South Africa goes deeper into crisis as the unemployment rate increases
During the pandemic starvation and hunger became the order of the day for many families in shack settlements and in the rural areas. Today children continue to go to sleep without food. Those who have food for the whole month are surviving by God’s grace.
Our country is in turmoil. Hope is what we have been living for and it seems like hope has been lost. This is the hope we as the shack dwellers carried with us in 1994 when almost all of who were eighteen or older at the time voted for the ANC and the so called ‘freedom’ was attained. We waited for freedom to reach the shacks. We were patient. But that freedom never reached the shacks.
Day after day and year after year we lived with rats, uncollected rubbish, fires and without toilets, electricity, enough water, or safe and dignified housing. When the state started to come to the shacks they came with guns to evict us, to destroy our homes and force us off the land. When we organised to resist they said that we were criminals or the ‘third force’ and brutally repressed us.
Today we continue to live in this indignity. We continue to be treated as if we are not part of this democracy, as if we are outside of it and under the law. Our lives continue to be terrorised by the state, by the police, the army and the Anti-land Invasion Unit. From the beginning the ANC has used the police to arrest us on trumped up charges. Since 2013 the local structures of the ANC have used the izinkabi to assassinate us.
Today our country is in a deep crisis of unemployment. It is the worst unemployment rate since 2008. Unemployment is at 42.3%. The unemployment rate for young people is at 74.7%. This is the worst recorded youth unemployment rate in the world. Around 27% of children have stunted growth due to a lack of food
We are in this crisis because of the mixture of capitalism and corruption for which the ANC is notorious. The ANC will not bring us freedom. In fact, the ANC does not even have any sense of the national interest in a time of crisis. They have been stealing from the funds allocated for the poor for years.
In Jacob Zuma’s second term of office around R1.5 trillion was stolen from public funds. During the lockdown more than a third of people went hungry. Yet in that national crisis R14 billion was stolen from funds allocated to the Covid-19 emergency. At the same time the poor and the working class were severely abused by the police and the army, and sometimes killed. Our movement suffered relentless violent and illegal attacks state attacks. We got plenty of rubber bullets and some live ammunition fired at us by the state but, like freedom, the tiny R350 Covid grant didn’t reach the shacks.
We were told that education would take us out of poverty. Yet even young people who have graduated with distinctions are sitting at home with their qualifications. In this month of June the hypocrites in the ANC will be reminding us of what the youth of ’76 have done. The question is what is the ANC doing for the youth today? The question is why are they are repressing young people trying to organise for justice?
The dream of freedom was shattered by the opportunists, thieves and mafias who have rendered our country into a state of hopelessness. The ANC broke all its promises to the people but succeeded to make themselves rich. The reality is that freedom will not be brought to us by this counter-revolutionary government, this government of looters, this government that has murdered so many poor people for the crime of standing up for their human dignity.
In response to this betrayal we have been building our power, our democratic power from below, for 15 years. We have been democratising settlements and occupations and turning them into communes. We are working to make the communes sites of production as well as occupation. We face severe challenges including violence from the state and the ANC, and local ANC structures linking with people, sometimes criminals, who want to sell land and rent shacks.
We now have more than 100 000 members in 86 branches across five provinces and strong links with numerous progress organisations in South Africa, in other African countries and elsewhere in the world.
We are working to build socialism from below. We are working to establish, develop and defend and link communes on occupied land. It is only when the communes are strong enough to build socialism from below that the people will be able to take power from the thugs and real freedom will be realised.
In this crisis we are working to produce our own food, build our own infrastructure – from roads, to halls, classrooms, access to water, electricity and sanitation – and eventually our own permanent houses. But to be fully free we need to ensure that there is genuine and radical democracy, that the people as a whole take control of all the means of production, that everyone has a decent income and that poverty is abolished, never to return.
This is the future that Abahlali envisages.