrants are often the same people who are dangerous to women.
“We have also noted that those who carry out violence in the streets, often bring it home to their own families.
“If you can harm and kill a migrant, what stops you from perpetrating that same violence against your loved ones, who include your own children?” Bonono said.
Abahlali “made sure about being a movement serving as a home for all the oppressed, regardless of area or language”.
“There has never been an attack on migrants in any of our land occupations or in any area where our movement is strong.
“Building women’s power is also among key struggles that we support in society.
“Achieving full equality between women and men, we make sure that women’s issues are at the forefront of all that we do – keeping women safe.
“We have always taken a clear position that we will not accept that any man can be regarded as a comrade in a community meeting and an oppressor at home,” he said.
The organisation this weekend held a meeting in Durban to strengthen its campaigns. In attendance were leaders representing hostels, taxi organisations, police and foreign nationals.
“The solution to our crisis is to build a more democratic and peaceful world in which everyone’s human dignity is respected,” said Bonono.