South African Unemployed Movement Begins Occupation

[Ed. note: This group is affiliated with the South African Shack Dwellers Movement; see our earlier articles on the Shack Dwellers and their youth movement.]

13 October 2011: Unemployed People’s Movement Press Statement

Occupy Grahamstown! Recapitalise the Poor!

As a movement of the poor we have taken great inspiration from the rebellion that has spread from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Syntagma Square in Athens, the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and now Liberty Plaza in New York. Our comrades in Students for Social Justice have been just as inspired by the growing spirit of rebellion that is jumping, like a fire, from country to country.

On Saturday we will occupy Grahamstown. The students will march into town from the Botanical Gardens. We will march into town from the township and the squatter camps. We will meet on the square at the Cathedral. We will turn that square into a people’s university, a people’s kitchen and a space of people’s power. Our aim is to bring the rebellion of the poor, the rebellion that has put thousands and thousands on the streets of South Africa in recent years, into dialogue with this global rebellion. The alliance between organised students and the organised unemployed is strong in Grahamstown. Together we can build strong foundations for the struggles to come.

Image by Timothy Gabb,

We have been inspired by this global rebellion because the comrades in Tahrir Square showed the world the strength of a united and determined people. We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the bankers that their time of ruling the world is over. We have been inspired by this rebellion because it has clearly told the politicians that from Cairo to New York people are determined to rule themselves and to build their own power from the ground up.

We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of freedom. We insist that all people have the right to organise themselves according to their own free choices. We denounce the ANC for the murder of Andries Tatane and all the others. We denounce the ANC for the repression of the Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Landless People’s Movement, the Anti-Eviction Campaign and all the others. We denounce the ANC for their attempts to censor the media. We denounce the ANC for continuing to claim that the movements of the poor are a Third Force. The ANC insult us by making us live like pigs and excluding us from all decision making and then, when we rebel, they insult us again by saying that it must be a white academic that is making us rebel. The ANC is incapable of understanding that poor black people can, like all other people, think for ourselves. The ANC is incapable of understanding that they do not and have never had a monopoly on struggle. The ANC is incapable of understanding that they are the real counter-revolutionaries.

We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of real democracy. We join the people of the world in showing our anger at the way that the capitalists have bought the politicians and the whole system. We will join the people of the world in insisting that democracy will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. Democracy is something that you do. It is not something that you watch on TV. Democracy is something that everyone can do. It is not something that experts like politicians or NGOs must do for the people.

Frantz Fannon and Sid Vicious, unlikely pair? (Image by Timothy Gabb,

We will occupy Grahamstown in the name of justice. We join the people of the world in insisting that we will not pay for the crisis caused by the bankers. Their wealth must be expropriated and returned to the people. South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. The predatory elite are publicly gorging themselves while the poor are starving, desperate and frightened. Last week Transnet advertised for 30 jobs – 30 boring and badly paid jobs. Ten thousand people came to apply. Forty people were injured when the gates were opened. The contempt with which the poor are treated in this country is incredible.

It is not just the ANC that treats the poor with such gross contempt. Business is just as bad. We have not forgotten how the big companies colluded, in the midst of mass unemployment, to fix the price of bread. When we are strong enough we will fix the price of bread from below. We will take the struggle for bread that was started in Durban forward. Imagine one day when people around the country enter the supermarkets and begin eating the bread without paying. That will be the last day on which the capitalists fix the price of bread.

We are not asking for higher taxes to increase funding for the state. Our municipality is a notorious kleptocracy. The ANC is corrupt from top to bottom. We do not want to struggle to buy Blade Nzimande a new car or more houses, cars, watches and sushi parties for Julius Malema and his friends. We do not want to struggle to finance Kebbelism. What is the point of the ANC getting more money to build houses when the houses that they build are unfit for human habitation, fall down in the first wind and are only given to ANC members?

We are not anti-state. But our state is rotten to the core. Until we can build enough people’s power to be able to discipline the state from below we will have to treat it as what it is, a vehicle from the predatory elite to feed off society.

The capitalists in Europe are saying that the people must pay for the banks to be recapitalised. We say that it is time to stop all public subsidies for the rich. We say that it is time for the banks to recapitalise the people. Abahlali baseMjondolo has correctly insisted that the poor were made poor by the same economic system that made the rich rich. Therefore it is only logical that the billions and billions held in the banks on Wall Street must be used to recapitalise the poor. We are calling for a universal guaranteed income. It must be at least R2000 per month and it must be paid to all people without going through local councillors or party structures.

Some of the comrades that were amongst the ten thousand in Bloemfontein are coming to Grahamstowm to learn from our struggle. Ayanda Kota was recently in Durban to be at the Abahlali baseMjondolo AGM. We are, day by day, building a national movement of the poor, by the poor and for the poor from the ground up. Every day our struggles and our movements are drawing closer.

Sekwanele! Genoeg! Enough!

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