On Saturday night, forty or so armed men went on the rampage in Durban’s Kennedy Road township, demolishing homes, and attacking people with knives and sticks. Below is a statement from the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) shack dwellers’ movement which was conducting a youth camp at the time of the attack. The AbM believes that the attacks are an attempt by the head of the local ANC branch to assert his dominance within the community. For more information, visit the AbM’s website.
Here is the AbM’s statement:
Kennedy Road Development Committee Attacked – People Have Been Killed
Last night at about 11:30 a group of about 40 men heavily armed with guns, bush knives and even a sword attacked a meeting of the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) in the Kennedy Road community hall. There was no warning and the attack was a complete surprise. The Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League was holding an all night camp for the Youth League nearby. The camp was not attacked but the people at the camp were intimidated and threatened. An international film crew at the camp witnessed the attack.
The men who attacked were shouting: ‘The AmaMpondo are taking over Kennedy. Kennedy is for the AmaZulu.” The KRDC and other community members who rushed to their aid were unarmed but tried to defend themselves as best they could. Some people were killed. We can’t yet say exactly how many.
The attackers broke everything that they could including the windows in the hall. It was later discovered that they had destroyed 15 houses belonging to people on or connected to the KRDC before launching their attack. They were knocking on each door shouting ‘All the amaZulu must come out’ and then destroying the shacks. Some are saying that three people are dead. Some are saying that five people are dead. Many people are also very seriously injured. 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 available 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 and not one of the perpetrators has been arrested. If this is true it indicates clearly that the police are part of this attack on the KRDC. 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 amaMpondo. These arrests feel to us like the Kennedy Six scandal all over again but this time with an ethnic side to it because all the people who are arrested are amaMpondo.
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. He is a former MK soldier and is armed. 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 settlement. But anyone can wear any shirt of any politics that they like in our settlements. You will see ANC, COPE, IFP and SACP shirts in kennedy Road and inall Abahlali settlements. We are democrats. 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 mysterious groups of well organised and equipped young men. These attacks happened a few days apart although one was in Durban and the other in Cape Town. The men who attacked Zikode 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 the elected 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 who suddenly arrived out of nowhere in a bakkie. During the attack Mashumi, who is Xhosa, was told that the AmaMpondo must leave Durban and go back to the Eastern Cape.
The ethnic politics in the local ANC started with Jacob Zuma’s election campaign. Before then it was unknown in the local ANC and unknown in our settlement. People in the local ANC started to say ‘now is the time for the amaZulu’. They started to tell their (few) people in Kennedy Road that they ‘must take the settlement back from the amaMpondo’. This ethnic politics started with Zuma’s election campaign and so it his responsibility to take this politics out of the ANC and out of our settlement. We expect him to immediately condemn it and to immediately act against it.
Gumede, head of the local BEC of the ANC, has been trying by all means to undermine the KRDC and Abahlali baseMjondolo for many years. He has always failed. The membership of the movement continues to grow (we reached 10 000 paid up members at the AGM in November last year). Every year we have open elections by secret ballot in Kennedy Road and every year people vote for who they want to represent them on the KRDC. The ANC is free to nominate candidates for these elections and to test their popularity against the will of the people.
We believe that Gumede, with the support of ward councillor Yakoob Baig, has tried to build a coalition against the KRDC in order to attack it violently. Gumede has recently said publicly that he will turn the Abahlali baseMjondolo office into an ANC office. His coalition is still small but it is dangerous because it is now a militia. They have found 4 types of people that want to attack the KRDC:
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. We stood with the people born in other countries last year – now we are being attacked in the same way that they were attacked.
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 criminals 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 KRDC 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 just cleaned, Gumede tries to ensure that the jobs go only to his people – to ANC supporters. We are opposed to development becoming misused for party politics and we are opposed to corruption. The movement oppose this in all the settlements where we have members. The people in Kennedy Road who want to get Gumede’s jobs are also unhappy with what we are doing. We also think that now that the Abahlali baseMjondolo has won the struggle against the eviction and eradication 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 and the power to allocate houses that they think will come with the upgrade won for the community by Abahlali baseMjondolo. We suspect that Gumede has promised them these contracts and the power to allocate houses. This is how local party politics works across Durban.
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 the business that they have made out of the Municipality’s denial of electricity to shack dwellers.
The next Kennedy Road AGM is coming very soon soon. Once again the people of Kennedy Road can vote by secret ballot counted by an outsider for who ever they want to represent them. The people who attacked us last night do not want democracy. If they felt that they had support in the community they could just have waited for the AGM and put up candidates. We strongly believe that they attacked us before the AGM because they know that they will not succeed at the AGM.
What Gumede, and Baig are doing is not just an attack on the KRDC. It is also an attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo. And it is also an attack on democracy in South Africa. They have now set set up a militia to destroy the KRDC and attack 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 and working things out together. The politics that is being used to attack us is a politics of war. Gumede was always a shack lord in Lacy Road. He has now become a war lord too. Abahlali baseMjondolo will mobilise its members across the city, the province and the country against Gumede and anyone and everyone who supports or tolerates his warlordism. We will also mobilise our supporters internationally against Gumede and his warlordism.
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. Certainly no one trusts the Sydenham police to be neutral.
As we write the attacks and threats continue. We are still 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. After he was stabbed 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 be more attacks. They are packing their bags and fleeing the settlement. Hundreds, maybe even thousands have already fled. Some of us came to this settlement in the 80s and 90s as refugees from political violence. Now we are being made refugees again for the crime of taking democracy seriously and believing that we could choose our own politics.
Things are still confused. This statement was prepared in this confusion. We couldn’t even get all the contact people together at the same time. 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. Right now our main task is to make sure that people are safe – including those locked in the Sydenham Police station. We will work on that first. Once everyone is safe we will have careful discussions with everyone and issue a more full and detailed statement.
— End of statement —