Another Shooting in Orange Farm

Monday 1 December 2003 by APF

"It is not easy to stand up for your rights today." Philemon Tjeba, Orange Farm Water Crisis Committee (OWCC). This is something that activists in townships in South Africa are learning quickly as another active member of the OWCC has been the target of an orchestrated shooting. On 20 October 2003, at 8 in the evening, Alice Ngubane and her family heard shots being fired as they sat quietly in the darkness of their shack - their electricity had been cut off. They assumed that the shots were coming from outside and moved towards the windows to try to see what was happening. The shots were being fired through the windows by 3 young men. A few seconds later Alice felt a sharp pain in her breast - she had been shot, the bullet had entered and exited her body. Her grandson too had been shot. Her husband, daughter and second grandchild were unharmed.

While Alice and her grandson are now well, they both spent a week in hospital, and the family has now gone into hiding, fearing further attacks. Alice Ngubane was a worker at the Matiwane Combined School (a private school in Orange Farm) until last year when she and 3 fellow workers were unfairly dismissed by the Director of the School, Mr Sangweni. Alice and her colleagues laid a formal complaint with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration (CCMA). They received no assistance and so approached the OWCC to intervene.

With pressure from the OWCC, the CCMA deliberated and found the employer to be guilty of unfair dismissals in all 4 cases and ordered to pay a compensation amount of approximately R18 000 to the workers, in total. Alice and members of the OWCC fear that the shootings were organised by Mr Sangweni, the Director of the school and Alice Ngubane’s previous employer.

The Ngubane family has laid a formal charge with the police; however, they have heard nothing since from the authorities. For Philemon Tjeba, "Alice Ngubane is not the only one. Last year we had Comrade Emily, another member of the OWCC, killed by a gunman who entered her shack one night. It is not easy to fight for your rights today. People are scared and this will just make activists more scared and prevent more people from fighting. It is sad that the fighters against apartheid have become the capitalists who need their money and property protected today. And that it is poor people who are the victims of their police and hired security firms and gunmen."

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