The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice in the United States stands in solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa as they struggle for the fundamental rights to land, housing, and dignity. We celebrate the visionary members and leaders of Abahlali’s shack dwellers movement and decry their continued political persecution. 

For over a decade, the network of poor people’s organizations and religious communities that make up Kairos have learned from the experiences of Abahlali. We have watched with awe and admiration the development of a nationwide shackdweller’s movement, uniting leaders in disparate communities and contributing invaluably to the struggles of the poor and dispossessed in South Africa, Africa, and the world. This includes Abahlali’s principled support of other poor people’s movements, including here in the United States, where they have stood with and encouraged our young and growing movement. 

Two years ago, Abahlali leader S’bu Zikode joined Kairos Director Liz Theoharis for a strategic dialogue in New York City where they reminded us that at the heart of every poor people’s movement there must be found a “living politics” — a politics that speaks to the everyday realities and aspirations of the people. We are heartened to learn that the eKhenana Six have recently received a modicum of justice; these leaders embody the spirit of a living politics and their work to develop the eKhenana occupation into a working commune has much to teach us. Still, we know that this victory is but a reprieve from continued abuse by the South African government. In fact, just a week after all charges were dropped against Mqapheli Bonono, Maphiwe Gasela and Siniko Miya, now more politically motivated abuse of the criminal justice system continues with an attempt to criminalize Nokuthula Mabaso, Thozama Mazwi and Sindiswa Ngcobo, women leaders of the eKhenana Commune.

We join Abahali in calling for an end to the daily violence and indignity suffered by shack dwellers across South Africa and the political persecution of their leaders. We also echo their demands for land, housing, and dignity and a South Africa transformed by the values of a living politics. These are also the demands of the poor in the United States and across the world.