In solidarity with Abahlalibase Mjondolo (AbM) 4

Dearest Friends,

Like many people in South Africa and around the world, I am still stunned by what has been done to the people living at the Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban.

From 2005, AbM seems to have managed to overcome many obstacles, but, or so it seems, it has not been able (yet) to overcome the biggest one, namely appearing to be giving a lesson in emancipatory politics to the ANC.

Since assuming power, it seems that there are members of the ANC who seem to have forgotten the role played by ALL the people, but especially, the poorest of the poorest, in propelling the ANC to power. This forgetting could have lethal consequences, not just for the PoPs, but also for every citizen in South Africa and beyond. In the history of emancipatory politics, from slavery to today, the enslaved, the colonized, by definition, must never ever free themselves. Should they try and, worst of all, succeed, those in power shall quickly “put them back into their place”. In retribution, more often than not, this trespassing act, or so considered by those in power was followed by the most severe of punishments, preceded, if necessary, by torture. Since 2005, AbM has been giving lessons on emancipatory politics to a party in power which, directly or indirectly, claims to be the only one to know how to bring about emancipatory politics. Other historical examples are too numerous to list, but let us start with one of the most notorious:

Toussaint-L’Ouverture and the Africans of Santo Domingo of which AbM could claim to be a descendant since the poor of today are being treated like the slaves of the past. The sin of Toussaint and his comrade in arms was to succeed where the slave masters insisted they could not possibly do. For the slave masters, by definition, enslaved Africans could not possibly organize their own emancipation. For them, such a feat required the kind of intellect and organizational skills which the enslaved could simply not have, by virtue of being Africans and enslaved.

From the available information, it seems that the greatest sin of AbM has been to outsmart the ruling party in an area (politics) in which it considered itself unbeatable, unchallengeable. The behavior of the party clearly shows that some within the ANC felt that AbM had to be put back in its place. Ever since 2005, various methods have been tried and they have all failed. AbM and its leadership became more popular as some within the ANC became more agitated at not being able to outperform AbM in an arena the ANC considered to be its own turf. And to make matters worse, the AbM outdid the ANC using politics in a way the ANC has systematic failed to do, i.e. consult with the people all the time, not just at election time, and, all the time respond to the needs of the people, while treating them with the respect due to equals.

In Haiti, the success of the Africans was followed by withering punishment, individual and collective, and still unfolding to this day. It was crucial for the French state (and its allies) to do everything for Haiti never to be a functional state. As Peter Hallward showed in his book, the Africans were forced to pay compensation to those who lost their property (slaves and plantations). The payment took place from 1825 through 1946. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pointed out that that compensation money had to be restituted, France balked at paying back what had been calculated to amount to 20 billion Euros. Meanwhile, France had passed the Law Taubira, making slavery a Crime Against Humanity, but stipulating, at the same time, that such a recognition did not imply reparations. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide insisted that restitution was not reparation.

Those who have vowed to continue the fight started by the Africans more than 200 years ago are still being harassed and tortured as demonstrated by the current military occupation of Haiti by the UN, and the kidnapping of people like Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine simply because they keep calling for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (Pierre-Antoine was “disappeared” in Port-Au-Prince in August 2007).

Other examples are the Native Americans in all of the Americas, but, in particular, in the US. For having resisted the occupation and then the stealing of their land, the Native Americans have paid, and continue to pay a price difficult to imagine for anyone who has not visited any of the Reservations to which they have been restricted.

For now, let me stop here and bring out more examples later on.

Again dear members of AbahlalibaseMjondolo we shall never thank you enough for standing up for those of us who do not have your courage. Thank you for spelling out patiently, non violently, persistently the principles of emancipatory politics. Thank you for your prescriptions on the South African State. Thank you for your fidelity to humanity.

In solidarity,

Jacques Depelchin
13-Oct-2009

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