General Alfred Mzondeki Moyo
Summary: General Alfred Mzondeki Moyo started his struggle against state brutality and oppression in East Rand during apartheid and his fight to defend human rights in South Africa has never stopped. In 2007, for example, Moyo and his colleagues led a successful struggle against state-sponsored forced eviction of his community. Today, as the deadly Covid-19 spreads rapidly across South Africa, Moyo challenges the government to address the accompanying poverty, hunger, and starvation in working class communities, For his efforts, Moyo has suffered a series of assassination attempts.
Profile: General Alfred Mzondeki Moyo grew up in East Rand. That was in the 1970s and 1980s. Exposed to repressive apartheid laws, Moyo’s activism was born, and he resolved to devote his life to fight for human freedom.
During those years, says Moyo, “Activism became part of our daily lives growing up in the Townships of the East Rand during the State of Emergency in the 1980s, and the repression that characterised it pushed my activism further. The practical experiences and the daily lives during this era made me, as a conscious being, choose activism.”
On realising that people’s freedoms remained curtailed even after the attainment of independence in 1994, “I continued campaigning for people’s rights, more especially in the fight against all forms of oppression and infringements of the constitutionally guaranteed rights. The realities of life after independence pushed me into engaging, organizing, and mobilising against the contradictions, injustices, and the prevailing infringements of the constitutional rights guaranteed by the constitution of the land.”
In 2007, Moyo and his colleagues founded the Makause Community Development Forum to fight all forms of injustice in East Rand. Moyo organized and mobilised a campaign against state-sponsored forced eviction of his community. This operation was aimed at moving residents of Makause 40 km away from the city to the outskirts of the township, a place devoid of basic services. As a result of Moyo’s campaign, residents of Makause community became conscious of their rights; the evictions were stopped.
The following year, following a sporadic outbreak of violence against people of foreign origins, mostly from other African countries, the Forum waged a campaign against xenophobic assaults in Gauteng region. With the help of his colleagues, Moyo organised sports tournaments between locals and non-locals with the goal of promoting peace and unity. Today, following the successful integration or refugees and immigrants, the region is relatively stable.
In 2010, concerned with the plight of the working class and the poor, Moyo organised and coordinated the fight for the development of the Makause informal settlement. The settlement had no electric power, and criminals were taking advantage of the darkness to pounce on residents and steal their belongings. In a campaign code-named Asikhanyiseni (“Asikhanyiseni” is a Zulu word that means “Give us Light”), Moyo and his activists lobbied to provide electricity for the community. In 2016 Makause finally received mechanisms to provide solar lighting.
Moyo is still hard at work. As the deadly Covid-19 spread rapidly across South Africa in 2020, Moyo and his colleagues educated people about the pandemic and challenged the government to address the poverty, hunger, and starvation in working class and poor communities, all induced by the pandemic. With support from local organizations, the Makause Community Development Forum managed to provide food to vulnerable women, those living with disabilities, and the elderly. From March to October, more than 5,000 people received food and other basic necessities.
All these campaigns have come with risks. Besides being financially draining and limiting time with his family, Moyo’s human rights work was continually threatened. For example, in 2012 he was arrested by the Primrose Police Station in East Rand for challenging police brutality. Viewing the arrest as an attempt to criminalise his activism, Moyo—with support from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) and Centre of Applied Studies (CALS)—launched a ferocious legal campaign against the constitutionality of the Intimidation Act. In 2019 the Constitutional Court ruled in his favor, declaring the Act unconstitutional, inconsistent, and repressive.
There were more than financial and legal challenges. Viewing Moyo as a troublemaker, some municipal officials and politicians sought to harm him. Moyo suffered four assassination attempts. His shack was burnt four times, putting the life of his wife and children at risk. Nonetheless, in spite of the danger to his life and the lives of members of his family, Moyo refuses to bow down, continuing to devote his life to the struggle against oppression for as long as it is necessary.
“Activism is in me and the reality of the life I live,” says Moyo. “I am a human rights defender.”