Patrick Magebhula Hunsley, our comrade, our brother and our very special friend passed away on Monday 4 August.
Patrick has been dodging bullets all his life – literally and figuratively. He survived being stabbed in the lung. He survived vicious assaults. He survived stints in reformatory and in prison. He survived being gang-pressed into an Ihkatha Impi. He survived a prolonged fight in the shacklands of Inanda to bring a progressive civic organisation into being in his settlement. He survived wave after wave of attacks from forces of reaction and crime to unseat him.
In the 1980s and 1990s we invaded land to create settlements that now house formal communities with services, legal tenure and housing development. We have worked with all levels of the government to give the urban poor a voice. Working with communities we have driven home the need to save money, collect information and upgrade. – Patrick Magebhula writes in an opinion piece in the Mail and Guardian
Since the early 1990s, Patrick has been instrumental in building community networks and local savings schemes. He negotiated with government departments, and even turned away offers when it jeopardised the needs of the community. From his home in Piesang River between the shacklands of Inanda, Durban, where the Federation built 1,431 houses between 1992 and 2000, Patrick mobilised communities across South Africa as a leader of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor. Since 2008/09 he served as the chairperson of the Informal Settlement Network. He built progressive partnerships with government agencies and as a special advisor to the previous minister of Human Settlements Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, served as a committee member of the Ministerial Sanitation Task Team, and presented at numerous international conferences such as World Urban Forum 7.
Patrick has breathed his last. The accumulated batterings of poverty wore him down. It is hard to imagine a future without him – without his marvellous sense of humour, his poetic soul, his fiery oratory, his capacity to find common ground with one and all, his deep compassion for his fellow human being. A flawed genius has passed on. Our movement will be immeasurably more poor who share his dream for a just and equitable world in which poverty and exclusion, oppression and intolerance are consigned to the past.
The sun shines for the chosen few.
The sun rises for the lucky ones.
The sun sets for the majority of the poor.
I end up counting the stars
For the next few weeks there will be mourning for Patrick in hundreds of informal settlements, backyard shacks, pavement dwellings in dozens of countries. There will be mourning for him in places of power where his sparkle and his candour, his determination and his unwavering commitment earned him enemies but won over many, many more.
Everyone is invited to share their stories, memories and moments with Patrick on a dedicated social media channel.
A selection of Patrick’s poems are available for download: