In Defence of Democracy
Monday 5 October 2009 by Nic
The first few months of the Zuma Presidency has not interrupted the war on the poor. What took place last week in Kennedy Road, Durban, is rather signaling that the violence deployed against organisations of the poor is being escalated. A meeting of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) affiliate, Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC), on Sunday September 27th , was attacked by a militia, killing comrades Mthokozisi Ndlovu and Ndumiso Mnguni. The office of Abahlali and fifteen homes belonging to leading members of the movement were demolished before the attack and several of the ABM’s leaders remain in hiding. Over a thousand, mostly Xhosa-speaking residents, were also forced to flee their homes.
According to eyewitness reports, when the police arrived on the morning after the attack started, they arrested none of the perpetrators of the violence. Instead, they arrested eight members of Abahlali who were in Claremont at the time of the attack, for the murder of the two comrades in Kennedy Road. It was further reported that the police then watched passively over the next several days as the militia, shouting things like ‘Kennedy Road is for Zulus”, targeted amaPondo and particularly Abahlali members. The lives of four more people were claimed during this organised pogrom and many more residents forced to flee. By the time the police eventually responded to the crisis on Thursday (1st October) last week, the chairperson of the local ANC branch, Jackson Gumede, was in effective control of the Kennedy Road community, demanding that residents produce their ANC membership cards.
Now, over a week after the initial attack, the militia still holds Kennedy Road in the grip of terror. Over a thousand residents remain displaced and ABM’s leadership is still in hiding. The police have made no progress on the charges laid against the attackers. The eight KRDC members arrested for murder will have their bail hearing this Thursday, 8th October. ABM reports that their members will spend this week mobilising support for the liberation of their falsely accused comrades. Returning children to school, rebuilding destroyed homes and assisting all those forced to flee will also be priorities.
It is clear to the APF that what has transpired at Kennedy Road is a patent case of politically and ethnically motivated violence designed to ‘clear out’ ABM and destroy the inclusive and active community that has been built over the last several years. As a movement that itself has experienced the cold hand of party and state-sponsored violence and injustice, the APF admires the strength and resilience of ABM to continue the struggle and resolutely face up to their oppressors. The support that ABM has received from academics, the Anti Eviction Campaign in Cape Town, the Unemployed Movement, the Rural Network and various churches shows clearly that the shack dwellers are not the criminals the police and ANC councillors have so pathetically tried to portray them as. We share the conviction that the attempts to dislodge ABM and their struggles will fail.
In joining the calls already made for a complete end to the violence and intimidation as well as the exposure and prosecution of the attackers and their handlers, the APF further demands that Abahlali, along with all residents forced to flee, be allowed to return to Kennedy Road without hindrance to reconstruct their homes and lives as well as to organise freely. Democracy is not the preserve of self-appointed elites and their lackeys. Alongside the ABM, the APF will continue to practice and defend our democratic freedoms and fight against reactionary attempts to divide the poor and sow terror and fear. The APF pledges its full solidarity with Abahlali, our comrades in Durban.
This author's articles
- Right of speech/association
- violence on the poor