Sbu Zikode

President, Abahlali baseMjondolo

Sbu Zikode says he learnt about "leadership, manhood and patriotism after joining the Boy Scouts in grade three� while growing up in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Estcourt. Today, as a family man and activist heading one of the largest social movements to emerge after apartheid (the shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo has about 20 000 members), he remains very much a boy scout � clean cut, soft-spoken and trying to use meagre resources innovatively to ensure survival. Ensuring survival, for the communities ABM represents, means challenging government in the fight for the housing rights of the most marginalised. Zikode, 35, dropped out of his first year of law studies at the then University of Durban Westville because of a shortage of funds and worked in odd jobs � as a clothing salesman and petrol pump attendant. Initially an ANC branch executive member of Ward 25 at the Kennedy Road settlement where he lived, Zikode became disillusioned with party politics. ABM, born out of a spontaneous blockade of the Kennedy Road settlement by angry residents, bases its philosophy on "living politics� � that is, the everyday politics of poverty and squalor pervasive in shack settlements around the country. under his stewardship, ABM has made steady gains for housing rights, including last year's Constitutional Court victory striking down the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of the Re-emergence of Slums Act. Since then, an ethno-political attack on ABM at Kennedy Road in September last year has seen Zikode living in a safe house and the movement teetering. Despite the heavy toll, Zikode remains philosophical. "ABM was born out of people's suffering and struggle,� he says. "The attacks were too, and have allowed us to look at ourselves again as a movement � to remain responsive and dynamic�. �Niren Tolsi

Lunch spot: Centre Court, Durban