The Majority Have Rejected the ANC

Only around a quarter of people eligible to vote chose to cast their votes for the ANC in the recent election. The mass stay away from the polls is a mass rejection of the ANC, along with the DA and the EFF which could not attract the support of significant numbers of former ANC voters. When you do not respect the dignity of the people and you undermine their power you always pay the price.

We have always said that the day is coming where South Africans will no longer have the loyalty to the ANC and will vote them out of power. This election shows that that day is coming.

We must never forget that this country was liberated from apartheid by ordinary people, by the long history of popular organisation at a mass scale running from the ICU to the UDF. We must not forget the Durban strikes of 1973, the Soweto Uprising of 1976 and the uprising in cities and towns across the country that began in 1984. We must always remember the price that ordinary people paid for our liberation from apartheid.

However, we do also remember the great men and women who led the ANC, people like OR Tambo, Chris Hani, Dorothy Nyembe and many others who gave their lives to the fight against the evils of apartheid. We must also acknowledge that when the mass struggles on the factory floors and in communities brought apartheid to the brink of collapse the majority of the people accepted the ANC as their leaders.

But now, twenty-seven years after the end of apartheid, we are ruled by political gangsters in some parts of the country. When we organise and march against corruption we are organising against the day to day theft of our own futures. When houses are actually built they are sold by corrupt councillors. We have seen this in Cato Crest, KwaNdengezi, Lindelani, Cornubia, Mount Moriah and in many places around the eThekwini Municipality.

When there is development it is imposed on the people. Grassroots planning is taken as criminal, as a political threat to be crushed. We have seen this in In Tembisa outside Johannesburg where the ANC undermined people’s democracy by imposing reblocking. This is a process that needs to take place through democratic engagement with the communities. However the ward councillors ignored the views of the people.

Evictions take place with impunity and at gunpoint through private security companies or the Anti Land Invasion Unit. They are carried out in brazen violation of the law, and sometimes court orders too. The politicians continue to assume that they are above the law and that we are beneath the law.

As a result of austerity and corruption we are left in the mud without water, electricity and sanitation and violently attacked when we organise land reform, urban planning , service provision and food sovereignty from below. We cannot continue to live without land and work, to have our dignity vandalised and to live in the mud like pigs year after year while a few political elites live in luxury at the expense of the poor. Many families continue to go to sleep without any bread on the table. The same system that makes the rich to be rich makes the poor to be poor.

We are beaten, arrested, tortured, jailed and murdered when we stand up for our dignity. ‘Land or death’ has become a common saying because people know that to struggle for land is to risk death. ‘Phansi nge ANC!’ has become a common slogan in rallies and big meetings.

The ANC has become the enemy of the people. It is just as Frantz Fanon warned us.

We have always said that the anger of the people may go in many directions. Some of those who took their votes away from the ANC took them to right-wing and xenophobic parties. This is a dangerous development. Nobody is poor because their neighbour was born in another country. We were made poor by colonialism and kept poor by the ANC.

Prior to these elections we have called on our members, of which there are more than 100 000 in good standing,  as well as those who support our struggle, to refuse to vote for their grave, to refuse to vote for the ANC. Our members, many of our supporters headed this call and huge numbers of other people also refused to vote for the ANC. For the first time the ANC could not win a majority in Durban and the municipality is now a hung municipality. The ANC will have to depend on other parties in order to run the municipality again.

The outcome in these elections are not about the factions in the ANC, they are a result of years of the abandonment and repression of the poor. They are about years of gangsters continuingly looting the state while we continue to live in shacks of indignity. But there are consequences for undermining the poor.

Now the poor have shown their power.

The ANC, DA and EFF will all leave the poor to continue to be poor. There is no hope from these parties. The only hope that we have is ourselves. We will continue to mobilise and organise the power of the impoverished from below to build our power from below to ensure that all of us in the shack settlements, the townships and rural areas find solutions to move forward, abolish poverty and build a real democracy.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, or AbM, is a shack-dwellers' movement in South Africa. It campaigns to improve the living conditions of poor people and to democratize society from below. The movement refuses party politics and boycotts elections. It's key demand is that the social value of urban land should take priority over its commercial value and it campaigns for the public expropriation of large privately owned landholdings. Read other articles by Abahlali baseMjondolo, or visit Abahlali baseMjondolo's website.