PADKOS NO 103
In our last padkos edition (“in, against, beyond corona”), we said “it’s important to see what is revealed to be wrong and toxic – in ourselves, in our relations with others, and in our relation with the rest of non-human nature. But it’s also terribly important to listen for and to seek out what is revealed that is good and life-affirming. Both are vital”. In today’s padkos, we share Nomfundo Xolo’s account of collective food production at the shack settlement of eKhenana recently published by New Frame.
The people of eKhenana were central to our recent research report on brutal waves of attacks and evictions targeting settlements in the city of Durban/eThekwini (see padkos no: 99: STOP Corona Evictions!”). Little has been more toxic during this period than the inhumanity and violence of this campaign of violence waged against poor people. And yet, not only do the people remain, and not only do they defend and rebuild, they are also engaged in a programme of collective thought and of food production. Xolo’s article for New Frame captures important elements of this remarkable, and ultimately inspiring, mix of courage, tenacity, thought and and action for life and autonomy against death. You’ll read about a collective community-based food production initiative that has unfolded alongside self-run political classes – and relentless defense and re-building of the settlement itself against official state harassment and violence.
A resident, 26 year old Samkelo Majiya, says “We arrived here when it was just a dense, neglected forest. … When we got together, we identified this place and gradually claimed it as our new home because we were discarded by the … system”. Ayanda Mjila, says “We are not land invaders or illegal occupants. We are committed to creating a sustainable place where even the poorest can prosper”. An elected leader in the settlement, Lindokuhle Mnguni, is quoted saying: “As young people with historical poverty attached to our names, we need to start promoting the concept of developing practical pathways that … challenge the … corporate-controlled food system based on capitalism and tackle food inequality at its roots”.
These developments are really significant. Discussing the meaning of food sovereignty for our own work and context a number of years ago, CLP argued that “if food sovereignty in South Africa is to be truly rooted, and remain faithful to its origins, then it can only emerge in and through the self-defined and self-led struggles of real people – especially the landless and peasant farmers. Genuine movements of the landless and the rural poor are certainly not dead but we must be honest and recognise they are weak. One result is that activists, NGOs and vanguardists of ‘civil society’ relentlessly step in and try to manufacture food sovereignty. This is impossible. It merely replicates the patterns of abuse, contempt and ‘representation’ that were at the heart of food sovereignty at the beginning”.
In the coming months we anticipate sharing more accounts from formations and communities we work with where, throughout the COVID-19 crisis, people are and have been affirming their dignity and power in collective efforts to produce and share food.