Letters to the Editor: April 26 to May 3

We, who have no land, are barred from power

The Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA held its annual Unfreedom Day rally on April 22 at Durban’s Springfield Park sports ground.

We reject any so-called “freedom” without access to land; the right to the cities; basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity; decent housing; accessible quality education; safe and affordable public transport; proper health care; safety in the streets and in our homes; and the right to participate in all decision-making that affects our lives and communities.

For as long as we, the majority of black people, are still living below the breadline, we are not free. Land and wealth must be shared fairly.

For as long as we remain excluded from decision-making, we are not free. Democracy must be extended into everyday life — into communities, workplaces and political organisations. Repression must be stopped and everyone must be able to organise and speak freely everywhere.

For as long as the ruling party actively encourages discrimination based on where people were born and what languages they speak, we are not free. A neighbour is a neighbour and a comrade is a comrade without regard to the province or country in which they were born, or the language that they speak.

For as long as women are not safe and respected, whether in the streets, at work, or in their homes, we are not free. For as long as women are excluded from decision-making, we are not free. We are committed to building women’s power in struggle.

For as long as workers are exploited, we are not fee. We need to build a progressive bloc that can unite organised workers, communities and movements in struggle.

We cannot lie to ourselves and say that we are free when those who are occupying land in order to live are tortured, harassed and murdered by the Anti-Land Invasion Unit, the Red Ants and law enforcement, as well as the ruling party.

We must be honest. In 2018, we are still oppressed. We are still being murdered in the struggle for land and dignity. Our lives still count for nothing in the eyes of the state.

We first called for the expropriation of land in 2005. Since then, we have occupied and held land in numerous occupations at great cost.

Our members know that the cost of land for impoverished black people is paid in suffering, blood and life. Knowing this, our members continue to occupy and to hold land.

Today, the ruling party speaks the language of expropriation of land without compensation. But there are no clear answers to all the questions that arise: Who is doing the expropriation? Which land is going to be expropriated? Who will be given the land that is expropriated? Will it be politicians, the rich, traditional authorities or impoverished people? What will the expropriated land be used for? How will the expropriated land be governed?

Private property was imposed by colonial conquest. Will there be a redistribution of private property from white to black owners? Will land be placed under the authority of chiefs who are no longer chiefs by the people but are now oppressors of the people? Or will land be placed under democratic and collective forms of ownership?

Our members have repeatedly stated and shown that they are willing to die for land. But the same people who are willing to suffer and to sacrifice their lives in the struggle for land, the same people who are actually occupying land, are not included in this new discussion about land.

We reject the new position that has been taken on the land question by the ANC as a lie to lure votes, a lie by an oppressive ruling party that has lost credibility among impoverished black people.

If the ANC wants to be seen as being on the side of the people, they must immediately stop their ongoing repression of land occupations and recognise that the land occupations in the cities are a form of urban planning from below. They must recognise that justice requires that the social value of land, land for living, is placed before its commercial value. They must support land occupations.

Freedom without dignity is meaningless. Therefore freedom without land means nothing.

Revolutionary democracy will make the path that will take us forward. — Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA

Winnie: Writer ignores key scholar

The article by Ntombizikhona Valela on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (“The woman who helped forge an icon”) fails to acknowledge the likely influence of Dr Babalwa Magoqwana, who has been instrumental in presenting uMakhulu as a social institution of leadership and knowledge.

Magoqwana, who was a lecturer at Rhodes University at the same time Valela was a student, has been presenting her work on uMakhulu publicly for several years now.

The formulation of uMakhulu as an institution of leadership and knowledge has been received with great enthusiasm and warmth by many audiences, especially because this formulation clarified what most African students and scholars organically know about their own grandmothers and their epistemic role in African communities.

I note that Valela, in her own 2017 thesis on Madikizela-Mandela, threw in one line on Magoqwana and the names of some African feminists without so much as citing a word from their work.

This does not surprise me, because in Magoqwana’s public presentations on uMakhulu, she consistently referred to these African feminists, except she did so knowledgeably and with rigour.

I am glad that Magoqwana, who has spent years carefully working out this formulation as her contribution to African sociology, was acknowledged in 2017 when she was awarded a National Research Foundation-FirstRand Foundation sabbatical award to pursue a larger research project on uMakhulu as an institution, based on a thorough proposal.

Ask anyone who was at Rhodes: this specific formulation of uMakhulu was promoted by Magoqwana, who has patiently targeted the long and arduous peer-reviewed process to publish her work.

It seems to me Valela fails to honestly acknowledge Magoqwana’s influence in her recent tweets and newspaper article, in effect erasing Magoqwana in service of acknowledging the significance of Madikizela-Mandela— Dr Nomalanga Mkhize, Grahamstown

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