Dark corners of the state we’re in

POSTED ON October 25, 2012 BY admin

Just after the attacks on Kennedy Road in 2009, S’bu Zikode, then President of the shack-dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo said:

“This attack is an attempt to suppress the voice that has emerged from the dark corners of our country. That voice is the voice of ordinary poor people. This attack is an attempt to terrorise that voice back into the dark corners. It is an attempt to turn the frustration and anger of the poor onto the poor so that we will miss the real enemy. …

“Our crime is a simple one. We are guilty of giving the poor the courage to organise the poor. We are guilty of trying to give ourselves human values. We are guilty of expressing our views. Those in power are determined not to take instruction from the poor. They are determined that the people shall not govern. What prospects are there for the rest of the country if the invasion of Kennedy Road is overlooked? … Our message to the movements, the academics, the churches and the human rights groups is this: We are calling for close and careful scrutiny into the nature of democracy in South Africa” (29th September 2009).

Two years on, that call remains important: what was revealed, and what must we all learn, about ‘the nature of democracy in South Africa’? As a small contribution to that task, in the piece attached we outline some of what we have learned at the Church Land Programme (CLP). An important truth we must learn from the real experience of grassroots movements whose actions unsettle the ruling party is that the freedoms, rights, protections and civility of the “democratic state” are not real for the poor. In the terrain where poor peoples’ movements make their politics – what Zikode correctly names the “dark corners of our country” – different rules apply. In those dark corners, a living politics of the poor confronts a much more fundamentally violent, repressive, intolerant and even paranoid State, prepared to sanction vigilante violence and war talk.

As we were preparing to release this edition of Padkos, the so-called Secrecy Bill passed through the ANC-dominated national Parliament – despite a hubris of opposition from outside the ANC. Although much of the opposition to the Bill sustains the fantasy that there is in fact a universal and substantial democracy to defend, two of the more thoughtful commentaries on the Bill have taken a rather different approach. Pierre de Vos and Steven Friedman both conclude that the real issues should be how the Bill will make the struggles of poor people and their movements harder; and how the Bill signals a further slide down the “the slippery slope towards a secretive national security state” (De Vos). The Secrecy Bill aims to consolidate the repressive and secretive architecture of the State – and its passage signals a determination by the State to keep and expand the dark corners. de Vos and Friedman’s articles are attached in the second PDF for this serving of Padkos.

Read the attachment – What did we learn final

Read the attachment – Secrecy Bill Comments