Abahlali endorses DA for elections despite fights

Western Cape Abahlali member Mzonke Poni (left) with the DA's provincial leader Ivan Meyer. (David Harrison, M&G)

Western Cape Abahlali member Mzonke Poni (left) with the DA's provincial leader Ivan Meyer. (David Harrison, M&G)

The Western Cape wing of the country’s biggest shack dwellers’ organisation Abahlali base Mjondolo has endorsed the Democratic Alliance (DA) ahead of Wednesday’s general elections.

This is despite the many fights between the organisation and the DA-led City of Cape Town, especially concerning land issues.

The movement, which boasts a membership of thousands in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, has previously boycotted elections, saying voting only gave power to those who oppressed them. For this election it has suspended its “no land, no house, no dignity, no vote” campaign.

Last Friday, Abahlali’s KwaZulu Natal branch announced that it would support the Democratic Alliance – which is in opposition in that province.

On Monday, Abahlali’s president Sbu Zikode told Cape Town journalists they were sending “a very strong message to the left; to the regressive intellectuals and to those who think they can remote [control] us and tell us what to do when they don’t come to our people when they are suffering in the shacks”.

‘Blood on its hands’
Zikode acknowledged the differences between Abahlali and the City of Cape Town but said the DA was the only party that had managed to out-seat the ANC in the Western Cape. He also accused the ANC of “having blood on its hands” and being behind the assassination of a number of Abahlali’s members and death threats to its leaders.

“A party that has blood on its hands like the ANC is a serious threat to our society and it needs to be removed with immediate effect.
As Abahlali, we are happy for having taken such a courageous decision.”

He said even if the DA does not out-seat the ANC in KwaZulu Natal, it would minimise its power and arrogance.

Zikode said they would actively encourage their members nationwide to go out in their numbers and support the DA, but “insist that we have not taken any membership of the DA, we do not encourage our members to join the DA, but we are saying, at least for change, let’s vote for the DA”.

He said theirs was a “tactical” move after 20 years of shack life. “We are saying to the people who are critical of this position; they should have been critical when the ANC has had blood on their hands. We have lost comrades in this struggle for housing.”

Zikode said three of their members had been murdered in the Durban area in the past 12 months.

Abahlali’s support of the DA does not come free – there are conditions attached to the relationship.

“The DA must make sure that it does engage fully with Abahlali in the Western Cape; that it looks carefully into land question of Marikana [an informal settlement in Cape Town],” said Zikode.

DA MP Masizole Mnqasela, head of the DA’s Khayelitsha constituency, who started talks with Abahlali, revealed that the shack dwellers’ organisation had given the DA many headaches over the past few years, and that the mention of its former leader Mzonke Poni’s name, who was present at the conference, had led to panic attacks for Premier Helen Zille.

“In as much as we are all grateful for the endorsement by Abahlali, we want to tell the people of the Western Cape that [this is] a person who has given us more headaches in the past and Helen Zille would tell you that when you mention the name ‘Mzonke Poni’ she would start having panic attacks because this man would burn all the streets and stop services in Khayelitsha,” said Mnqasela.

Poni has also taken up DA membership, saying this was a personal decision and had nothing to do with Abahlali and does not bind any member to sign up with the DA.

Western Cape MEC for human settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela said as the DA, they respected the fact that Abahlali were not giving them a blank cheque, saying it’s what they expected from civil society organisations.

Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille said the city would have a meeting with Abahlali to discuss land availability in Cape Town, and also show them the plans the city has for informal settlements after the elections.

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