Global struggles of the landless people’s movements and political killings
Henny H. Seibeb From this side of the Atlantic, with conviction and solidarity, the Landless People’s Movement of Namibia supports the popular struggles carried out by the grassroots landless people’s movements against big capital and agribusiness. At every juncture in our history, whether it be in Brazil, Bolivia, Philippines, Namibia, or South Africa, the daily struggles remain the same. The struggle for plots, land to plough, affordable housing, food, potable water and sanitation are critical variables for our daily existence. Global struggles of the landless working folks, peasants and indigenous communities are at the apex of world revolution for food sovereignty and space to live. More often than not, greedy land barons, bureaucrats, and neo-liberals are at the forefront of conniving with thugs to murder leaders of the landless peoples’ movements in urban centres and rural areas. Most recently, on the 29 January 2018, Marcio Mattos, leader of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) in the state of Bahia, Brazil was killed. According to family and friends, the leader was shot three times in front of his son, while they were at home in the Boa Suerte settlement in the Chapada Diamantina region. In South Africa, Philela Gilwa (23) was one of the leaders of the Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement in Khayelitsa, Cape Town and chairman of the Pan-Africanist Student Movement of Azania at Free State University, where he was expelled during the Fees Must Fall protests. He was killed by seven men with knives, on Saturday night, 15 July 2017, whilst walking in Mandela Park, on his way from a friend’s birthday party. They had earlier occupied land with his group. His comrade, Thulani Zondani (35), was stabbed to death on Sunday, 16 July 2017. In May 2017, one of their own, Ras Mosses Moziah Zuma, died in almost a similar fate. After Ras Mosses Zuma died, Philela assembled his team and took over the leadership of the Zwelethu Community for Land Campaign. He led a fierce struggle with the forces that infiltrated the Zwelethu project, forces suspected to be behind the killing of Ras Mosses Moziah Zuma. In South Africa, political assassination is almost a monthly occurrence. Violence and urban land struggles are dubbed twins in urban land narratives. Gilwa in the tradition of the gallant Ras Mosses Moziah Zuma, put his life on the line for a noble cause, the return of the land to its rightful owners, the African indigenous majority. And he paid the ultimate price for it, with his life. These were part of the young boys’ collective which got active in the #FeesMustFall movement, and at the same time were also active in the land struggles. Struggles can get ugly and nasty in Africa. In Kenya the populist member of parliament Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, who campaigned for the restitution of land to Kenyans, preached an economic nationalism and vilified corruption and social inequalities, was assassinated in 1975 with the evident complicity of the political police, if not of the State House. In Namibia, we too are faced with similar challenges. We have a total population of 2.3 million people, much smaller than Cape Town’s, which has a metro population of 3.7 million people. Namibia has a staggering housing backlog of 300 000 units, whereas Cape Town has between 360 000 and 400 000. In Namibia, housing backlogs might take 300 years to eradicate, whereas in Cape Town it is predicted to take 75 years. In 2013, it was estimated that more than 30 percent of Windhoek 350 000 residents live in shacks. We have elite land grabbing and favouritism in land distribution process. Indigenous peoples and peasants, who lost land through successive colonial intervals of Imperial German and Apartheid South Africa are still landless, 27 years after so-called independence. Many of our people live in squalid conditions. Mismanagement and corruption are the order of the day. This depicts epic failure. We are now descending into real Africa, the Africa of corruption. “I Chop, You Chop” was the name of a political party in Nigeria in 1978, which aroused the ire of the Obasanjo government. “When good people in any country cease their vigilance and the struggle, then evil men prevail,” Pearl S. Buck once said. Just last Friday, during the meeting with European Union delegation, President Hage Geingob tried to paint a picture of chaos that might erupt in the country soon due to Bernadus Swartbooi’s and LPM’s activities on land. The President must not use our movement to try to depict us as lawless and rowdy people. * Henny H. Seibeb is deputy leader and chief strategist of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM).
2018-02-21 09:35:30 7 months ago