Zikode is the president of shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) South Africa, an organisation he co-founded in 2005. The prize from the Swedish government will be awarded to Zikode by the Living History Forum (LHF) on April 21.
Ingrid Lomfors, superintendent of LHF, said Zikode worked in centres on the right to home, land and survival for the most impoverished inhabitants of the country’s shack settlements. She said Zikode highlighted the difficult living conditions for shack dwellers. AbM has 82 000 members and Lomfors said they help shine a light on corruption, power structures, and violence against those living in shacks, for example, by initiating legal action.
Zikode said that when he received the news, he became very emotional, having to think about what he and fellow AbM leaders have been through.
“Having to think about comrades who have lost their lives during the Abahlali struggle. Many of us have deep scars, but some had to pay an ultimate price for just insisting that our lives also count in this society. The price for land, decent housing and dignity has been paid in blood,” he said.
Zikode said he felt humbled and deeply honoured for winning a prize named after a brave and selfless man like Per Anger, a Swedish diplomat who risked his life to help save Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
“I am doing the best of my ability, I have faced serious repression including arrest, torture in police custody by the late Sydenham police station commissioner Senior Superintendent Glen Nayager. I have been beaten, slandered in the media and a hit on my life was confirmed by the police,” Zikode said.
“I have had sleepless nights having to think about what is it that I have not achieved in life because death was inevitable. I have had to leave my family, work underground and offered safe homes in the country and outside the country by other governments including the US State Department. This is not in any way enough. However, thousands of families have a place they call ’home’, they have land and basic services, and they have a powerful and radical movement representing the interest of the impoverished and marginalised Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA.
“Building the biggest and radical social movement of the oppressed in post-apartheid South Africa that has become the voice and the hope of millions of South Africans and around the world is definitely something to be proud of,” he said.
Among his list of accomplishments Zikode said: “Making case law, including challenging the then Slums Act at the Constitutional Court and winning is also something definitely to be proud of, and insisting that every human life counts, and educating shack dwellers on their rights to housing and South Africa’s constitutional democracy has been profound for me.
“Although Abahlali members have been refused housing opportunities in big developments like Cornubia Housing Projects etc as a form of punishment for challenging and exposing corruption in housing etc, we have built hope and resisted all forms of degradation,” he said.