As Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape we have noted the statement by the Treatment Action Campaign and its subsidiary organisations condemning our call for a week of informal settlement’s strike.
We respect the important victories that TAC has won for health care over the years and we respect the work that they have done in solidarity with migrants and LGBT people. We are clear that our enemies are those who put the interest of the elites, be they in business or politics, before the interests of the poor and we are clear that we wish to build as much unity as possible between organisations of the working class. We have always organised on the basis that respects the autonomy of different formations.However we are very disappointed that TAC chooses to attack our campaign in public without first meeting with us as a fraternal organisation to discuss any concerns that they may have had. We are always willing to meet with any fraternal organisations to discuss agreements, differences and ways forward.
We have our own critique of TAC, of its relationship to the ANC and thereby to a repressive, violent and often criminal government, of its political liberalism, of its internal organisation and hierarchies, of the way that it dealt with the internal revolt in the organisation in 2007 and so on but we do not use these critiques to attack the organisation in public. We will never support the state against TAC but they are supporting the state against us and setting the stage for repression against us to be justified. This is disgraceful.
There are some things that we agree with in the TAC statement.
· We agree with TAC that the government has failed the people and that the predatory elite have more freedom than ever.
· We agree with TAC that mass organisation is necessary and that people need to organise across the city to build their own power against the elites. We agree also that this is a long and difficult process.
We have called for an informal settlement’s strike in Cape Town and we have welcomed the blockading of roads. It has been said that around the world the road blockade is the strike of the unemployed. We have explored all means of engaging the government over many years and have been continually ignored. We did not come quickly or lightly to the decision that it was necessary to cause disorder in order to force the government to take us seriously. We came to this decision after years of being ignored and repressed. We are not alone in coming to this decision. Communities and organisations across the country are blocking roads. This has been going on for many years now. Most of the protests in Cape Town are not by us.
TAC puts in its headline that we are calling for violence. We have never called for violence. Violence is harm to human beings. Blockading a road is not violence. We have long experience of the state calling protests in which no person is harmed violent. We did not expect a social movement to make the same mistake. TAC is being hysterical and dishonest when they say that we are calling for violence. We note that TAC has never issued any statement when we have been violently evicted from our homes by the Land Invasions Unit or when we have been assaulted by the police. This double standard on the part of TAC is very disappointing. They say that they are concerned about damage to property but they have never issued any statement when our property, our homes, are illegally demolished by the state.
It is an insult to say, as TAC does, that our struggle is not thought through and is not disciplined. Yes we have chosen a different form of struggle to TAC in this campaign. But that does not mean that we did not come to this campaign after careful thinking.
We disagree very strongly with TAC when they caricature the wave of protest that is sweeping Cape Town, and for years before that the whole country, as mindless violence. This is an insult to struggling communities everywhere. We know very well that the state only takes us seriously when we force them to take us seriously and this is what people are doing – forcing the state to take us seriously. We have learnt through years of struggle that this is what works.
It is dishonest and insulting for TAC to say that the leaders of these protests are self-appointed. This is the language of the state. Our leaders are all democratically elected.
It is dishonest to say that we are using young people to activate our campaign. This is also the language of the state. People choose to support our campaign because they think it is the right thing to do.
It is also just wrong for TAC to say that our campaign is being supported by elements in the ANC Youth League. We are very well aware that the ANC Youth League tries to support every protest in Cape Town because they want to undermine the DA. But we know very well that the ANC elsewhere has the same policies as the DA here and we do not allow the ANC to exploit our own struggles for their own gain.
There are three main differences between us and TAC.
1. We as Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape feel that it is legitimate to create a short period of disorder, just like a strike at a work place does, as a tactic of struggle. If TAC disagree with us on this they should engage us in a discussion of tactics rather than condemn our campaign in a way that can justify state repression.
2. We feel that it is essential that we are organised autonomously from the ANC. This is our democratic right and we will not be intimidated into accepting the leadership of ANC aligned organisations.
3. We are not a professional organisation with millions of rands of donor funding that can operate in the middle class world. We are a movement of, for and by the poor. We therefore have to struggle where we are and with what we have. If that means burning tyres on Lansdowne Road then that is how we will struggle. We will not be intimidated into accepting that only the donor funded organisations know how to struggle properly.
We invite TAC to meet us any time. In the meantime our campaign continues until 28 October when we march on parliament.