Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
Three people were murdered in Sisonke Village, in Lamontville, on Sunday, including our chairperson in the area Sibonela Mpeku.
Our members gave Sisonke Village its new name on 13 July 2014 and our branch was launched there on 9 November 2014. During that year we issued statements noting that the local ANC had tried to prevent us from holding meetings and had made serious threats against our members. Since then there has been a long struggle in this area with serious intimidation from the local ANC, including death threats, and at least twenty-four armed and illegal evictions. The comrades in the area have rebuilt their homes again and again. They have remained on the land despite regular violence and intimidation. They have organised road blockades and other protests and taken their struggle to court.
On 28 March this year, we issued a statement noting that death threats had been made against our members in the area by the local ANC.
On 3 November 2015, we issued a statement noting the violence and intimidation against our members by the local ANC and the police, the blatant discrimination against people from the Eastern Cape and that our attempts to meet with the ward councillor, and our letters to her asking her to intervene in the situation, had gone unanswered.
In 2014 and 2015 we repeatedly went to court to stop the violent and unlawful evictions in the area. We won victories in the Durban High Court and in the Constitutional Court protecting our members against these evictions.
Our chairperson, Sibonela Mpeku, has lived under constant death threats and intimidation from local ANC structures since 2014. These threats were reported to the structures in our movement and, in writing, to the councillor of the area, the ward committee, the Branch Executive Committee of the ANC, the ANC Regional Secretary as well as to the Lamontville Police Station. We received no responses to these letters and reports.
Our movement has also held meetings in the community to denounce these threats, to oppose the politic of blood and death, and to argue for democracy to be built and defended from below, and for unity in the struggle for land and dignity.
However, despite our protests, our letters, our attempts to meet with various people in the ANC and our numerous actions in court no attempt has been made to address the political gangsterism in the area. This failure has now had tragic consequences including the loss of three lives in one day.
On Sunday, 19 November at about 11 am the Abahlali Youth League had a meeting in Sisonke Village. Our local chairperson, Mpeku, was there at the invitation of our youth structure. The meeting went well without any threats or intimidation.
On the same afternoon at about 15 pm, Fiza Madlala called a community meeting. Madlala used to claim to own the land in the area and he used to sell land to people. He was with the ANC and had been hostile to our movement in the name of the ANC, and with the support of the police. However when he realised that he had lost support he started moving away from the ANC. This resulted in some tensions between him and the ANC. He had apologised to us for his conduct. As a result, we were building a working relationship with him. Some of our members, including Mpeku, attended the meeting called by Madlala.
The meeting was chaired by Madlala and our comrades engaged well in that meeting. But while Madlala was on the podium addressing the meeting an unknown young man walked into the meeting. He was carrying a knife and he went straight to Madlala and stabbed him in full view of the community. That man was then chased by community members. He was quickly caught and stoned to death. Madlala was rushed to hospital but he passed away.
At about 11pm Mpeku was kidnaped by unknown men while he was sleeping in his shack. He was dragged outside his shack and stabbed. He was screaming for help as he was dragged away. While Mpeku’s brother was searching for his brother he saw someone known in the community, a man who owns two shebeens, running away. When Mpeku’s brother tried to ask him why he was running he chopped his hand with a bush knife. Mpeku’s brother sustained serious injuries and had to be rushed to hospital as well. An hour after he was kidnapped Mpeku’s body was found. He was covered with blood and had terrible wounds.
We do not yet know the identity of the young man who murdered Madlala, what his motive for the murder was or who he is associated with. We do not yet know why Mpeku was murdered, or who murdered him. All kinds of rumours are flying around. Some of these rumours are highly contradictory. But at the moment we do not have clear evidence as to why Madlala and Mpeku were murdered.
Comrade Mpeku was 32 years of age. He was the elected chairperson of our movement in our Sisonke Village branch and an elected member of our KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Council. He was a very kind cadre and a quiet and thoughtful man held in high respect in his community and in the movement. Mpeku was one of our cadres whose lived experience best demonstrated the kind of society we are struggling to build every day. In October this year Mpeku was one of the six delegates of Abahlali who represented our movement in a solidarity exchange visit and learning in Kenya.
As impoverished black people in South Africa our lives count for nothing. We can be evicted, tortured, slandered, beaten, threatened and murdered with impunity. We struggle every day, year after year, against this vandalization of our humanity and to insist that all lives must count as human lives.
We have won many victories. We have occupied and held land. We have won services. We have driven repression back. We have occupied all kinds of spaces that oppression has denied to us. But still, after more than ten years of struggle, a struggle that has mobilised tens of thousands of people and cost the lives of a number of our comrades, we continue to be treated as disposable, as rubbish, as animals.
All our efforts to call on the government, the ruling party and police to put an end to the politic of blood and political gangsterism have failed. We are not safe. We do not live in a democracy. We live every day knowing that the struggle for land and dignity will continue to cost the lives of our comrades. None of us is safe.
We call upon all progressive forces and people to work with us to name and expose the monster politic of blood that has characterised the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Every murder must be fully and fairly investigated and all perpetrators, no matter their political affiliations and connections, must be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced. Impunity must end.
No arrest has yet been made in this matter. We call on the police to ensure a speedy, fair and credible investigation into the murder of all three of the people who died in Sisonke Village on Sunday. Justice must be served. The perpetrators must be brought to book.
Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families of the three men who were murdered on Sunday.
We also wish to note that many of our branches are facing a new wave of intimidation and threats. Local ANC structures are saying that it is now time to put an end to the ‘red shirts’ (Abahlali baseMjondolo) and threatening to drive our comrades out of their homes or kill them. Right now, comrades are in hiding in Lindelani, Asiyindawo and Clare Estate.
Land, Housing Dignity!
Umhlaba Izindlu neSithunzi!
S’bu Zikode (President) +27 (0)83 547 0474
Thapelo Mohapi (General Secretary) +27 (0)72 072 0686
Abahlali baseMjondolo: http://www.abahlali.org
AbM Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/abahlalibasemjondolo
Photo: Demonstrators outside a South African court where a police officer was found guilty of shooting dead 17-year-old protester, Nqobile Nzuza, at Cato Crest, in 2013. Source: Daily Maverick.