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Abahlali baseMjondolo leader forced underground after death threats

Abahlali baseMjondolo is the largest popular movement outside of party politics and trade unions in South Africa. The movement was formed in Durban 2005 to fight for, promote and advance the interests and dignity of shack dwellers and other impoverished people. Photo: AbM

S’bu Zikode, President of the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa has been forced to go underground after repeated threats to his life. NPA stands in solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo against the attacks and the closing democratic space in South Africa.

NPA partner organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) released a press statement on Monday, stating that its President was under imminent threat of assassination and has been forced to go underground, with no access to cellphones and no contact with his family.

AbM is a democratic movement of shack dwellers and other impoverished and marginalized people in South Africa, fighting for land and housing through land occupations and peaceful protests. Their movement was formed in Durban 2005 and now has branches in five provinces across the country and at least 60 settlements.

The movement has faced ongoing evictions, demolitions and fierce government repression, harassment, and threats. This includes armed attacks on the homes of the movement’s leaders, arrests and detention, torture, assault, death threats, and assassinations. In the last eight months five Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders have been assassinated in Durban.

“Those of us who have accepted leadership positions in our movement have accepted the risk of death. We all understand that there will be more deaths. Despite the repression our movement continues to grow, and the struggle continues to advance”, AbM say in their press statement.

Norwegian People’s Aid stands with Abahlali baseMjondolo against these attacks, and calls for an end to the repression and intimidation of this democratic membership based movement. The attacks on AbM and its leaders is an example of a trend of shrinking democratic space that can be observed in many parts of the world where NPA works. We call for AbM, and all other social justice movements, to be allowed to freely organise, protest and practice their democratic rights without threats and intimidation.