South Africa shack dwellers killed

I report below an updated press statement on the attack on the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC), an informal settlement in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The settlement has been for many years at the center of people commoning on housing, electricity and water. The situation in South Africa seems to be at a crucial point and resistance to ANC politics, which is now meeting a wall of violence.

This press statement has been updated. Please use this version from now on. We will update further as we get further information.

Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC)

Emergency Press Release, Sunday 27 September 2009

Kennedy Road Development Committee Attacked – People Have Been Killed

Last night at abo ut 11:30 a group of about 40 men heavily armed with guns, bush knives and even a sword attacked the KRDC near the Abahlali baseMjondolo office in the Kennedy Road settlement. The movement was holding an all night camp for the Youth League but the camp was not attacked but the people at the camp were intimidated and threatened.
The men who attacked were shouting: ‘The AmaMpondo are taking over Kennedy. Kennedy is for the AmaZulu.” Some people were killed. We can’t yet say exactly how many. Some are saying that three people are dead. Some are saying that five people are dead. Many people are also very seriously injured. The attackers broke everything that they could including the windows in the hall. They destroyed 15 houses before launching their attack. They were knocking on each door shouting ‘All the amaZulu must come out’ and then destroying the shacks. As far as we know two of the attackers were killed when people managed to take their bush knives off them. This was self defense.
The Sydenham police were called but they did not come. They said that they had no vans but they didn’t radio their vans to come. This has led some people to conclude that this was a carefully planned attack on the movement and that the police knew in advance that it had been planned and stayed away on purpose. Why else would the police refuse to come when they are being called while people are being openly murdered? When the attack happened one officer from Crime Intelligence was there in plain clothes.
This morning the police arrived under the authority of Glen Nayager and made eight arrests. As far as we can tell only members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) have been arrested. If this is true it indicates clearly that the police are part of this attack on the movement. It also seems that the police are only taking statements from the people that attacked us! Some of the people that they have arrested were not even at Kennedy Road when we were attacked. They were in Claremont for an imfene dance. They do the imfene dance every Saturday. All the people that have been arrested as amaMphondo. These arrests feel to us like the Kennedy Six scandal all over again.
We believe that this attack has been planned and organised by Gumede, from the Lacy Road settlement, who is the head of the Branch Executive Committee of the local ANC. There has never been political freedom in Lacy Road. Since 2005 we have been told that anyone wearing the red shirt of Abahlali baseMjondolo in Lacy Road will be killed. In 2006 Gumede personally threatened Abahlali baseMjondolo member and Lacy Road resident M’du Hlongwa with death for wearing a read shirt in the settllement. But anyone can wear any shirt of any politics that they like in our settlements. You will see COPE, ANC and SACP shirts in our settlements. We are democracts. Our politics is a politics of open and free discussion - not violence and intimidation.
This is not the first time that our movement has been attacked. Last year both Mzonke Poni, head of AbM in the Western Cape, and S’bu Zikode, head of AbM in KwaZulu-Natal, were attacked and seriously beaten by well organised and mysterious groups of young men. These attacks happened a few days apart. The men who attacked Zikode also said that he was selling Kennedy to the AmaMpondo. Some time after the attacks on Mzonke and S’bu Mashumi Figland, Deputy President of Abahlali baseMjondolo who was then also Chairperson of the Kennedy Road Development Committee, was also attacked and seriously beaten. Again the attack was very well organised and carried out by a mysterious group of young men. During the attack Mashumi, who is Xhosa, was told that the AmaMpondo must leave Durban and go back to the Eastern Cape.
This ethnic politics in the local ANC started with Jacob Zuma’s election campaign. Before then it was unknown in the settlement. People in the local ANC started to say ‘now is the time for the amaZulu’. This ethnic politics started with Zuma’s election campaign and so it his responsibility to take this politics out of the ANC.
Gumede, head of the local BEC of the ANC, has been trying by all means to undermine the movement for many years. He has failed. Every year we have open elections in Kennedy Road and ever year people vote for who they want to represent them on the KRDC.
We believe that Gumede, with the=2 0support of ward councillor Yakoob Baig, has tried to build a coalition against the movement in order to attack it violently. Gumede has said publicly that he will turn the Abahlali baseMjondolo office into an ANC office. His coalition is now a milita. They have found 4 types of people that want to attack the movement:
1. People who want to follow an ethnic politics: The movement accepts all shack dwellers on an equal basis. We do not care where a person was born or what language they speak. This has caused those who want an ethnic politics to oppose us.
2. Criminals: We have a Safety & Security committee and we have been working to get the criminals out of our settlement. In recent months we have been working very well with the local police to get them arrested. We have also put a time limit on the shebeens saying that they must close at 10:00 p.m. so that people can sleep properly and that there is no violence, especially violence against women, when people get too drunk. The criminals and some shebeen owners do not like what the movement is doing to make the settlement safe for everybody.
3. People who want Gumede’s patronage: Every time the movement wins a small victory, like getting toilets built or even cleaned, Gumede tries to ensure that the jobs go only to his people. We are opposed to development becoming misused for party politics. The people who want to get Gumede’s jobs are also unhappy with what we are doing. We also think that now the Abahlali baseMjondolo has won the struggle against the eviction of Kennedy Road, and for the up grade of the settlement where it is, these people want to use violence to take over the settlement so that they can get the contacts that they think will come with development. We suspect that Gumede has promised them these contracts.
4. People who are making money from electricity: Operation Khanyisa, in which we connect people to electricity, is for free. People who were charging to connect people to electricity see it as a threat to them.
The next Kennedy Road AGM is coming soon. Once again the people of Kennedy Road can vote for ever they want to represent them. The people who attacked us last night do not want democracy. If they felt that they had support they could just have waited for the AGM and put up candidates.
What Gumede, and Baig are doing is not just an attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo. It is also an attack on democracy. They have now set set up a militia to destroy the movement. We have no armed wing. We have never attacked anyone. Our politics is a politics of open meetings and popular democracy. It is a politics of debating and discussing together. The politics that is being used to attack us is a politics of war. Gumede has not become a war lord. Abahlali baseMjondolo will mobilise its members across the city, the province and the country against Gumede.
We see no difference between what is being done to us and what the apartheid regime did with the Witdoeke in the shack settlements in Cape Town in the 1980s.
After what has happened many people are saying to us that they do not trust the police. They are asking for the army to be sent in as the army might be neutral.
As we write the attacks and threats continue. We are under attack. A member of the Saftey & Security committee, affiliated to the KRDC, was stabbed and killed this morning. He was not there last night. He was doing the imfene dance in Claremont. The attackers tried to chase the ambulance away.
Gumede and his militia are not just a threat to us and our community. They are a threat to democracy in South Africa. It is very clear that democracy is under attack.
As we are sending this statement a helicopter and many more police officers are arriving. We hope that they will be neutral and follow the law – not Gumede’s politics of war. But as far as we can tell the police that are here are just looking for statements against the KRDC - those who were ambushed in the night! The violence is continuing. Gumede’s people are saying that if Mashumi Figlan returns to Kennedy he will be killed. We do not have confidence that he and others will be protected by the police. None of the perpetrators of the attacks last night have been arrested. We are not armed. People are very scared that there will b e more attacks. They are packing their bags and fleeing the settlement.
Things are still confused. This statement was prepared in this confusion. If there are any errors or important things left out of this statement we will correct them or add them when we can talk to everyone safely and send out a more detailed statement.
For more information and breaking news please contact the following members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee:
Mzwakhe Mdlalose: 072 132 8458
Anton Zamisa: 079 380 1759
Bheki Simelane: 078 598 9491
Nokutula Manyawo: 083 949 1379


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Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People’s Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People’s Alliance - a national network of democratic membership based poor people’s movements.
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