From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters
Durban, South Africa—On April 8 we supported a march against xenophobia organized by our comrades in the Congolese Solidarity Campaign together with the Somali Association of South Africa and other migrant organizations. There was a permit for the march and yet the police would not allow it to go ahead.
POLICE ATTACK PEACEFUL LEGAL MARCH
They stopped people from leaving their communities to travel to the march. They attacked the march with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. One Congolese man was severely beaten by the police. One of our members, from the Marikana Land Occupation, had her leg broken during the assault by the police.
We also noted senior police officers accusing Abahlali: “What do you have to do with this march? Why are you supporting them?” We do not know who will be next. Some of the people who are now attacking people born in other African countries are saying that they will attack the Indians next.
But the violence used to expel us from this democracy does not only come from the police. Since 2009 we have also been openly attacked by the ruling party. On April 8 there was another march of so-called “locals’’ who were screaming and saying “awahambe“—“foreigners must go.” We were not only assaulted by the police. We were also threatened and assaulted by this group who said to us: “Why are you supporting these foreigners?” Despite the violence and intimidation from the police and “the locals,” we made it to City Hall.
Many of the Congolese here in Durban are fleeing war and the destruction of their country. Yet here they are subject to more violence, including from the police. People in the Marikana Land Occupation have also been subject to serious violence, including regular evictions, beatings, torture and assassination. Yet when we try to unite and to take to the streets to assert that every person is a person, that everyone counts, we are openly beaten by the police.
Once again we say that there is no democracy for the poor in this country. It does not matter which country you were born in, or what part of South Africa you come from, or what language you speak. If you are poor and Black, you are excluded from this democracy with the open use of violence.
It is very hard for us to organize effective support in this crisis when we face violence from the state and from the groups attacking people on the streets. Many of our members are scared and they are scared for good reason. The attackers have often threatened that Abahlali will be next if we continue to support our African brothers and sisters.
Excerpted from the April 15, 2015, “Statement on the Ongoing Xenophobic Attacks.”