Bandile Mdlalose: A Young Woman at the Coalface of the Struggle for a Pro-Poor Democracy in South Africa

22 Nov 2013

A+ A= A-
    Print this page       comments

Bandile Mdlalose is the Secretary General of shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. In an interview with Fazila Farouk of SACSIS, she talks about her involvement in the struggle for a democracy that respects the rights and dignity of the poor in South Africa.

Mdlalose voluntarily swapped life in a township house for life in a shack in order to better understand the challenges faced by shack dwellers. A leading voice in her community, she talks about the intimidation and assassination of housing activists, the right to protest and her own arrest and detention for human rights activism.

Transcript of Interview

FAZILA FAROUK: Welcome to the South African Civil Society Information Service, I’m Fazila Farouk in Johannesburg.

South Africa’s ruling party abandoned the notion of a pro-poor democracy way back in 1994. In fact, some social justice activists argue that they abandoned the poor in the negotiations that led and ushered in our era of democracy.

There’s been a reliance on the markets to redress the injustices of the past. Poor people who come to the cities do not have a place to live. The apartheid city landscape is still very much intact.

Poor South Africans, 20 years into our democracy, poor and predominantly black people, still live largely on the peripheries of urban areas in shack settlements or in townships -- and these places have simply become neglected ghettos.

The transformation of the apartheid landscape is long overdue. Yet it seems that our government simply does not have a plan to house poor people particularly poor black people when they come to the cities looking for opportunities and for jobs.

One woman that has been at the forefront of that struggle at the coalface of our democracy is Bandile Mdlalose and we’re talking to her today.

Welcome to SACSIS Bandile.


FAZILA FAROUK: Bandile, you’re a housing activist and you are the general secretary of the social movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. It’s a social movement, which can also be referred to as the shack dwellers movement. I understand you’ve got 12 000 members in 60 informal settlements around the country.

Bandile, I’d like to talk to you about your involvement in the shack dwellers movement. How is it that you got involved with Abahlali baseMjondolo? You’re a very young women. (You) rose up the ranks very quickly. You’re now general secretary of the organisation.

When did you join? Why are you engaged as a housing activist in South Africa?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Thank you very much Fazila for inviting me today.

So it was 2009 when Abahlali was attacked and they had to appear in court. So I went with my mum to court to support her. So when I went there I met this young boy called Mazwi Nzimande who shared with me what is Abahlali, because I wanted to get more knowledge -- I saw red t-shirt people so united. I wanted to get more information. Who is Abahlali? What are they doing?

And Mazi said to me it’s a social movement. It’s not affiliated with political parties and which I’ve seen it as the right platform for me as a community person who I can be able to get more knowledge and also get more knowledge about my rights. And they told me that the work with informal settlements.

I was struck by the work they do and I joined the movement. Mazwi also was struck by my knowledge and wanted me to empower other young women within the organisation, because of my community work that I was doing in my community. So, that’s how I joined Abahlali in 2009.

When I joined Abahlali, I was not much educated. I had only the love of the community and wanting to help the community to better the lives of the people.

Yes it was all about being in solidarity with the shack dweller but most of all it was also about me learning more about shack dwellers, which to the extent when I joined the movement I started to go into -- staying in different communities trying to understand more about the lives in informal settlements because I’ve always lived my life in a township. So I’ve never experienced it. It was when I experienced the life in shack that I began to….

FAZILA FAROUK: So you gave up your life of living in a proper house in a township?


FAZILA FAROUK:  To go and live with people that live in shacks?



BANDILE MDLALOSE:  I did not have a permanent…I did not leave my home and went to have a permanent house in informal settlements to increase the number of shack dwellers, but I was accommodated by the families in informal settlement in Kennedy Road…in Kennedy Road, Isipingo, Umlazi. I went to different settlements (for) a very long number of months because I had to stay six months and upward trying to understand more about that community because they…you can’t speak too much about the community that you’ve never bonded with, and you don’t know their challenges. You only know them by theory. And then I went to these communities.

It was only then I realized that after my father left in mid-1998 and when poverty struck at home I began to live life in a shack. But because my home was built with bricks, I did not realize that I was living in a shack. I (saw a) difference because of the material of our building -- the difference that a shack is only built with metal and mud and a proper house is built with bricks.

But I didn’t realize going beyond shelter, what consists of a shack? It’s all about services -- that dignity is respected. Something that…it has never happened to me because our dignity was not respected. We were humiliated when our water service was cut; when our electricity was cut, we became the show of the community. One house amongst hundreds in my area was dark. It became…it was…there was a stop next to my house, the taxi stop it was…it became a well-known taxi stop to say, “In the dark house…the house that doesn’t have electricity.” You know because it became the show of the community. I was very young then, but I felt that humiliation. But I had to live with it.

It was only then when I joined Abahlali and then I realized more -- and get to realize more about all my life that I was living a lie of not understanding what is a shack. And actually I was very angry that I was living in a shack because the water and electricity was not needed by me, but my life needs water and electricity. And if the municipality cut water and electricity, how do they expect me to survive?

Those are the kinds of things that I began to critically analyse and question in…when I joined the movement.

2010 I started…I was elected as the first young general secretary in the movement. And from 2011, I was re-elected again and this year we are going for another elections, for another AGM because the leadership is elected in our organisation.

FAZILA FAROUK: So part of the strategy that your organisation employs is to go out onto the streets and protest for better housing. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Well, it does not start there. My organisation’s role is to bring the people to the government and the government to the people.

Yes, the movement was formed out of anger, hunger and frustration, which led to the road blockade in 2005 -- that is how the movement was formed. But furthermore, what we do before protest: we engage with the government. We have several meetings of meaningful engagement trying to find resolutions.

The ignorance of the government leads us to protest. The lies that is always told to us, leads us to go to take it to streets because the anger continues when people tell us lies. When our frustration and demands are ignored, when our rights are being violated, that’s when people take to streets. Because we lose hope (in) the government and we have no other person to cry to besides to express our anger in the manner that has been going on these months.

And the other thing, people come from rural areas to stay in shacks because rural areas don’t have jobs. Matriculants - this year matriculants are finishing school. They’re going to come to urban areas to get jobs, to access…universities. Others who are in universities are coming out; they are going back into informal settlements.

So those are the challenges that increases the informal settlements.

FAZILA FAROUK: Yet at the same time your organisation has been in the news for heavy repression from our state,particularly through the police. I’d like you to tell us the story about Nqobile Nzuza. She is a young 17-year-old schoolgirl who was shot at the back of her head and killed early last month while she was out on the street protesting for housing in her community. Can you tell us her story?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: In the issue of Nqobile Nzuza…Nqobile Nzuza is one of the community children -- young people in Cato Crest. Cato Crest (has) been facing illegal evictions from this year, early. They joined the movement in April and they’ve been targeted and isolated and intimidated for their involvement with the movement.

Leaders (are) dead like Nkululeko Gwala for being a housing rights activist and also investigating and fighting against the on-going corruption of houses and misallocation…within the community of Cato Crest. People have been evicted, as said. So the matter has been going to court.

First of all the municipality came, I think it’s around August -- demolished people’s houses, left them homeless with a court order that they received (on) 28 March. We went straight to court to defend our rights as residents. The court order protected our rights and gave a court order, which interdicts the municipality from evicting people and demolishing their homes and also coming to the area.

The following day the municipality came. We showed them the court order. They did not comply with it. They went on and demolished. They were carrying very big guns.

We went to court five times. (In the) afternoon we rebuilt…we went to court on the very same afternoon (and) there was another court order that was issued. (But there was) another demolishing of houses after two days.

So it became a game. We go to court; we build. They come; they demolish.

Until (Nkosinathi Mngomezulu) was shot by the municipality Land Invasion Units -- was shot four times in the stomach and is still struggling for his life. The anger of the community increased. Now they wanted to take (to) streets because they can’t comply with the court order. We’ve protested on September demanding the investigation of houses, the aid of evictions, the municipality to comply with court orders. It was on September 16. Unfortunately, none of it was respected.

We followed the legal route of application for the court order. We had a very peaceful protest, which we took from Botha’s Park to City Hall. Our memorandum was handed over and we requested for demands after seven days. After seven days, as usual, there was no response (to) the demands.

So the people said that we do have a Plan B if our demands are not respected and if the municipality keeps on coming to our areas. And, of course, the municipality tested the people. They came and demolished the houses, they did not respond to the memorandum. Then the people take (to the) street because they had no hope and no one to go to.

Nqobile Nzuza was part of that protest. At 4 o’clock…around half past three, the protest started in the morning. It was the time when everyone was starting to prepare to wake and the time when the township taxis are starting to go to town.

FAZILA FAROUK: Let me just interrupt you there because I want you to explain to people that 4 o’clock in the morning in township areas is actually the beginning of peak hour traffic. And I wanted to highlight that because I think a lot of middle class people living in suburban areas don’t really understand how difficult it is to get to work -- that 4am in the morning is actually peak hour traffic because that’s when people are getting up in the townships and making their way to work. And that’s when you started your protest.

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Yes. Of course yes.

We call it…we call the protest “the tyres protest Dunlop”. And, of course yes, we hired Dunlop -- because that’s what we do, we say, “We hired Dunlop.” We hire Dunlop at the times of the peak hours where everyone is starting to prepare to wake and got to work.

And because we want to send our expression and our anger to be known, (this) is the time we want to disturb and us to be noticed and our voices to be heard, and we road blockade the road at around those times – at around those peak hour times, where also Nqobile was part of it, at around 4 o’clock. And it was around 4 o’clock when burnt tyres closed the roads.

The police came with the station commander of Cato Crest, known as Cato. The station commander was wearing private clothes, which shows that he was not on duty. He came with other policemen. The community started to run away from the…where they blockaded the road. They started to run away. They went inside the suburbs  -- next to the area of informal settlement, running away from the police.

The police followed them. And it was then when the station commander told the people to stop and lie down. Others, they stood - and when they stopped running, the station commander of Cato Crest, who is station commander Mganga, took out a gun and shot at Nqobile at the back. Nqobile died (on) the scene. It was not only Nqobile, there’s another woman who was also shot -- and the others, when they heard gunshot, the others ran away because they were trying to comply with the police in showing that we’re not causing any violence.

Nqobile was a very young child…doing standard eight, which is grade 10. Nqobile had a very good future in life. A lot of things (were) expected (of) her. She was harmless; no weapon she was carrying. No weapon was found on the scene. No, nothing -- and she was killed just for fighting for her rights, the right to the city, the right to home, the right to freedom of expression. Her right was taken down into the silence of death.

The silence of death…is very high in Cato Crest. You are told in Cato Crest -- you are told that you are next. There’s a database list of death. “Death database list,” I call it like that in Cato Crest, where we are intimidated and told that you are next on that list. And trust me once you are next on the list, there’s no doubt.

We first doubted it when it was first Thembinkosi Qumbela who was first on the list. They killed him - Qumbelo shot. Secondly, Nkululeko who was always saying that I’m on the list. Nkululeko died. Mngomezulu came to us after Nkululeko was shot and said, “I’m intimidated, I’m told that I’m next on the list.” Charges of intimidation were opened -- no investigation, no nothing, and then the Land Invasion Unit shot Mngomezulu.

Again, the community was told that if they continue with this nonsense….

FAZILA FAROUK: Just explain for the viewers what is the Land Invasion Unit.

BANDILE MDLALOSE: The Land Invasion Unit is the – I would say there is a security management, which carries guns, and is like security or metro police of the municipality. The Land Invasion Unit (are) the demolishers - they demolish - they say they demolish all shacks. It’s the very part…I could say the Red Ants because people who just come to demolish. That’s their duty, to demolish houses.

FAZILA FAROUK: And they work for government?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: They work for the government because it’s the municipality Land Invasion Unit. Even the cars they come with (have) municipality stickers and its written Land Invasion Unit.

FAZILA FAROUK: So let’s go back to the story of Nqobile. She was shot dead.


FAZILA FAROUK: Then you went to the scene. Tell us what happened when you went to the scene.

BANDILE MDLALOSE: It was a call from the community that I had to leave home and rush because they wanted – they were very scared of their lives, the intimidation was still going on where the police was coming over and over saying that they will come and kill them and shoot them. And because of the experience of Nqobile who was already shot, they feared. They wanted me to come and assist.

Of course, I did not come with any gun. I did not have anything. But because of my passion and love of the people I was there to die with the people. Be there with them, if they are dying let us all die, we are all one in this. I went to the community at Cato Crest. I found the innocent Nqobile lying there. It was around six when I arrived. The poor Nqobile was lying there.

FAZILA FAROUK: She was lying on the road?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: She was lying on the road. They put this sail on her, lying on the road waiting for the car to pick her up - the mortuary car. The mortuary car came at nine after I intervened and tried to call…the poor child (had) been there from 4 o’clock. Yes she’s dead, but she’s still a human being. So the car came at around 9 o’ clock.

And when the car came -- actually I was the first in the leadership to go there. My reason to be there: was to be part of the people, protect their rights and also be in solidarity with Nqobile’s family who (had) lost Nqobile.

At around half past nine, we are engaged in a protest, which was demanding that station commander who shot Nqobile to be arrested. The protest was very peaceful. No burning of tyres…was done. We were just singing songs and slogans, which wants to do away with the station commander and demanding the station commander to be arrested because everyone saw that it was him, everyone witnessed that.

So when…there was this policeman who came to me after I was just about to leave because I saw that no, the protest is peaceful, people are not violated. So I was just about to leave and go to my office.

The police approached me and requested -- and first of all she asked, “Are you the general secretary?”

I was not written that I’m a secretary, but approached…“Are you the general secretary?”

I said, “yes.”

“Can you please tell your people to stop protesting? We want to go and this protest of them is not granted.”

I passed the message to the people, the people refused to stop. Then the water cannon - they started spraying the water cannon (on) the people, dispersing them with water cannon and these rubber bullets. The people ran away. They went into shacks. Inside shacks, they were singing songs. They carry on with their struggle (even inside) shacks.

I was standing (on) the pavement then this guy - policeman called Vogan Govender - he approached me and told me…I must move out of the pavement. I asked, “Where should I go, because I’m a pedestrian, for heaven’s sake? I have a right to be (on) the pavement, not (on) the road. I can’t move from the road because you requested that we move from the road.”

I’m now standing. Not even singing, not even doing anything, I’m standing chatting with my comrades. Not even all. We’re just three of us that were chatting. So for that he said, “That’s fine, if you don’t want to move, its fine.”

And then another one - they came with like - it was a huge mob of police came approaching me, only me. Bear in mind it’s three of us. They’re only approaching me and I asked, “Who is in charge of this – of this delegation, the police delegation?” -- because someone has to be in charge.

It was then…for asking that question, out of nowhere I had a hand lifting me on top. Just when I was surprised about that, someone (held) my legs. They (threw) me inside the police van like a sack of potatoes, and then Vogan Govender kicked me in my thigh.

FAZILA FAROUK: So you were picked up, thrown into the police van, and arrested immediately?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Yes. Arrested immediately.

I was not told what charge I was arrested for. I was not told anything. I was just thrown into the van and they told me, ”shut up, shut up,” and they arrested me.

I told them that I will not stop fighting for people’s rights because you’re only arresting me because I refuse to tell people to stop, which is also my right, I cannot be mandated by you. And then they arrested me. It was in front of television. There was eTV there, there was newspapers.

They took me to Cato Crest police station. That’s when the drama started in Cato Crest.

When I arrived there, the station commander approached. When he approached, he said, “Where are these people from the protest? I thought you were bringing them.”

Because Shozi -- there was a police from POP, Shozi who was very nice -- the very same Shozi that untied me, because I was too much arrested and it was hurting. He untied me; he said like, “how can they arrest a woman like this; tie a woman like this?” I said, “I don’t know.” I responded like that to the police.

FAZILA FAROUK: Were those metal or plastic?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: No, no not the metal, the plastic ones, and like, they fastened it very tight. I told Vogan that you’re hurting me and because of saying you’re hurting me, he tied it even much tighter to make sure that I get hurt.

So, when I arrived there, this station commander said, “Where’s the people from the protest?...
Shozi responded like, “No they’re still protesting”.

He said, “Bring them here, bring them here.” He went like this, “Bring them here. Jo, back in my days, we would be touching them, touching them.” And said, “Bring them here. Here we give them live ammunition.”

I was like - I was sitting at the back and he didn’t see me and then…this guy came, and then took me in and then wrote the statement. Within the period of 30 minutes, here comes the big VIP cars, blue torch, big X5 cars, the VIP and the ministry’s cars. I did not know what was happening. I don’t know these people. And then I saw police like peeping and peeping. And when I looked out, there was like VIP people coming in.

There was this guy who came wearing an ANC t-shirt and an ANC jacket. Just when he was about to enter the police station, he turned back and went back to the car and took off the jacket and wore a coat. I realized that – that’s when I realized there’s trouble. And only to realize that the person - it was the MEC for Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo and the MEC…for Safety and Security, Willies Mchunu. Sibongiseni also holds the portfolio of being the chairperson of the ANC region in KZN.

That’s when I noticed there’s trouble. A private meeting was held. I saw this ANC mob approaching by -- and then a private meeting was held with Station Commander Mnganga. After a couple of – like after 30 minutes - the meeting was finished and then he left.

This ANC person, there’s a guy who intimidated me…who said that I should be killed with Zikode. He showed Willies Mchunu me. He pointed at me while I was still in the police station. The police was writing a statement before they took me to the cell.

After that I was taken to the cell -- into a private cell, which was very stinking, with no water, no nothing. I was given food. I did not eat the food. I did not want to eat it because I was scared that it might be poisoned, so I did not eat it. I was held in this cell. It was only in the later I heard the gates and some women speaking. I had hoped that, eish finally I won’t be bored in here, some women are coming.

I heard Mnganga’s voice saying to the other police, “You must not bring in these women because this one that is here is a troublemaker and will – is a troublemaker and will also badly influence – badly influence other prisoners.” So I was (kept very) isolated from other prisoners. They were taken to the other cells, these prisoners. And then they kept on bringing food.

My lawyer came to request for a bail - police bail - for me because that’s what you normally do. If you people are arrested you go and request for a police station bail, which is normally like R500 before appearing in court. The bail was refused. The Policeman said they were given a mandate not to give me any bail until I appear in court.

The whole night I was there. My mum was refused to give me food, until she gave me a juice. I (bled) the whole night because I have (sinus problems). I started bleeding. I had no water to survive. I had to only sustain through the juice that my mother gave. I took that juice, I wiped my face with that juice and then I poured it in here -- trying to stop the blood from bleeding.

FAZILA FAROUK: You poured the juice onto your head?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: I poured - that was the only liquid thing I had, because there was not even a droplet of water in the cell. The following – I don’t know whether that night fainted how many times and I woke up how many times. I only realized when it was in the morning my head was paining.

I asked for another policeman who is like an old man – who, I heard like maybe he could be like a father to me, and I asked him for some painkillers. He was very nice because he took his money and bought me Disprin, and I took that Disprin before appearing in court.

I was taken into court with the hope that…because everyone, even that man was saying that “No, you’ll be freed. This thing of yours -- everyone like this is always arrested for public violence, if they’re arrested.”

FAZILA FAROUK: So what was the charge against you?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: The charge was public violence, obstruction -- and this white man came after the meeting with Mchunu. They told him that I’m the general secretary for Abahlali. He said they must add another case, which is incitement to commit violence. The third charge was laid to me.

Bear in mind that this guy was not at the scene. But because of hearing my portfolio, I was added another charge, which I accepted.

The trick part about my arrest -- at the time I came, there was a sheet with my home address and my alternative address where I put my fingerprints in. The following day that sheet got missing. I had to do another one. I asked where is the sheet because I did put my fingerprints. They said, no the aunty who was cleaning here possibly might have thrown it away. And I had to do another one, which I accepted.

I’ll tell you the trick about the paper.

When I was appearing in court, I was not granted a bail. I do not know the reasons behind it, but I was not given a bail. I had to spend seven days in Westville prison.

When I was released – when I was in Westville prison, strange cars was coming to my house. Both my houses…my father’s house, which was an alternative address in Kwamakuta and…my home in Kwamashu. People were asking, “Is Bandile staying here?”

It was not policemen, because I expected at least police to go and verify the address. It was not policemen. It was just people who called themselves – others who called themselves my friends.

I don’t have friends outside Abahlali.

They wanted to know how I’m doing. My mum said, “Did you know, there were strange people coming with different strange cars.” My mum is too old and I asked, “Did you take down the number plate?” She said no, because sometimes she doesn’t think straight -- especially that she was very stressed about my arrest.

And then I was released on Sunday, I mean on Monday with a R5000 bail. I had to get a safe place and hide for my life, because I realized those were not my friends. Those were the very people who wanted me dead. They wanted to verify the addresses where I was staying. And from then, after I was released, there were like these people coming, strange people who were asking about my whereabouts. To the extent that my daughter from school, day…because I call them every day.

FAZILA FAROUK: How old is your daughter?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: My daughter is six years. I call them every day. So my daughter said, “Mummy there was a car. There was another uncle who wanted me to jump in the car and said he’s your friend. I must jump in the car.” And I asked, “What did you do?” She said, “I refused because you said I must not go into strangers and there’s many of us, so I did not want to go there.”

And I – from there I realized that even my kids are targeted. My family is targeted. My kids are targeted. I had to ask someone to take care of my kids, to take them to school and back from school.

FAZILA FAROUK: So you remained charged at the moment?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: I’m still charged. Actually I’m meant to appear back in court on the 14 of November, which is tomorrow. I’m appearing back into court.

FAZILA FAROUK: So what’s the way forward for you and for the movement?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: This is not the time for us to accept the political fear. We are not meant to stay (on) this Earth forever.

But the bigger part about my arrest, it gave me time to think. The seven days spent in Westville was not easy. I have long thought about it. Yes, a part of me wanted to let go. It was too much for me at the age of 27.

FAZILA FAROUK: To be in jail?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: To be in jail. First time I was arrested kept with other prisoners who were murderers. It was too much for me. Nights – I had sleepless nights. I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t know what was happening. Bad news, you always hear about police, about the jails -- it was too much for me.

FAZILA FAROUK: How were you treated when you were inside prison?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Honestly, the jail is not a very good place to be, but because of me being in media, in the newspapers and everywhere. S'bu Zikode who is my colleague came to give me a paper and there were like so many people visiting me at jail.

The warrant officers started to be conscious about who I am and they wanted to know more about me. Openly, I was telling them who I am, what I do, what is my position and I talked more about Abahlali. It was only then they started to treat even all prisoners differently, but what I’ve heard from other prisoners that they are always beaten. And one prisoner was beaten in front of me. They were – they were if….

FAZILA FAROUK: A woman prisoner?

BANDILE MDLALOSEJa, they are also sometimes told that they are stinking, they must go bath…the warrant officer stands in front of them and while they are taking a shower, making sure they bath in a very cold water. That humiliation…it was happening in front of me. I saw it. It was only (on) day two that things started to change. There were no more beatings. Even other prisoners, they were like, you know this is the first week that we are like living smoothly, no swearing from the prisoners. No humiliation…

FAZILA FAROUK: You mean no swearing from the prison warders?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Yes, from the prison warders.

So like, for me being there in jail -- it was a hard experience for me because I was scared. But yes, I was not badly treated because they understand that I’m a human rights activist. But I brought hope and peace into -- that week brought peace to the other prisoners because they were not violated. Their rights were not violated.

So, it was then I realized that after I come out from prison, I will work and fight for people’s rights 10 times harder than I was doing it before. Because I realized that it takes only a minute for a person to be silenced.

I was not -- because being in jail, I could have also been dead and I could be -- I wouldn’t be able to fight anymore. So while I’m still alive and having this chance, let me fight 10 times harder as I was doing it before, which I am doing at the moment.

Each and every day for me is a day to make sure that people’s rights are respected. It might not be overnight, but I’m sure that South Africa would be a place where everyone lives and this is the responsibility of us as young people to make sure that we make the best of South Africa because we are the future leaders. A leader is…anyone can be a leader. You don’t need to be old to be a leader, but the little that you are doing can make a difference to the nation, which is the reason why I told myself I can’t let go. When I was in Brazil I made…

FAZILA FAROUK: You’ve just come back from a trip to Brazil?

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Of course, I just came back from a trip to Brazil. I spent my one-week in Brazil. It was also through my activism also…about encouraging other people, other community activists, to fight because it only takes a minute for a person to be silenced.

At often times, we don’t want to be part of the struggles because we always want to rely on our parents. And when our parents are gone, we don’t know what our parents were doing. So it’s very important for a young person at an early stage to know and practice their rights at an early stage for a better future.

The ANC, which is the leading party, also did the same. It was young people who brought change for the so-called democracy that was documented, but not implemented. So why don’t we fight, unite and fight it together for our constitution to be respected, for the democracy and freedom to be implemented? Why don’t we fight against the democratic prison that we are living in at a young age?

So that is who I am and that is what we do.

I will make sure that -- because I always see South Africa not as a free country, but I always say that we are living under a democratic prison. We are still living in the apartheid era where it was only the change of the colour of the skin, but things are still the same.

The way people are oppressed is still the same - there is no difference. The violation of people’s rights is still the same. The assassination of people - the recent Marikana - just the same as the times of the apartheid era. The demolishing of people’s houses, poor people’s houses, the very same, as in the times of the apartheid era. So there is no difference.

So we need to fight today to make South Africa a better South Africa that Nelson Mandela stayed in a cell for (27 years)…because we must implement the vision of Nelson Mandela, the dream of Nelson Mandela. 

FAZILA FAROUK: Bandile Mdlalose, thank you so much for joining us at SACSIS.

BANDILE MDLALOSE: Thank you so much for welcoming me.

FAZILA FAROUK: And thank you to our viewers and listeners for joining us at the South African Civil Society Information Service. Remember, if you want more social justice news and analysis, you can get that at

Should you wish to repost this SACSIS video, air this podcast or republish this transcript please acknowledge The South African Civil Society Information Service as its source.

All of SACSIS' originally produced articles, videos, podcasts and transcripts are licensed under a Creative Commons license.

For more information about our Copyright Policy, please click here.

To receive an email notification when a new SACSIS video is released, please click here.

For regular and timely updates of new SACSIS articles, you can also follow us on Twitter @SACSIS_News and/or become a SACSIS fan on Facebook.

You can find this page online at

A+ A= A-
    Print this page       comments

Leave A Comment

Posts by unregistered readers are moderated. Posts by registered readers are published immediately. Why wait? Register now or log in!


Barry Saayman
23 Nov

What Did Brazil Teach Bandile Mdlalose?

"South Africa's ruling party abandoned the notion of a pro-poor democracy way back in 1994. In fact, some social justice activists argue that they abandoned the poor in the negotiations that led and ushered in our era of democracy."

You and Bandile Mdlalose left me wondering about the rationale behind your peculiar reporting and activities.

Do you have a regime change in mind and if so-

1. Are you working for a violent/revolutionary or a democratic regime change?
2. Who must replace the SACP/ANC/Cosatu alliance?
3. Why do you believe that your preferred political organisation will have the political will and the capacity to change whatever you think must change?

"There's been a reliance on the markets to redress the injustices of the past."

What do you have in mind with the word "redress"?

All of us one way or the other pays tax to enable among others local governments to among others "redress" past injustices.

"Poor people who come to the cities do not have a place to live."

Can you supply an example of well-planned and disciplined urbanisation processes where fully serviced housing and enough well-paid work opportunities were ready and awaiting all newcomers, whether experienced or not, whether trained or not?

Any country will do as an example. Any time in history will also do as a guiding example. Also tell us how that government financed the ready housing and services?

We must learn very well from them or more poor people, including duty bound police officers working for small salaries, are going to be traumatised without any hope of improving the situation in most parts of the country. That is a bad case scenario better avoided at all costs.

"The apartheid city landscape is still very much intact."

De facto apartheid is not only a South African phenomenon. When will you ask Bandile Mdlalose about Brazil?

"And if the municipality cut water and electricity, how do they expect me to survive?"

Good question. Another good question is possibly how the municipality must survive.

When parents cannot or will not supply basic needs a very well financed social welfare system must step in.

Maybe Bandile Mdlalose has some important and practical ideas that can be implemented when she hopefully very soon becomes the next Executive Mayor of a city or town. Will she lower taxes? What about health services and schools?

Respond to this comment