South African Unemployed Peoples' Movement

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The South African Unemployed Peoples' Movement is a social movement with branches in Durban, Grahamstown and Limpopo Province[1] in South Africa. It is often referred to as the Unemployed People's Movement or UPM. The organisation is strongly critical of the ruling African National Congress government.[2]

Activities in Durban[edit]

On 15 July 2009, the movement announced that it would begin appropriating food from supermarkets in Durban if the state did not agree to consult with it on its demand for a basic income grant of R1,500 per month for all unemployed people.[3]

On 22 July 2009, the movement occupied the Checkers supermarket in Dr Pixley KaSeme Street and the Pick'n'Pay supermarket at The Workshop and began to eat food off the shelves without paying. Police said they arrested 44 people at Checkers and 50 people at Pick'n'Pay. Nozipho Mteshana, then the chairwoman of the movement, said that the appropriation of food in supermarkets would continue despite the arrests.[4][5][6] She was placed under house arrest for 18 months following the protest.[7]

The movement has, working together with Abahlali baseMjondolo, also organised a number of protests from the Zakheleni shack settlement in Umlazi, Durban.[8]

Activities in Grahamstown[edit]

There is also a branch of the Unemployed People's Movement in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.[9][10][11][12] It argues for a bottom up system of democracy.[13] Along with the struggle for employment, housing and electricity[14] women's issues, including the demand for toilets [15] and campaigns against rape,[16][17] have emerged as key issues in Grahamstown. The movement has had some success in campaigning against corruption in Grahamstown.[18] The movement has also opposed xenophobia.,[19][20]

Its current chairperson is Ayanda Kota[21] and the Grahamstown branch works closely with radical students.[22]

According to commentator Mazibuko Jara, "it has become the most powerful force in the Makana municipality. Its formation represented a collective recognition of the appetite for self-emancipation, and without self-organisation, the unemployed in Grahamstown might as well have remained on the margins of that divided small town. In its short two years of existence, the movement has marched, written deputations, submitted memorandums of demands, held sit-ins, held meetings with the state, used the law and more. It has challenged unemployment, poor-quality housing, lack of housing, lack of water and sanitation, lack of electricity and street lighting, violence against women and problems with the social security system. The movement has humanised politics by concerning themselves with how to rebuild the social fabric of a poor community."[23]


The movement has suffered arrests in both Grahamstown[24][25][26] and Durban.[27] It claims that in Grahamstown the Municipality has often frustrated its right to protest.[28]

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Fighting for Our Right to Work – Organising the Unemployed", Jeanne Hefez, Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggles, 2011
  2. ^ Mixed feelings after Centenary celebrations, South African Broadcasting Corporation, 9 January 2012
  3. ^ ‘Give us a basic grant of R1500 or we’ll wreak havoc’, Canaan Mdletshe, The Sowetan, 17 July 2009
  4. ^ 'Looting sprees to continue: 94 arrested for protest thefts at supermarkets', Mpume Madala, Daily News, 23 July 2009
  5. ^ 'The Outrage of South Africa's Poor Threatens Their President', Megan Lindow, Time Magazine, 23 July 2009
  6. ^ 'Bazitapele ezitolo bekhala ngendlala', Bonisa Mohale & Celani Sikhakhane, Isolezwe, 22 July 2009
  7. ^ Social Movements are Fighting for a Good Cause - We are Not Criminals, Ayanda Kota
  8. ^ Service failure: next step, silence the dissent, Many de Waal, Daily Maverick. 25 June 2012
  9. ^ Unemployed People's Movement
  10. ^ Unemployed People's Movement
  11. ^ Demanding Not Requesting Says UPM, Grocott's Mail, 2011
  12. ^ Is the SACP Still Relevant?, Mazibuko K. Jara, The Times, 31 July 2011
  13. ^ Ten Theses on Democracy, Amandla Magazine, 2011
  14. ^ Picket sparks City Hall action, Thembani Onceya. Grocott's Mail, 3 May 2013
  15. ^ The Unemployed People's Movement and the Women's Social Forum March for Toilets this Friday, 2011
  16. ^ Pupil rape: marchers call for police action by Chelsea Geach Daniella Favis & Loyiso Djongman, Grocott's Mail, 4 May 2012
  17. ^ Thandiswa Qubuda – another dead brick in the wall of rape imprisoning South Africa, The Daily Maverick, 4 March 2012
  18. ^ Mayor confirms housing scam, Malibongwe Dayimani & Danielle Gordon, Grocott's Mail, 7 August 2013
  19. ^ Xenophobia in Grahamstown: 'We are not leaving!', KJ VAN RENSBURG, F MTHONTI & M ERSKOG, The Daily Maverick, 29 October 2015
  20. ^ The languages of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa: Reviewing migrancy, foreignness, and solidarity, Agenda, Camalita Naicker, 2016
  21. ^ Occupy South Africa on the Global Occupy Map
  22. ^ Occupy Wall Street uprising could be 'explosive', Niren Tolsi, Mail & Guardian, 2011
  23. ^ Is the SACP Still Relevant?, Mazibuko K. Jara, The Times', 31 July 2011
  24. ^ Outcry over ‘savage assault’, ADRIENNE CARLISLE and DAVID MACGREGOR, The Daily Dispatch, 14 January 2012
  25. ^ Grahamstown activist arrested for book theft FARANAAZ PARKER, Mail & Guardian, Jan 13 2012
  26. ^ UPM leader arrested and allegedly beaten by police, Desiree Schirlinger & Michael Salzwedel, Grocott's Mail, 13 January 2012
  27. ^ Service failure: next step, silence the dissent, Many de Waal, Daily Maverick. 25 June 2012
  28. ^ Protests unlikely to dent ANC support at polls BY TROYE LUND,Financial Mail, OCTOBER 10 2013