shack dwellers claim they were targeted
September 30, 2009 Edition 1
NTOKOZO MFUSI – The Mercury
POLITICAL and police involvement have been said to be behind the mob that attacked residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Sydenham, Durban, killing two men on Saturday night.
This has been alleged by Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers’ movement), which said that its members had been targeted during attacks by the mob, acting on orders from ANC leaders, who have denied the allegations.Abahlali said in a statement shortly after the attacks that ethnic tensions had surfaced in the area during the ANC’s 2009 election campaigns. The mob had allegedly shouted during the attack that the settlement was for Zulus, not for the many Xhosas who lived there.
The statement added that Abahlali members believed that ANC leaders had tried to build a coalition against the movement, and had set up a militia for that purpose.
ANC leaders denied the allegations, saying that they were “absolute rubbish” and “a figment of someone’s imagination”.
Instead, they accused Abahlali members of being violent when they were perceived to have been excluded from development projects for the settlement.
“They are the ones who are violent, and we have always tried to work together with them to bring about peace and development in the area. I will look at the possibility of suing them if there is any defamation of character,” said one ANC leader.
Another said it appeared that Abahlali was opposed to any development of the settlement which it had not approved.
Abahlali also alleged that the police had colluded with the mob by not acting on a warning that an attack was going to take place.
“The police are currently on the scene and doing nothing to stop the destruction… it would be supremely easy for them to stop these attacks if they wished to.
“The police complicity in these attacks is now entirely beyond question,” it said in a statement.
However, Superintendent Jay Naicker said police had responded to the attacks and had ensured that peace was restored.
Naicker said that eight people had appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday charged with the murders of the two men.
Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu denied in a statement yesterday that the attacks had been ethnically motivated. The police have also said that the dead men had been accused of being criminals and were killed by vigilantes. The matter has attracted worldwide attention with more than 100 academics, professionals, students, activists, members of civil society organisations and authors based in South Africa and abroad signing a letter of concern over the attacks.
The letter said the claims that the attacks had been ethnically and politically motivated were concerning.
Several political activists and scholars sent a petition calling for the violence at the settlement to end to President Jacob Zuma. They called for an independent and transparent inquiry into whether police or political parties had instigated the violence.
KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council chairman Bishop Ruben Phillip said the violence was disappointing.
“Once again an armed minority have used violence to implement a ban on a democratic organisation favoured by a majority. There is just cause for deep concern about the role of the police. The churches are looking for safe houses for activists, accommodation for political refugees who have fled with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”
He had set up a relief fund to help those affected and displaced. The fund’s account details are: Diocese of Natal Trust Account, First National Bank, account number 509 3118 7386, branch code 257 355, Midlands Mall branch, Pietermaritzburg.