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Abahlali baseMjondolo expresses deep solidarity with the family and friends of Mthokozisi Ntumba, who was murdered by the police in Johannesburg on Wednesday last week as he passed by a student protest. We join all progressive forces in refusing to accept that, more than twenty-five years after the end of apartheid, the state can continue to use murder as a routine form of social control.
The police in South Africa kill almost two and a half as many people per capita as the police in the United States yet there is no mass movement here against police violence. In 2012 the Marikana massacre shocked the world but the police in South Africa kill someone every twenty hours. There is a permanent slow Marikana. People are killed on road blockades, during evictions, in the holding cells in police stations and on the streets.
And it is not just the police that are used to govern the oppressed with murder. We are also killed by private security, anti-eviction units and izinkabi. If you are poor and black your life does not count to this society and you can be murdered with impunity by the state and the ruling party.
Every year we bury people that have lost their lives in the hands of the police. This is a symptom of a government that is prepared to use force, even the barrel of the gun, in order to protect the interests of the elite. The police do not follow the law. They take orders from councillors and other politicians.
Over the years the police have threatened us, assaulted us, stood by as we have been attacked by party thugs, arrested us on trumped up charges and tortured us.
State violence towards impoverished black people is a serious crisis in South Africa. In our understanding the reason for this crisis is that the ANC has no regard for the poor and marginalised in our country. It puts the profit of the politicians and the capitalists before the lives of ordinary people.
During Jacob Zuma’s time as president we were ruled by gangster politicians. They stole from public funds. Striking miners were massacred and grassroots activists were assassinated.
Now we have a President who believes in supporting business more than taking care of the poor. We have a minister of finance who is arrogant and prepared to justify major budget cuts on social grants, education, wages and housing. This is done to protect the elite from paying tax that would benefit the poor.
The Freedom Charter said that that “There shall be houses, security and comfort”. It said that “The land shall be shared among those who work it”. It said that “All shall be equal before the law”. It said that “The doors of learning and culture shall be opened”. The ANC has abandoned all these promises and focussed on making the politicians rich. The poor are turned against each other with xenophobic and ethnic politics, and controlled with patronage and violence.
Impoverished black people have been in a permanent economic crisis since colonialism. Today that crisis is even worse than usual. Instead of responding to the needs of the poor with solidarity this government is patronising and mocking the poor. The minister of finance who has pleased the right-wing DA in his budget speech tweeted about the beautiful sky in Johannesburg while students were being shot at and an innocent man was killed.
Capitalism has no morals. It is anti-poor, anti-black and anti-women and should not have a place in our society. We must do whatever it takes as the poor and working class to deal with capitalism. Racial capitalism made us poor and it keeps us poor. It has the blood of our ancestors on our hands. It has the blood of the workers massacred at Marikana on its hands. We cannot let it also have the blood of our children and their children on its hands.
There is an urgent need to replace the corrupt and violent capitalist government of the ANC if we want to see a democratic socialist society. We can longer watch as we continue to perish in the hands of the police and army used to protect the interests of the rich. We need to use the collective power of the oppressed to occupy the streets and build a movement against police violence.
The biggest pandemic that we are faced with as the poor is the ANC. Just as in Zimbabwe voting for old liberation movements that are now corrupt and violent will keep us poor, and keep us governed by the politic of blood. There is no hope in restoring the integrity of a party that is rotten to the core, a party that steals from the poor even in the middle of the pandemic. We need to remove the ANC from power and do away with the whole top down system of corrupt political authority. We need to organise to build democratic popular power from below.
Police stations needs to be answerable to directly and democratically elected community councils with representatives given mandates at open assemblies and subject to the right of recall. The head of each station must also be directly elected and subject to the right to recall. No police officer must be above the law.
The police officer who murdered an innocent person on Wednesday last week must be arrested, charged with murder and brought before the courts. There must be equally serious action against those in senior positions who ordered the use of potentially lethal force against a peaceful protest by students who were marching for a noble cause.
Everyone human life must count as a life.