On Thursday, May 5, another leader of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), South Africa’s militant shack dwellers’ movement fighting for land rights of the urban poor, was assassinated. Nokuthula Mabaso, a 40 year-old mother of four leading the AbM’s commune at the eKhenana occupation in Cato Manor, Durban, was the third activist of the movement to be killed in less than two months.
Described by the AbM as “a soldier in our movement who ensured that more than a hundred families have land and roof over their heads,” Mabaso was gunned down on the evening before she was supposed to appear in court in a case related to violence against the movement.
In response to the campaign of persecution and violence against AbM, renowned intellectuals, leaders, and activists Noam Chomsky, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Naomi Klein, Richard Pithouse, Vijay Prashad, and João Pedro Stedile released a statement in solidarity with the movement.
Statement of solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo
Since its formation in 2005 Abahlali baseMjondolo, the extraordinary movement of the urban poor in South Africa, has inspired activists around the planet. However, the movement’s struggle for land and dignity has been met with severe repression including the destruction of people’s homes, assaults, arrests on trumped up charges, long periods in prison after bail is denied, torture and murder.
In the last two months two of the movement’s leaders have been assassinated. Ayanda Ngila, a young leader in the eKhenana Commune in Durban, was assassinated on 8 March. Nokuthula Mabaso, also a leader in the eKhenana Commune, was assassinated on 5 May. Siyabonga Manqele, a member of the movement, was shot dead by masked police officers at the nearby eNkanini occupation on 11 March.
Well more than twenty of the movement’s members have been assassinated or murdered by the police and other armed forces available to the state since 2013.
We register our profound concern at the ongoing repression of a movement known around the world for its non-violent and democratic practices. We add our voices to all those calling for an immediate end to this repression and for the building of, in the language used by the movement, of ‘living solidarity’ with Abahlali baseMjondolo.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore
João Pedro Stedile